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Pursuing the Fabled Maximum

Snooker

Spotting the pink

The World Snooker Championship this year has certainly been entertaining. Newcomer Liang Wenbo’s marathon 13-12 victory over Joe Swail proved to be a tense finish after the youngster made a number of rash errors (deserved of his “Kamikaze Kid” nickname) to allow Joe Swail to creep back from 12-8. Should he win the competition he may vie with Stephen Hendry for the title of youngest player to win the title, though it seems unlikely that he will overcome his erratic and gung-ho moments in time. Hendry, however, certainly seems to have found some new form of late. He currently leads comfortably over Ryan Day in the quarter finals, and would face either Liang Wenbo or Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semis, currently level at 4 frames apiece. Nevertheless, yesterday O’Sullivan pulled out a maximum break to set the competition alight, his record ninth career maximum, and third at the Crucible.

In response, today saw maximum attempts from Stephen Hendry, ending at 112 after some tricky shots to keep the break going, Peter Ebdon, who missed the fifteenth black for a 113 break, and Ali Carter, whose first career maximum makes this the first time two have been scored in the same tournament. With six days still to go the potential is there for a third maximum in the tournament, which sponsors 888.com had originally offered odds of 200:1 – these have dwindled down to 7:4!

Gołota Back on Form

Gołota suffered Mollo's right

Gołota suffered Mollo's right

Caught a replay of Andrzej Gołota’s title fight with Mike Mollo from back in January last night on Eurosport. The derby (both boxers Chicago residents) went the distance, with Gołota taking some punishment from Mollo’s right hand leaving him with an eye that always looked like it could cause the fight to end. Nevertheless, Mollo looked to have blown it towards the end, being twelve years Gołota’s junior his game plan clearly relied on the fight not going the distance. After 12 rounds Goota was awarded a unanimous decision, and the WBA Fedelatin heavyweight title, yet appears not to want to take this opportunity to retire. Indeed as Geoffrey Ciani reports, Gołota looks set for a match with Shannon Briggs, another aging veteran, though both with the potential for a crack at the title, something which has evaded the Polish emigré despite his technical abilities. Given the two boxers’ varied styles, perhaps another hare versus tortoise race awaits in the near future.

Will Anyone Beat Australia?

Matthew Hayden

That might just be a taster of the final to come. And if it is, what a treat that will be! Australia met South Africa for dominance of Group A, both teams already through to the Super 8s round, with the points from this game carrying through to that stage of the competition.

Australia opened the batting and immediately made it clear they meant business, clearing 50 inside 5 overs. Matthew Hayden looked to be on stellar form as he scored the fastest century in World Cup Cricket, off just 66 balls, a dangerous omen for the other Super 8 sides. Despite immediately thereafter succumbing, for a total of 101, Hayden’s tally was bolstered by near centuries from Michael Clarke (92) and Ricky Ponting (91) as well as a sound 42 from opening partner Adam Gilchrist, for a total of 377 for 6.

An impressive total no doubt, but Australia have had a reputation of late for being unable to defend their targets. South Africa looked to be up for the challenge, with an impressive opening partnership between AB de Villiers and Graeme Smith for 160, stopped only by an extraordinary run out, thrown directly from the outfield. The run rate slowed visibly after de Villiers’ dismissal, and Smith eventually retired with cramp (albeit with a brief return to the field, only to be almost immediately caught behind in the later stages). Tait pulled an important haul for Australia to wrap some of the danger men, and put an end to any South African hopes of victory. But does anyone else wish he’d stop grunting?

If Hayden and co. can stay in the form they’re in, the latter stages of this competition can only go one way. South Africa are not out of it yet, of course, and both they and Australia will join the West Indies, Ireland, New Zealand, England, Sri Lanka and presumably Bangladesh for the Super 8s. A handy 2 points from this meeting will leave them in confident mood to face the hosts in Antigua next Tuesday.

Super 8s Stage Approaching

Cricket World Cup 2007With only a few more games to play in each of the four qualifying groups, the Super 8 stage of the Cricket World Cup is almost here. In some cases, positions are already decided, and New Zealand for example can already guarantee taking 2 points through to the next stage.

Having seen most of the teams of the tournament in action, it would appear to me that there is as yet no clear favourite. The Super 8s stage of the tournament requires each team to play all of the other qualifying teams, apart from the qualifier from their group (the result of this match is carried forward into the Super 8s stage). This means some of the important matches have already been played. Tomorrow South Africa and Australia will face each other in their final group games, having both been eased into the competition with perfunctory matches against the Netherlands and Scotland, a big game which might even be a preview of the final.

Nevertheless, even without this result I would wager that both of them will be in the top four of the Super 8s, probably to be joined by Sri Lanka, who have looked mighty in their opening games (the result against India pending), New Zealand, who qualified from their group with a clean sweep, or hosts the West Indies who currently face Ireland in their first Super 8 scoring game.

France Crowned Again on Six Nations Super Saturday—Probably!

Ireland denied once again on points difference from their first Six Nations championship, and on St Patrick’s Day to boot, as France took the challenge set by Ireland in their 8 try victory over the Azzurri. With the unlikely Italian victory out of the picture, the French set to work against Scotland in Paris, with a target of 24 points. Although England playing in Cardiff would have a mathematical chance to clinch the title, a championship victory for them would be an incredible feat. The title was France’s to lose, and Scotland’s to deny.

A dramatic start to the day in the Stadio Flaminio as Ireland looked to stretch a big point victory over Italy to put France in a difficult position later in the day. Italy started well, kicking penalties and a drop goal, and despite conceding two tries looked to be in a decent position at 12-13 until a controversial try to Ireland in the dying minutes of the half put them 12-20 ahead. The second half, however, was a one horse race, as Ireland put try after try past the Italian defence. The game opened up considerably as the scoreboard racked up a considerable points difference for Ireland, but a last minute decision to continue after the clock went red left Italy in a position to score a generously awarded second try to claw back 7 points before the final whistle. The final score of 24-51 left France needing a victory margin of 24 points to claim the trophy.

Knowing what they had to do in Paris, the Scots ignited the game with an early try to put France on the back foot. From there France fully attacked the game, looking to be half way to their tally by half time, when Sean Lamont took a quick penalty to sprint for the line and spoil French hopes. Leading 20-14 going into the second half, France got the bit between their teeth and forced a 25 point lead with over 15 minutes to go. First half hero Lamont was bizarrely sin binned for an infraction by his younger brother Rory, and all looked to be going France’s way using all the strength, speed and skill they could muster. Yet a late try from the unlikely arms of Euan Murray put the championship just beyond France’s reach. As the BBC commentator put it:

“He’s got a five yard run in, and like every good tight-head prop, he’s now got cramp!”

Patterson’s failed conversion left France needing a try to win. The clock went red, the French pushed for the line, pushing on, penalty after penalty. With the ball over the line, the referee went to the television referee asking for any reason not to award the try—and who other than an Irishman to be occupying that position! The try awarded. France triumphant. Ireland beaten on points difference for the second year running.

Although Wales will play host to England shortly, the required margin for England (victory by 57 points) to claim the championship essentially confirms France’s championship.

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