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Exclusive: Blues storm into final in thrilling win over Brumbies



#Blues #storm #final #thrilling #win #Brumbies

It’s on like Donkey Kong. The Super Rugby Pacific final we all wanted, really. Irresistible force against immovable object. Perennial pretenders against metronomic contenders. Or, if you prefer, the Blues against the Crusaders, for all the marbles.

The dream grand final (with apologies to Chiefs fans), at Eden Park next Saturday night, was set up, firstly, with a magnificent defensive performance from the Crusaders on Friday night in Christchurch to strangle the Chiefs 20-7, and then with the Blues’ thrilling 20-19 Saturday night victory over an ultra-competitive Brumbies outfit at its home fortress.

Leon MacDonald’s side did it the hard way in front of a crowd of 26,900, like the Crusaders the night before, kept scoreless over the second spell as they hung on by the skin of their teeth. Two second-half yellow cards gave the Brumbies a route back as they charged back to within a single point in the closing minutes, and it was replacement Blues prop Ofa Tuungafasi who emerged an unlikely hero as he got up to charge down an attempted match-winning drop goal from Brumbies fly-half Noah Lolesio.

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It was the Blues’ record 15th victory in succession in 2022 as they ride an unprecedented wave of momentum all the way to their fifth (proper) grand final. It will be the third match-up between them and the Crusaders in the showpiece clash, with the ledger sitting at one apiece. The Red and Blacks won at Eden Park, back in 1998; the Auks gained revenge for that with a triumph in the 2003 final at the same ground.

The Blues were led magnificently by their two best backs, with Beauden Barrett and Rieko Ioane unleashing consummate performances. Wings Mark Telea and AJ Lam put in big shifts, too, and Fin Christie was excellent on a busy night. Nepo Laulala scrummed superbly for the home side and Tom Robinson nabbed two massive lineout steals to mark a fine night’s work.

But the Brumbies simply did not give up and very nearly stole the match with some outstanding play by the likes of Tom Wright, Tom Banks and Irae Simone in their backs, and a pack who simply will not be denied on the drive.

The Brumbies made the perfect start when inside centre Simone skinned a flimsy defensive effort off a scrum from 40-odd metres out to give the visitors a dream 7-0 start.


But the Blues settled in slippery conditions, started to get on top at the scrum and dominated the second quarter to run in two superb tries for a deserved 20-7 half-time lead. Ioane and Barrett, who combined for 123 first-half running metres, featured prominently in the surging finish.

Ioane created the openings for both tries with scything runs, Hoskins Sotutu notching the first, in the 23rd minute, when Stephen Perofeta made ground from deep, Robinson and Rieko Ioane chimed in, and a few crisp phases later the No.8 was spinning over out of a tackle.

Brumbies flyer opens scoring

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In-form wing Telea added the second, a half-dozen minutes from the break, after Rieko Ioane was again set free on the left, Lam and Christie ran the support lines, and Barrett and Perofeta did the rest to allow Telea just enough room to wriggle over.

But the second half was the Brumbies’, as Kurt Eklund and Adrian Choat were both dispatched to the bin, and replacement hooker Lachlan Lonergan powered over for two tries to send the contest to the wire.

The big moment

Tom Robinson”s 73rd-minute lineout steal, with the Brumbies readying for another drive at the line. At 20-12 it all but sealed the deal for the home side.

Match rating: 8/10

Wet conditions and the stakes meant it was always going to be less than free-flowing. But some of the skillwork from both sides was excellent, the physical commitment was right up there and the Brumbies stayed in the contest right until the end.

The big picture

The Blues now get a crack at their first full Super Rugby title since 2003. To lift the silverware, though, they are going to have to get past the mighty red-and-black machine. It’s the signature final this inaugural season of Pacific footy deserves.


Beauden Barrett continued his princely form of 2022 with a command display. His touches, his running lines, his kicking game, his positional stuff… it was all top class as the Blues No.10 confirmed he’s playing as well as he ever has in a remarkable career.

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Exclusive: Galtier to end PSG´s rotation of Donnarumma and Navas –




Flamengo part company with former Poland boss Sousa

#Galtier #PSGs #rotation #Donnarumma #Navas

New Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier has pledged to end predecessor Mauricio Pochettino’s practice of rotating between goalkeepers Gianluigi Donnarumma and Keylor Navas. 

Galtier was announced as PSG’s new head coach on Tuesday, with the former Lille and Nice boss signing a two-year deal with the club.

The man who beat PSG to the Ligue 1 title when in charge of Lille during the 2020-21 season takes over a squad containing two world-class goalkeepers in Italy’s Euro 2020 hero Donnarumma and three-time Champions League winner Navas.

Pochettino used both goalkeepers often during his one full season in charge of the Parisian giants, with Navas making 26 appearances in all competitions and Donnarumma featuring 24 times.

Donnarumma managed one clean sheet more (nine) than Navas did (eight) despite making two appearances fewer, while the two goalkeepers posted similar save percentage figures (Navas saving 75.76 per cent of shots faced compared to the Italian’s 75.27 per cent).

Speaking at his unveiling, Galtier argued having a nominated first-choice shot stopper would provide greater clarity.

“I always work with a number one and a number two,” he said. 

“It’s easier for me and for them to know their position within the squad. I haven’t met them yet, but I will do it very quickly.”

PSG conceded 36 goals when winning Ligue 1 last season, the joint-fewest in the league alongside Galtier’s former club Nice, who registered one more clean sheet (14) than the champions.  


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Exclusive: Records tumble as Root leads insane run chase –




#Records #tumble #Root #leads #insane #run #chase

A pair of unbeaten fourth-innings centuries to Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow has led England to a record-breaking run chase in the fifth Test against India.

Root (142 not out) and Bairstow (114 not out) combined for an unbeaten 269-run stand as England chased down a total of 378 with just three wickets down to tie the five-match series at two games apiece.

Root and Bairstow’s unbeaten 269 was the fourth-highest in the fourth innings of a Test match and the second-highest unbeaten fourth-innings stand since Gordon Greenidge and Larry Gomes.

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In chasing down 378, England smashed its old record chase, the famous 359 it ran down against Australia in the 2019 Ashes when Ben Stokes single-handedly rescued a victory from the jaws of defeat at Headingley.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for India, who had looked poised to win the series for the majority of the Test. It was the first time India had failed to defend a total of over 350 in its Test history.

The chase was England’s fourth in excess of 250 in 2022, having run down totals of 279, 299 and 296 against New Zealand in a three-Test series last month.

All four chases have come since England appointed former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum as its Test coach after disastrous tours of Australia and the West Indies, with the team’s aggressive approach mirroring that of their Kiwi coach during his playing days.


Bairstow was named the Player of the Match for his remarkable twin centuries, with the right-hander having scored 589 runs off 578 balls at an average of 196 in his last five Test innings.

“It’s about having the enjoyment factor, not afraid of failing, putting the pressure back on the opposition,” Bairstow said of the team’s fresh mindset under McCullum.

Kohli’s raucous celebration after big run out

“We’re going to lose games along the way, but the positive brand is fun to play.”

“It’s down to the players, making my job easier,” England’s Test skipper Stokes said.

“When you have clarity like we do in the dressing room it makes totals like that easier. 378 five weeks ago would have been scary, but it’s all good.

“We are trying to rewrite how Test cricket is being played, in England in particular.

“We know that we want to give new life to Test cricket, and the support that we’ve had has been incredible. We are bringing a new set of fans to Test cricket. We want to leave a mark.”

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Exclusive: PBA Player of Week Ato Ular continues solid showing for Blackwater –




Ato Ular Blackwater PBA

#PBA #Player #Week #Ato #Ular #continues #solid #showing #Blackwater

Ato Ular Blackwater PBA

Blackwater rookie Ato Ular during a game against Terrafirma in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup. PBA IMAGES

MANILA, Philippines–Blackwater’s early success in this PBA season is largely due to the steady play of its rookie Ato Ular.

Ular has been a huge revelation for the Bossing, who have won four out of their five games so far in the 2022 Philippine Cup.

A second-round pick, Ular may just be the biggest steal of the draft averaging 14.4 points on 57 percent shooting from the field and 7.2 rebounds.

He played his best game yet on Thursday, helping Blackwater stun Meralco, 90-89, delivering 19 points and 15 rebounds.

Ular also hit the game-tying basket with under a minute left that paved the way for Baser Amer’s last-second winner.

His performance certainly didn’t go unnoticed as he was named Cignal Play-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week.

“I already prepare hard every game. I always arrive on the court very early, shooting and working out. I always see to it that I’m ready,” Ular said in Filipino.

The 6-foot-4 forward out of Letran is the first rookie to receive Player of the Week honor this season.


Ular edged TNT’s Mikey Williams, San Miguel Beer’s CJ Perez and other candidates for the weekly citation.

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