Monday 19 March 2018

In brief: McDowell two off lead in Asia

GOLF: Graeme McDowell has promised Race to Dubai rival Martin Kaymer a handful of sleepless nights before the start of their Dubai showdown this Thursday, writes Bernie McGuire.

Organisers will pair the European No 1 aspirants together for the opening round of the $7.5m duel in the UAE. But while Kaymer sits out this week's UBS Hong Kong Open, McDowell is primed to move to within €66,000 of the German if he should bank today's title.

McDowell took advantage when officials brought forward the par-four 10th tee by 85 yards to drive the green, and then hole his 30-foot eagle putt in a round of 63 to move into second place at 17-under par.

McDowell will have to get the better of leader Ian Poulter today after he birdied his closing two holes in a 64 to finish at 19-under par. Rory McIlroy, who has finished runner-up in Hong Kong the last two years, carded a second straight 66 to share fourth at 16 under. Darren Clarke recorded a consecutive 64 to be in 14th place at 10-under par, two strokes ahead of Damien McGrane (67), Gareth Maybin (68) and Michael Hoey (69). Peter Lawrie and Paul McGinley are on two-under and level-par respectively.

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RUGBY: Ulster overcame a shaky start to see off Leinster 31-18 in an entertaining Interprovincial 'A' encounter at Donnybrook yesterday.

A brace of tries from winger Chris Cochrane, and one each from Jonny Shiels, Tom Patton and Conor Gaston eased the northern province home. Leinster had opened the scoring on 12 minutes through an Ian McKinley penalty, but Ulster got a try from Cochrane on 26 minutes. Even though Leinster hit back with a converted try of their own from Michael Keating, the elusive Cochrane struck for Ulster's second try, which Paddy Jackson converted.

This gave Ulster a two-point advantage at the break (12-10), and this lead was soon up to 16 following converted scores from Shiels and replacement Tom Patton. Indeed, a fifth Ulster try would follow from another second-half introduction, Conor Gaston, and even though Leinster finished with a 75th-minute try from centre Darren Hudson, Ulster headed back up North the happier of the two sides.

Scorers -- Leinster: M Keating, D Hudson try each, I McKinley 2 pens, 1 con. Ulster: C Cochrane 2 tries, J Shiels, T Patton, C Gaston 1 try each, P Jackson 3 cons

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CRICKET: Centuries from AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis ensured visitors South Africa took the honours on day one of the second Test against Pakistan as they recovered from an early wobble to reach 311-5 at stumps.

After being put in to bat at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, the Proteas slipped to six for two and then 33-3 thanks to three wickets from Kuwait-born debutant Tanvir Ahmed. But Kallis (105) and De Villiers (120no) added 179 for the fourth wicket and when Ahmed (4-67) returned to dismiss Kallis, De Villiers continued his good work alongside Ashwell Prince and then Mark Boucher.

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England skipper Andrew Strauss smacked a four through mid-wicket to give England a 10-wicket victory over Australia A in their final warm-up match for the Ashes in Hobart, Tasmania yesterday. The tourists again had plenty to be cheerful about in the last of their three matches in Australia before their defence of the Ashes begins on Thursday in Brisbane.

Batsman Ian Bell hit 192 and England's back-up bowlers Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan grabbed seven and six wickets respectively.

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CYCLING: Robin Seymour of Team Worc banked the Stevens Cross Series with a pillar-to-post victory in Tymon Park, Tallaght. His closest challenger over 10 laps of a 2.5km circuit was reigning Irish Cyclo-Cross champion Joe McCall of Focus. Like the rest of the field, McCall just could not match the superiority in the testing conditions.

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TENNIS: Conor Niland is through to the final of the ATP Challenger Tour event in Salzburg, Austria, after he was given a walk-over yesterday by his semi-final opponent, Karol Beck. No 2 seed Beck sustained a foot injury in his three-set quarter-final win on Friday over the No 7 seed, Germany's Denis Gremelmayr.

In today's final, Niland will face either the No 3 seed, Germany's Bjorn Phau, whom he defeated 6-3 6-4 in the quarter-finals of last week's Challenger at Loughborough, England, or unseeded Pole Jerzy Janowicz.

Meanwhile, Dublin duo James Cluskey and Colin O'Brien advanced to the doubles semi-finals in the ITF Men's Futures event in the Czech Republic, after a 6-3 6-3 win over Maxime Authom and Adrien Bossel.

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BASKETBALL: In a repeat of last season's league final, Killester overcame UL Eagles 91-81 at the IWA with Jermaine Turner and the Westbrooks brothers, Isaac and Michael, shooting a series of three-pointers as Killester opened a 22-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Neptune's up and coming centre, Jermaine Kamara, made his first start for the Cork outfit as they overcame UCD Marian. The 18-year-old kept Marian's American, James Crowder, to 18 points in what was a tight contest.

With three minutes to go, the visitors had got the gap down to six. But a crucial intercept by Michael Ginn, who subsequently was rushed to hospital after taking an accidental knee to the head, along with late baskets from Ger Noonan and Michael Bonaparte sealed a 92-78 win for Pat Price's men.

A 35-point haul from Moycullen's Nathan Ambler was not enough to deny Belfast Star their second win of the season.

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SWIMMING: The Irish Short Course National Swimming Championships continued yesterday in Leisureland, Galway. One of the day three highlights was the Portmarnock Swim Team claiming the top three places in the men's 200m backstroke with Irish record holder Karl Burdis taking it in 2.01.69.

Meanwhile, Amy McVeigh, 17, of the Aer Lingus swim team, impressed in the women's 100m backstroke, winning it in 1.03.37 while Irish record holder Aisling Cooney cruised to victory in the 50m butterfly in 28.15.

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