Thursday 18 January 2018

In brief: English schools sides dominant

ATHLETICS: English teams dominated the Aviva Schools' International cross-country Championships over the Greenmount Campus course north of Belfast yesterday, winning all four titles.

England also won three of the four individual titles, the exception being the Intermediate Boys 3,000m event, where Scottish champion Ahmed Shariff Hassan got the better of the English title winner James Murray.

Ian Hartnett was the best of the Irish in 11th place, with Shane Fitzsimons just behind, while Ireland's big hope of an individual title, Siofra Cleirigh Buttner, who has been winning all before her in recent months, had to be satisfied with fourth place in the intermediate girls' event.

The impressive winner was up and coming British star Jessica Judd, who looks a special talent as she raced clear of her team-mate Alice Wright for a comprehensive win.

England filled the first eight places in the Junior girls, where Ella Fennelly was the best of the Irish in ninth place. The junior boys team finished ahead of Scotland and Wales with 79 points.

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FORMULA 1: Sebastian Vettel produced an electrifying display of pace to capture the first pole position of the new season for Red Bull at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

A late charge from Lewis Hamilton underlined McLaren's improvement, as he closed within 0.78 seconds of the German to join him on the front row.

Mark Webber's Red Bull and Jenson Button's McLaren echoed the pattern in third and fourth places. Ferrari struggled for speed as Fernando Alonso will start fifth.

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Basketball: The two most successful managers in the last 10 years go head to head at the National Arena this afternoon as the Superleague season reaches its climax.

Holders Killester, under Mark Keenan, take on Pat Price's Neptune (tip off 3pm), the latter emerging as surprise winners over UL in the semi-finals last weekend.

Michael Bonaparte, a cup winner with Killester in 2008, sunk the crucial free-throws as Neptune overcame UL Eagles. However, Killester, who are contesting their fifth consecutive final, are likely to be strong favourites for this clash after their demolition of Star.

Central for Killester again will be the performance of Jermaine Turner, whose defensive rebounding and power play have made him the top performer over the past twelve months.

Nonetheless, Pat Price, having won three cup titles with Neptune's bitter rivals Demons in the last decade, will be looking to spring a surprise on Killester.

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HOCKEY: Unless some big upsets lie in store on the run-in for leaders Glenanne, the men's Leinster Division 1 league title is set to end up with the Tallaght side this season. Yesterday's 3-1 win over visitors Y M C A in second place put them in the driving seat with two matches in hand over both Y M and Pembroke Wanderers, who are in third spot and five points behind Glenanne.

Pembroke, now struggling to stay in the mix after the exodus of the bulk of their squad in the close season, had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Three Rock. The main concern, however, for the chasing pack is a top four finish, with fourth placed Monkstown the likely candidate to fill the spot.

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TENNIS: Ireland's James Cluskey yesterday captured the doubles title in the ITF Men's Futures event in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The 24-year-old Dubliner and France's Fabrice Martin, who were the No 1 seeds, edged the No 2 seeds, Poland's Piotr Gadomski and Netherlands' Tim Van Terheijden, on a 7-6 (7/2) 6-4 scoreline in the final.

All of the games in the opener went with serve, and an early mini-break in the tie-break provided Swords man Cluskey, who played for Ireland in the recent David Cup tie against Luxembourg, and Fabrice with the momentum to take the first set.

And one break of serve in the second set proved sufficient for Cluskey and Fabrice to close out the match.

Meanwhile, Ireland's Julia Moriarty and Puerto Rico's Jessica Roland-Roasrio suffered a 6-1 6-4 loss to Brazilian pair Fernanda Hermenegildo and Teliana Fereira in the doubles semi-final of the ITF Women's Circuit event in Poza Rica, Mexico.

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ROWING: Oxford produced a storming performance to overturn the odds and beat Cambridge to win the 157th Xchanging Boat Race.

The Dark Blues, who won the toss and opted for the Surrey station, made a strong start and then produced a powerful burst to take control at Hammersmith Bridge.

The Oxford crew took full advantage as the sweeping middle bend turned in their favour, and they finished about four lengths in front.

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CYCLING: Triple Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, still fighting to clear his name of a doping offence, looks set for Tour of Catalunya victory today after maintaining his 23-second lead in the penultimate stage. The Spaniard finished safely in the main pack in the stage won by compatriot Jose Rojas.

With one short, flat stage remaining from Parets dels Valles to Barcelona today, Contador holds the lead over American Levi Leipheimer.

Ireland's Dan Martin kept up his impressive form to finish fourth in yesterday's stage, also putting him in fourth in the overall Tour standings. Nicolas Roche placed 13th yesterday to leave him in a respectable 39th overall, while Philip Deignan finished 99th yesterday and is lying in 65th in the Tour standings.

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RUGBY: Winger Bjorn Basson scored a late try and outhalf Morne Steyn kicked 15 points to lead the Bulls to a 30-23 win over the Lions in an all-South African Super rugby match yesterday.

The champions are back to winning ways after recent struggles, as they completed home-and-away victories over their arch-rivals.

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