Reds overcome Force after a week of off-field dramas

The Reds were thrashed 47-3 by the ACT Brumbies in the opening round last week and things went from bad to worse in the lead-up to Saturday’s clash against the rapidly improving Force.

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Several key Queensland players were ruled out and fullback Karmichael Hunt was stood down after being summoned to court to face allegations of supplying cocaine.

The match almost didn’t go ahead because of Cyclone Marcia, which forced the abandonment of Australia’s cricket World Cup match in Brisbane, but was given approval. Then just minutes before kick-off, flyhalf James O’Connor was ruled out with an injury.

Despite all the distractions, the Reds somehow managed to post a convincing win, scoring two unanswered tries against their fellow Australians who were on a high after beating the defending champions, the New South Wales Waratahs, last week.

“It’s a bit of a cliche, but it’s just about character,” Queensland’s stand-in captain Will Genia said at his post-match interview.

“We’re moving forward after what was a very tumultuous week last week.”

With both teams intent on kicking the ball and playing for field position at a soggy Lang Park, the Reds grabbed the first try just before halftime when winger Chris Kuridrani launched a counter-attack from inside his own half.

Lachie Turner, who was called in to replace Hunt at fullback, finished off the move to score in the right corner. Turner also landed two first half penalties and a second half conversion for 13 points of his own.

The Force landed two early penalties from flyhalf Sias Ebersohn but the knockout blow came when they gave up a penalty try in the second half for repeated scrum infringements.

“Our set piece was ordinary and we turned over too much ball,” Force skipper Sam Wykes said.

(Reporting by Julian Linden in Singapore; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Under-siege Reds claim Super Rugby win

Queensland have put Karmichael Hunt’s drugs controversy to one side to post a gutsy Super Rugby win over the Western Force in Brisbane.

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Thrashed 47-3 in their opening fixture against the Brumbies and rocked by the news Hunt is facing drug supply charges, the Reds held firm to claim an 18-6 victory on Saturday night in front of a crowd of 14,199 at Suncorp Stadium.

Lachie Turner, a late call-up to fullback after Hunt was stood down from the match, scored 13 points including a try, two penalty goals and a conversion.

Things started badly for the Reds when star recruit James O’Connor was ruled out minutes before kick-off after failing a pre-match medical.

The home team also played most of the match without skipper James Slipper (concussion) and Wallaby James Horwill (hand).

Despite those setbacks, the Reds took an early 6-0 lead through a pair of Turner penalties before the Force struck back with two penalties of their own from five-eighth Sias Ebersohn.

Turner’s try just before the break came after a thrilling passing move down the right wing, started by winger Chris Kuridrani, with Samu Kerevi feeding the Wallaby, who steamrolled Force winger Luke Morahan on his way to the tryline.

The Reds then recovered from the disappointment of a Kerevi effort being ruled out for a forward pass to force a penalty try in the 58th minute to extend their lead to 12 points.

The referee’s call sparked wild celebrations from stand-in skipper Will Genia, who was an inspirational figure amid so many casualties, helping to ease the pressure on stand-in No.10 Nick Frisby.

The Force were their own worst enemy at times, with replacement prop Chris Heiberg copping a first-half yellow card for a deliberate infringement and the visitors giving away 14 penalties.

The Reds also dominated the Force in the scrum, winning 12 of 18 in the match, a stat probably boosted by the away team’s early loss of loosehead prop Francois Van Wyk to injury.

Coach Michael Foley was also given a late headache when Chris Alcock limped off late in the second half with an apparent ankle injury.

Reds skipper Slipper said the win had been immensely satisfying after a tough week all around the club.

“That’s the result we were after,” said Slipper.

“Obviously last week, with a poor performance, this week we really turned it around … put our emphasis on doing our job and that’s playing rugby.

“Very good for our character – it really shone through.”

Slipper said the news of Hunt’s woes had been a shock but the team had moved on quickly after a brief chat.

“You couldn’t escape it but the way the boys came out tonight proves that we are a tight group. We really wanted to come out here and repay the Queensland faithful,” he said.

Reds coach Richard Graham said the decision to omit O’Connor was a precautionary one after he tweaked the knee which had forced him to miss the opening match against the Brumbies.

Force coach Michael Foley revealed after the match Van Wyk had torn a pectoral muscle and would miss the remainder of the Super Rugby season.

Foley said there were no excuses for the defeat and his team had simply been outplayed.

“Whoever you play at this level, you’ve got to come ready to go,” he said.

“I thought we were off tonight and I thought we got punished for it.”

Brunel lead as closest global race unfolds

A switch to a one-design boat, which all teams must use, is producing the closest race in the 41-year history of offshore racing’s most prestigious race.

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Yet none of the legs completed so far since the fleet left Alicante, Spain, on Oct. 11 has been as closely contested as the latest between Sanya, on the southernmost tip of China, and Auckland, New Zealand.

The Dutch team, Brunel, the second leg winners, retained a narrow 9.7-nautical mile (nm) lead over the overall race leaders, China’s Dongfeng Race Team at 0940 GMT on Saturday.

With just under 2,000nm – or about a week’s racing – left in the 5,264nm leg, the rest of the six-strong fleet was no further than 25nm adrift in a remarkably close race.

Dongfeng’s surge to within passing distance of long-time leg leaders Brunel represents an extraordinary comeback after a broken mast track, which keeps the mainsail attached to the mast, threatened to completely derail their hopes in the stage.

They fixed it while still sailing. Frenchman Kevin Escoffier was hoisted up the 33-metre mast with a resin gun and tool box to effect the repair.

Just two days ago, Dongfeng trailed Brunel by some 100nm at the back of the fleet and skipper Charles Caudrelier reported morale to be at rock bottom then.

On Saturday, though, he wrote from the boat: “It has been tough, really tough, but now I see it as a test.

“Since this morning, we have visible objectives and it helps. We’re gaining on them and we’ve got to use the positive points to rebuild our confidence.”

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were lying third, but less than 1.5nm behind Dongfeng, even though they had been sailing effectively with one man down after Justin Slattery was stricken by flu early in the leg.

(Editing by Ian Chadband)

The truth will be ugly, Cookson says as CIRC report looms

“We’ve committed to publishing the report they give us and we’re not going to get into a (soccer governing body) FIFA type situation of arguing about the report,” International Cycling Union (UCI) president Brian Cookson told reporters at the track cycling world championships.

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A FIFA report into corruption has been subject of much debate surrounding its publication.

Cookson assured there would be no such debate on the CIRC report, which could be redacted, but only for legal reasons.

“Unless there are legal reasons why names can’t be named, then contributions will be named,” he said.

“I think we should all prepare ourselves for that … When you open a can of worms you find a lot of worms.”

With a budget of over $3 million, a three-member panel was set up in January 2014 to look into the ugly past of cycling, especially — although not only — the 1998-2013 period, which comprises the Festina affair and the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

UCI changed its regulations in order to “propose reduced sanctions or an exemption from any sanctions to people who … admit having breached the anti-doping regulation”.

“I don’t think there will be a lot of new revelations because I think we have a pretty good idea of how widespread the problem was,” said Cookson.

Cycling, however, is no stranger to drama, having dealt with drugs scandals involving top names in the sport, including Tour de France winners Armstrong and Alberto Contador.

“But I don’t think there’s any other sport that has opened itself up to that level of scrutiny,” said Cookson.

The CIRC will make recommendations which Cookson believes the UCI should be in a position to implement as they cannot be legally challenged.

“They will make recommendations that will be possible to implement,” said Cookson, who will pay attention to those who may have refused to collaborate.

“We can probably draw some conclusions from lack of contribution.

“Equally we may well be in a position to take disciplinary action against people who are named by more than one source as having done something that is against the regulations.”

Armstrong was one of those who contributed.

“Lance Armstrong always has an agenda and I don’t want to say any more until we see what he’s said to the commission,” added Cookson.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Indian Chawrasia on track for third European title

After going 52 holes without dropping a shot at the Delhi Golf Course (DGC), his bogey-free run came to an end on the 17th but a two-under-par 69 was enough to finish ahead of holder Siddikur Rahman on 12-under 201.

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“I missed with my eight-iron on the 17th or else I would have still been bogey-free,” said Chawrasia who claimed both his previous European titles on home soil.

“I want to think and play positive on the final day. The final round is always special so I will play aggressively,” he told reporters.

Chawrasia, the son of a greenkeeper, made a birdie-birdie start and got a lucky break on the eighth when his tee shot deflected off a tree and bounced 40 metres to the edge of the fairway.

Bangladeshi Siddikur, who won the trophy two years ago before it was co-sanctioned by the European Tour, also birdied the opening hole but fell four shots behind after a double bogey on 15.

“I had a nice rhythm and picked up a couple of shots until the double bogey,” the DGC specialist said after his 70.

“I managed to recover well and made a great par save on 17 and then managed to birdie the last so overall I am happy with one-under today.”

In his 11 starts at the DGC, Siddikur has won once at the 2013 Indian Open and registered another nine top-10 finishes.

“The birdie at the last was very important. Anything can happen in this game. I am looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully I can play the way I did on Thursday,” he said.

Australian Marcus Fraser was third on 206 after a 67.

Indian-born Swede Daniel Chopra made a brilliant eagle on the par-five 18th to card a 65, the lowest round of the day, and join Thai Prayad Marksaeng on 207.

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez returned a second successive 71 to close on 212.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty, editing by Tony Jimenez)