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Monday 11 December 2017

Equestrian: O'Connor, Allen in Grand Prix glory

Grand Prix wins for Cian O'Connor and rising star Bertram Allen followed hot on the heels of Ireland's superb Nations Cup victory at Spruce Meadows, Calgary, over the weekend.

With Unique – Beverley Widdowson's 12-year-old gelding that was formerly competed by Britain's Nick Skelton – O'Connor won a Golf GTI when storming to success at Sommersdorf, Germany. And the 33-year-old rider subsequently handed over the keys of the new motor to his groom Clement Waras who, better known as Frenchie, has worked with the Meath rider for the past seven seasons, according to O'Connor "through thick and thin".

The Irish also claimed the bulk of the prize money in the Grand Prix at the 3-star Vimeiro in Portugal where Wexford wonderboy Allen, riding Romanov, pipped Swiss-based Kildare man Niall Talbot and Nicos de la Cense who, just seven days earlier, won the Grand Prix at Lisbon.

Meanwhile, Cameron Hanley continued his incredible run of form at Spruce Meadows when taking third with Player du Quesnoy in Saturday night's Derby. The 40-year-old Mayo man has only recently returned to action after a two-year injury lay-off following a freak accident that very nearly ended his career.

England captain Alastair Cook was a relieved man after seeing his side end a "stressful day" with a hard-fought victory over New Zealand that sealed their place in the Champions Trophy semi-finals.

First a lengthy rain delay and then a determined lower-order fightback from New Zealand threatened to end England's participation in the tournament, but the hosts held their nerve to seal a 10-run win at Cardiff.

Cook, who was named man of the match after his 64 helped England score 169 all out in a match reduced to 24 overs per side, admitted the 73-run sixth-wicket stand between Black Caps duo Kane Williamson (67) and Corey Anderson (30) had caused them a few flutters.

Dubliner Derek Tohill took over the lead in the European Touring Car Rallycross Championship by finishing second in the final at Trondheim in his PartsforCars Blanchardstown Fiesta.

Tohill, who last won the title in 2010, started his semi-final from pole position following the qualifying heats and went on to win. In the final, he was on the front row of the grid, but was beaten to the first corner by local ace Lars Oivind Enerberg, who led all the way to the chequered flag.

However, with Tohill's main championship rival Roman Castoral of the Czech Republic finishing well down the field, the Irishman now holds a 12-point lead as they head for the next round in Sweden in three weeks' time.

Meanwhile, Lisburn driver Philip Morrow became the first driver to win two rounds of this year's Valvoline National Forestry Rally Championship when he recovered from an earlier problem to take a three-second victory on the final stage of the Tipperary Sean Conlon Memorial event at Mitchelstown.

Irish Independent

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