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New Zealand keep dominance at Hong Kong Rugby Sevens

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Hong Kong, April 8 (IANS) New Zealand continued their dominance at Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, defending both men’s and women’s titles here.

Hong Kong Rugby Sevens marked its 30th anniversary at Hong Kong Stadium this year as 24 teams were equally split between men’s and women’s areas. 12 teams each were drawn into three pools, with the top two of each pool and two best third-placed finishers earning quarterfinal spots, reports Xinhua.

In the men’s competition on Sunday, New Zealand was flawless in the group stage and eliminated Fiji and Australia in the knockout stage, setting up a final clash against France.

A tense first half ended scoreless as both sides canceled each other out with a number of unforced errors. The best chance fell for New Zealand, but France’s Aaron Grandidier recovered well to cover tackle and snuff out the chance for the defending champions.

The second period kicked off with similar tension, but New Zealand eventually broke the deadlock through Scott Curry as they swung the ball from right to left.

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They didn’t have to wait long for the second as Cody Vai found the space to extend their lead.

France brought some last-minute drama, stealing the ball with moments left. Varian Pasquet powered away to score, but it was just too late for them to mount one final attack to find a winner.

On the women’s side, Michaela Blyde scored a hat-trick as the Black Ferns Sevens proved too strong for the United States.

Jorja Miller got the first points of the gold-medal match, bursting through on an outside break to score under the sticks for seven points. That lead was extended to 12 as Blyde couldn’t be stopped in the left corner.

The US side’s problems were compounded when Steph Rovetti was shown yellow for a tackle in the air, allowing Blyde to score an almost identical second. But there was hope on the stroke of halftime, with Ilona Maher’s break being finished by Alex Sedrick to make it 17-7 at halftime.

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Blyde’s third in the second half all but secured New Zealand’s win, and Mahina Paul’s score cemented it, pushing their lead to 29-7. Paul found a gap once more as the clock went into the red as New Zealand became the champions for the second year in a row.

–IANS

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Euro 2024: Portugal seal spot in knockouts with a match to spare

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Dortmund, June 23 (IANS) Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes were on target as Portugal sealed their place in the knockout stages of the UEFA Euro 2024 with a match to spare at the BVB Stadion Dortmund on Saturday. Silva and Fernandes scored a goal each while Samet Akaydin contributed an own goal as former winner Portugal defeated Turkiye 3-0 in a key match in Dortmund that wrapped up the top spot in Group F.

Portugal did it the hard way against the Czech Republic on Matchday 1, but on Saturday, they quickly took a firm grip on the proceedings. With Vitinha pulling the strings, they set about dictating the tempo and on 21 minutes they were ahead when Nuno Mendes’ deflected cut-back was coolly dispatched by Bernardo Silva.

One soon became two, in the most unfortunate manner from a Turkiye point of view. Joao Palhinha’s attempted through ball sounded few alarm bells but, with goalkeeper Altay Bayındır advancing unsighted, Samet Akaydin’s back pass activated the warning klaxon -– too late, despite a desperate scramble.

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Altay Bayındır, one of four Turkiye changes from the Georgia win, picked the ball out of his net 11 minutes into the second half as Cristiano Ronaldo sprung the offside trap and unselfishly squared for Bruno Fernandes. The Crescent-Stars battled on, but the game was up.

So Turkiye followed up their first opening day win at a Euro with a defeat that equals their heaviest in the competition. A point on Wednesday against the Czech Republic will nonetheless advance to the knockout stages alongside Portugal, the win preserving their 100% record at getting out of groups.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Hardik, Kuldeep star as India thrash Bangladesh by 50 runs, inch closer to semis (ld)

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North Sound (Antigua), June 22 (IANS) Vice-captain Hardik Pandya top-scored with an unbeaten 27-ball fifty and took 1-32 in a top all-round performance, while wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav bowled a stellar spell of 3-19 as India thrashed Bangladesh by 50 runs to claim their second Super Eight stage win in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Saturday.

On a fresh pitch, Pandya smashed four boundaries and three sixes in his undefeated knock, which was key in India amassing 62 runs off the last five overs. Coupled with attacking 30s from Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant and Shivam Dube, India posted a commanding 196/5 in their 20 overs, their highest total in the competition.

In reply, Kuldeep bowled a wonderful spell, helped by bounce and a bit of grip to leave Bangladesh in disarray. The rest of the bowlers produced another outstanding show, and the fielders backed them up very well to restrict Bangladesh to 146/8 and inch closer to the semifinals. India will confirm their semifinal spot if Afghanistan fail to beat Australia at St Vincent.

India dominated from the word go with immaculate ease, as every batter looked to attack, resulting in four batters having strike-rate above 150. It resulted in them posting the highest T20I score at the venue and also hitting 13 sixes -– the most number of maximums they have hit in a T20 World Cup game.

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Pushed into batting first, with cross wind blowing, Rohit Sharma didn’t let the spinners settle by sweeping Mahedi Hasan for four, followed by repeating the same shot against Shakib Al Hasan for a similar result.

Kohli joined in taking the attack to the spinners by smacking Shakib for a clean six over long-on, followed by using his bottom hand strongly in flicking Tanzim Hasan Sakib for four.

Rohit danced down the pitch to hit Shakib for a big six, before slicing him past backward point for four more in the fourth over. Shakib eventually had the last laugh as Rohit got a top-edge on slog and was caught by a backward point to fall for a rapid 23.

Kohli used his bottom hand well in swinging Mustafizur Rahman for six, followed by slamming leg-spinner Rishad Hossain down the ground for another maximum. But in the ninth over, Tanzim’s clever change in pace got Bangladesh back in the game –- getting a slower off-cutter which kept straight to castle Kohli for 37.

Though Suryakumar Yadav swiped him for a six, Tanzim got extra bounce on a length delivery outside off-stump to take Suryakumar’s glove edge behind to keeper. Pant, who was at 12 off 15 balls, greeted Rahman with a drive through the gap between cover and mid-off for four.

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He was quick to heave a slower ball from him high over mid-wicket for six and flicked a full toss in the gap between square leg and fine leg for four more to take 14 runs off the 11th over. Hossain was next in the firing line, as Pant smashed him with the spin over long-on for six and then swept him behind for four more. But Hossain bounced back as Pant reverse-swept straight to short third man, falling for 36.

Pandya and Dube dealt in singles before the former cut loose by hammering Mahedi with the wind through extra cover for six and four respectively. Dube hammered three quick sixes before being castled by a slower googly from Hossain for 34. Pandya continued to be at his free-flowing best – slamming two sixes, before hitting three fours in the final over off Rahman to take India past 190 and get his fifty on the last ball of the innings.

Chasing 197 was always going to be an uphill task for a middling Bangladesh batting line-up. Despite the stiff target, Tanzid Hasan began strongly by hitting four boundaries, followed by Litton Das smashing two boundaries. Pandya got the breakthrough when Das couldn’t control his pull on a wide delivery and was caught at deep mid-wicket.

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Tanzid was dropped on 24 by Pant off Bumrah but was trapped lbw on the back leg by a stunning googly from Kuldeep. Towhid Hridoy was next to fall as Kuldeep got a leg-break delivery to turn in slightly and go past an attempted slog-sweep to trap him plumb lbw.

More success followed India as Kuldeep had Shakib mistime a loft to cover, followed by Bumrah deceiving Najmul Hossain Shanto with an off-cutter which he sliced to a short third man, and Arshdeep bowling a similar delivery to take out Jaker Ali.

Hossain impressed with his hitting abilities by smashing a four and three sixes, before giving a top edge on pull to extra cover off Bumrah, who finished with an economy rate of just 3.2 in another comprehensive win for India and maintained their unbeaten run in the competition.

Brief scores:

India 196/5 in 20 overs (Hardik Pandya 50 not out, Virat Kohli 37; Tanzim Hasan Sakib 2-32, Rishad Hossain 2-43) beat Bangladesh 146/8 in 20 overs (Najmul Hossain Shanto 40, Tanzid Hasan 29; Kuldeep Yadav 3-19, Jasprit Bumrah 2-13) by 50 runs.

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Kuldeep picks 3-19 as India thrash Bangladesh by 50 runs, inch closer to semi-finals

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North Sound (Antigua), June 22 (IANS) Left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav shined with a game-changing spell of 3-19, while fast-bowlers Jasprit Bumrah and Arshdeep Singh picked two wickets each as India thrashed Bangladesh by 50 runs to claim their second Super Eight stage win in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium here on Saturday.

After vice-captain Hardik Pandya top-scored with an unbeaten 27-ball fifty and smashed four boundaries and three sixes in India making 196/5, their highest total in the competition, Kuldeep bowled a wonderful spell on a pitch having bounce and a bit of grip to leave Bangladesh in disarray.

The rest of the bowlers produced another outstanding show, and the fielders backed them up very well to restrict Bangladesh to 146/8 and inch closer to the semi-finals. India will confirm their semifinal spot if Afghanistan fail to beat Australia at St Vincent. Chasing 197 was always going to be an uphill task for a middling Bangladesh batting line-up.

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Despite the stiff target, Tanzid Hasan began strongly by hitting four boundaries, followed by Litton Das smashing two boundaries. Pandya got the breakthrough for India when Litton couldn’t control a pull shot on a wide outside off delivery and was caught at deep mid-wicket.

Tanzid was dropped on 24 by Rishabh Pant off Bumrah but was trapped lbw on the back leg by a stunning googly from Kuldeep. Towhid Hridoy was next to fall as Kuldeep got a leg-break delivery to turn in slightly and go past the attempted slog-sweep to trap him plumb lbw.

Though Najmul Hassan Shanto and Shakib Al Hasan hit some boundaries, Kuldeep took out the latter by forcing him to mistime a loft to cover. More success followed India as Bumrah deceived Shanto with an off-cutter sliced to short third man, followed by Arshdeep bowling a similar delivery to take out Jaker Ali.

Rishad Hossain impressed onlookers with his hitting abilities by smashing a four and three sixes, before giving a top edge on pull to extra cover off Bumrah, who finished with an economy rate of just 3.2 in another comprehensive win for India.

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Brief scores:

India 196/5 in 20 overs (Hardik Pandya 50 not out, Virat Kohli 37; Tanzim Hasan Sakib 2-32, Rishad Hossain 2-43) beat Bangladesh 146/8 in 20 overs (Najmul Hossain Shanto 40, Tanzid Hasan 29; Kuldeep Yadav 3-19, Jasprit Bumrah 2-13) by 50 runs

–IANS

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T20 World Cup: Keshav Maharaj credits 'small moments' behind unbeaten campaign

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Gros Islet (St Lucia), June 22 (IANS) South Africa spinner Keshav Maharaj feels that the team has found ways to win “small moments” in the game that has helped them to stay unbeaten in the T20 World Cup so far. South Africa are cruising in the showpiece tournament with a six-match winning streak. Proteas have kept calm during the crunch situations and prevailed over their opponents in four close matches including the one-run win over Nepal in the group stage.

“If you look at previous World Cups, the small moments, we haven’t really won. It’s good to see that all the games have come really close and we’ve found a way, so it’s building the character within the team. And it prepares us for certain opportunities that we could get and cross over the line in those small moments, [these] are things that we’ve never done before. So, it’s good to see us getting into that,” Maharaj said.

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The left-arm spinner went on to say that South Africa have made every effort to get past the “hurt” caused by the 2023 ODI World Cup semi-final exit in India.

“This team believes that we can be really great as a unit. Obviously, with the last World Cup, bowing out in the semi-finals, it’s both the character and there’s a lot of hurt. So, we just take it one game at a time and focus on trying to get the results to go our way and not looking at the negatives, just trying to highlight the positives as much as possible,” Maharaj said.

South Africa’s next match against West Indies in Antigua on Sunday will feature a showdown between the teams’ left-arm spinners. South Africa boasts Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi while West Indies relies on Akeal Hosein and Gudakesh Motie, who have been their standout bowlers in the tournament with Hosein claiming nine wickets and Motie eight in six matches.

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Maharaj acknowledged the spin battle, stating, “It’s always a battle of the spinners. I’m just going about my business. They’ve bowled exceptionally well in the tournament. I’ve watched quite a few spells of them, so obviously they’re quite a dominant force as well. They [West Indies] have got a very strong batting line-up, but [I will] just try to stick true to my processes and my principles.”

“It’s more a case of focusing on each and every game, not getting too ahead of ourselves. We’ve been very focused on our processes and trying to win each and every game and letting the rest take care of itself,” he added.

–IANS

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Football: Bayern Munich’s rehab and conditioning coach Thomas Wilhelmi passes away at 57

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Munich, June 22 (IANS) FC Bayern Munich have announced the death of Thomas Wilhelmi, the German club’s rehab and conditioning coach who has died at the age of 57 following a long illness. Wilhelmi worked for Bayern since 2007 and played a big part in the numerous successes of the last 17 years.

“Our entire club, and not least the coaching staff and the team with whom Thomas Wilhelmi worked so intensively for so long, are in deep mourning. Thomas Wilhelmi loved and lived FC Bayern and his profession: he always had his finger on the pulse of the players and was always there for them, especially during periods of injury, when top athletes need the most encouragement,” said Jan-Christian Dreesen, CEO of FC Bayern.

“For over 17 years, he was part of the team behind the team and could always be relied on. He made an invaluable contribution to the many titles over this long period. We will never forget him, and his human and professional qualities. Thomas Wilhelmi will always be a part of the FC Bayern family. Our thoughts are with his wife and two daughters,” he said.

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Wilhelmi joined the club in 2007 from Bayer Leverkusen and worked under various coaches, including Jupp Heynckes, Louis van Gaal, Pep Guardiola, Ottmar Hitzfeld, Jürgen Klinsmann, Carlo Ancelotti, Hansi Flick, Niko Kovac, Julian Nagelsmann and Thomas Tuchel.

For players such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribéry, Arjen Robben, Manuel Neuer, Serge Gnabry, and Alphonso Davies, he was an important support, particularly during their rehab periods. During his time, FC Bayern won 13 Bundesliga titles, the Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup twice, seven DFB Cups, the UEFA Super Cup twice, and the German Supercup nine times.

–IANS

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