Friday 28 April 2017

Humphreys to Ulster's rescue

RUGBY: An inspired Ian Humphreys helped Ulster over the line against Aironi yesterday in their RaboDirect PRO12 clash -- as Brian McLaughlin's side claimed their second win of the season on a 25-19 scoreline.

Humphreys kicked 10 points and was involved in two of the three tries for the province on Italian turf. Humphrey's searing break led to Ian Whitten's opener in the 20th minute, while his inch-perfect cross-field kick allowed Dan Tuohy in for the second.

Aironi responded well, with former Munster man Nick Williams scoring a try and Naas Oliver claiming 12 points with the boot to rock the visitors. Rather than pushing on in pursuit of the bonus point, Ulster were on the ropes for much of the middle third, with Craig Gilroy's second-half try eventually proving the difference.

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Connacht maintained their winning start to the season when they came from behind in the second half to grind out a 13-11 victory over the Scarlets at the Sportsground.

It looked grim for Connacht when Scarlets went 11-3 in front after 47 minutes when Aaron Shingler went over in the left corner.

But Connacht fought back and two men signed from Ulster during the summer were the heroes. Wing Mark McCrea cut a superb line to finish a great break by centre Henry Fa'afili after 57 minutes, with Matthew Jarvis adding the points to leave just one between them.

Jarvis, who also arrived during the busy transfer activity, missed two penalties in the opening half but found the range seven minutes from the interval in response to a brace of penalties from Dan Newton for Scarlets.

George Naoupu led the Connacht comeback and after McCrea's try left just a point between them, Connacht pushed on and another ex-Ulster man Niall O'Connor sealed the win with a 25-metre penalty after 67 minutes.

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FORMULA ONE: Sebastian Vettel made it 10 poles for the season as he continues to close in on Nigel Mansell's Formula One record.

On a circuit supposed to be Red Bull's worst over the closing seven races of a one-sided campaign, the reigning champion smashed his rivals to grab top spot on the grid for today's Italian Grand Prix.

Vettel blitzed the Monza track with a time of one minute 22.275secs to finish a full half second clear of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton who lines up second for the fourth consecutive race. Vettel is now just four short of Mansell's mark of 14 set in 1992, cementing Red Bull's unblemished record of claiming pole in every race this season. Jenson Button was in third.

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GOLF: Ireland's Simon Thornton lies in joint-second place and just two shots off the lead in the Kazakhstan Open after completing a level-par third round to finish 11-under. The tournament leader is England's Tommy Fleetwood.

Thornton's approach play lacked the accuracy of his opening two rounds and he said: "I didn't play that well today -- most of my birdie chances were from 20 feet or so, which obviously makes it difficult to go low. But I didn't do anything disastrous either, so I'm still well in contention.

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A great start and then a storming finish gave underdogs Britain and Ireland a 7-5 lead over the star-studded Americans after the first day of the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen.

The home side, beaten in the last three matches, took the first three foursomes in the morning. There was then an American fightback to lead 4-3, but, after some torrential rain, 17-year-old Welshman Rhys Pugh, English champion Steven Brown, Scot James Byrne and Irishman Paul Cutler all won singles that went at least to the 17th.

Cutler was the only double winner of the day, but perhaps pride of place went to Pugh -- the baby of Nigel Edwards' side beat world No 3 Patrick Rodgers 2&1.

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GAELIC GAMES: Shane Duffy is the MBNA All-Ireland Kick Fada champion after winning a shoot out in Bray Emmets GAA club yesterday.

Battling a fierce headwind that meant the record of 72 metres was never in danger, the Monaghan goalkeeper had qualified for the final along with Armagh's Paul Hearty and Kildare's Paul Flood as the only three from a strong field of 24 top place-kickers to clear 60 metres.

When none of the three cleared 65 metres it went to a sudden-death shoot-out back at 60 metres -- with Duffy triumphant.

In the ladies final, Meath's Irene Munnelly won a shoot-out with Dublin's Kim Flood. Both ladies cleared 35 metres with St Ultan's and Meath player Munnelly winning back the crown she held last in 2007. Meath's Gráinne Nulty was third.

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CYCLING: Westmeath Paralympian Mark Rohan added to the gold medal he won in Thursday's time tTrial with a first-place finish in the Road Race at the UCI Paracycling Road World Championships in Roskilde, Denmark, yesterday.

Rohan, who won the Road Race at last year's championships, was well positioned in the leading group from the first lap.

The Irish paracyclist launched his attack with 2km to the finish line, and could not be caught by any of the riders in the leading group. Rohan won all four races in the 2011 World Cup series earlier this season and has confirmed his position as one of the world's best. With the London 2012 Paralympic Games on the horizon, he is peaking at the right time.

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Daniele Bennati was victorious on the penultimate stage of the Vuelta a Espana yesterday -- while overall leader Juan Jose Cobo heads into the final day with his 13-second lead over Team Sky's Chris Froome intact and with victory in his sights.

Ireland's Daniel Martin is in 13th overall, more than seven seconds behind the leader, with his cousin Nicolas Roche in 16th, a further three seconds off.

Leopard-Trek's Bennati won following a bunch sprint at the end of stage 20, finishing the 185-km race from Bilbao to Vitoria in four hours, 39 minutes and 20 seconds. In an Italian one-two-three on the day, Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) finished in second behind Bennati, with Damiano Caruso third.

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Cricket: Debutant Shaun Marsh and Michael Hussey completed centuries on a rain-affected third day of the second Test yesterday, as Australia took a 237-run first-innings lead against Sri Lanka. Marsh became the 19th Australian to score a century on a Test debut.

The left-hander, son of former Aussie batsman Geoff, is only the second on that list to score a hundred at No 3, Bill Ponsford the other in 1924.

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TENNIS: Novak Djokovic saved two match points to roar back from the brink of defeat to edge Roger Federer in a five-set thriller at the US Open semi-final.

The world number one looked to be heading towards a certain defeat after losing the opening two sets but clawed back to defeat Federer 6-7 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5 and remain on course for his third grand slam title this year after winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon championships.

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