| 15.1°C Dublin

McIlroy makes a charge at Dutch

GOLF: World number four Rory McIlroy sacrificed a proper lunch yesterday to sharpen up his swing and it paid off when he climbed into contention at the Dutch Open in Hilversum.

A five-under-par 65 for a five-under total of 135 took him within two strokes of the second-round clubhouse lead held by India's Shiv Kapur (67).

Briton Stephen Dodd and Germany's Marcel Siem are a shot better than Kapur with five and seven holes respectively still to play when the unfinished round is completed today.

McIlroy said he had not been at his best after finishing off a first-round 70 yesterday. The effort was badly disrupted a day earlier by inclement weather and vandalised greens.

That left him trailing five strokes off the lead and even though he only had 40 minutes before returning to the course, the 22-year-old made for the practice range to do some swing tinkering.

While he played better, McIlroy did ride his luck. He survived a shot close to out of bounds on the sixth, his 16th hole, and was given relief at the ninth when his ball landed on an ant hill close to trees. McIlroy said: "But I still feel as though I've got ants in my pants."

Button backs Hamilton

F1: Jenson Button has defended Lewis Hamilton following what has so far been a turbulent season for his McLaren team-mate.

Hamilton goes into tomorrow's Italian Grand Prix in the wake of the criticism received following his accident-strewn campaign. In crashing out in the Belgian Grand Prix 13 days ago, the 26-year-old took his tally to six in races this season, whilst he has also been to see the stewards on numerous occasions to explain himself.

Assessing his fellow Briton, Button believes he is no different to the driver he worked alongside for the first time last season upon joining the team. Button said: "He's just an extremely fast driver who loves overtaking."

Cobo keeps Vuelta lead

CYCLING: Local favourite Igor Anton won the 19th stage of the Vuelta a Espana while in the general classification Juan Jose Cobo maintained his 13-second lead over Team Sky's Chris Froome heading into the final two days.

Froome's team-mate Bradley Wiggins is third, 1.41 minutes behind the Geox-TMC rider.

Galdakao-born Anton claimed the victory, the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider finishing the 158-kilometre ride from Noja to Bilbao in three hours, 53.34 minutes.

Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche finished 13th and 14th respectively to the leave Martin 13th and Roche 16th in the general classification.

MLB: Washington 4 Houston 3 (11 innings), Pittsburgh 4 Florida 13, Detroit 8 Minnesota 4, Toronto 0 Baltimore 2, Tampa Bay 7 Boston 2, NY Mets 5 Chicago Cubs 4, Texas 13 Oakland 4, Milwaukee 3 Philadelphia 5, Chicago White Sox 4 Cleveland 8, St Louis 4 Atlanta 3 (10 innings), Colorado 1 Cincinnati 4.