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Hartley sends Saints to final Double defeat affects Demons' preparations Afghanistan loss ends Irish title defence hope

Gridiron: A Garrett Hartley overtime field goal pushed the New Orleans Saints past the Minnesota Vikings and into their first Super Bowl appearance.

The top-seeded Saints beat the second-seeded Vikings 31-28 in sudden death to claim the NFC Championship after a see-saw affair in front of a raucous crowd at the New Orleans Superdome, back in use after being ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

They meet the Indianapolis Colts at Super Bowl XLIV in Miami on February 7, the Colts having beaten the New York Jets 30-17 earlier on.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning brought the unfancied Jets' play-off to an end, passing for 377 yards and making three touchdown passes to outshine rookie opposite number Mark Sanchez and seal a place in the Miami showdown.

Trio struggle to make headway in California

GOLF: Bubba Watson, Alex Prugh and Joe Ogilvie all had late chances yesterday to create a little separation atop the Bob Hope Classic field in La Quinta, California.

All three made mistakes, leaving the leaderboard even more crowded for today's finale. Watson double-bogeyed the final hole in the fourth round, dropping him back into a tie with PGA Tour rookie Prugh at 23-under. Prugh missed a three-foot putt to bogey his own final hole, while Ogilvie sat two strokes back after a double bogey on his effort at the 17th.

Double defeat affects Demons' preparations

BASKETBALL: UCC Demons suffered two defeats in as many days as they get ready to prepare for their defence of their National Cup crown next weekend, while final opponents Killester emerged from their trip to Ulster Elks with full points in a 109-92 away win.

Neptune went some way to atoning their National Cup heartbreak to UCC Demons by edging out their fierce rivals 76-74 at the Neptune Stadium. The Demons then lost 91-83 to UL Eagles yesterday.

Afghanistan loss ends Irish title defence hope

cricket: Ireland contrived to lose to Afghanistan by seven wickets in Dambulla yesterday -- a defeat which all but ended their hopes of winning the Inter-Continental Cup for a fourth successive time.

After conceding first-innings points on Saturday, William Porterfield's side were unable to bat out for a draw that would have earned them three points and, more importantly, deny the Afghans a maximum 20.