THIBODAUX, La. – Freshman Katie Jones was committed to play volleyball for Nicholls State University in the fall of 2017, but a diagnosis of Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in early July saw those plans quickly change.A 6-2 outside/right-side hitter from Mont Belvieu, Texas, Jones verbally committed the day after her visit to Thibodaux. She already had a connection on the squad, competing alongside Colonel teammate Jennifer Olivarez on the Houston Stellar club team under coach Nancy Cole.When the summer before her first semester came around, Jones noticed a swollen lymph node on her neck. A family doctor ran tests and saw no issue with the bump. Jones then visited M.D. Anderson, the most well-renowned cancer center in Houston, to receive a biopsy, and the doctors realized the lymph node was indeed cancerous.“At that point [when I was told I had cancer] the world stood still,” Jones said. “I was thinking, ‘What in the world, why now?’ I waited a week to let it settle in so I wouldn’t be so emotional when I called coach.”Even after being diagnosed, Jones originally intended to play during the 2017 season, setting up treatments with Ochsner in New Orleans while still attending classes. Not feeling well the first three days on campus, Jones went back to Ochsner only to realize she had a bacterial infection that dropped her white blood cell count to almost zero. That one-month span put Jones between a rock and a hard place.“I kind of decided that it wasn’t the opportunity for me or the risk I needed to take,” Jones said. “So I thought that I should probably go home, sit down and think about it. I finally decided that I was going to leave this semester and not play in the fall – go home, get better and then come back.”Jones would make a surprise return to Nicholls on Oct. 6 when the Colonels faced Abilene Christian for their annual cancer awareness match. With Jones watching from the stands, Nicholls pulled off an emotional five-set upset against the Wildcats, who finished runner-up at the SLC Tournament.After undergoing two cycles of treatments, Jones was deemed cancer-free and received two more cycles that ran into mid-November. Jones returned to the court with her club team and then with the Colonels, quickly realizing that it would take time to get back to form.“It wasn’t the same,” Jones said. “I felt really out of shape. I couldn’t jump, and I couldn’t lift a lot, so it was really hard for me. I’m not back to where I want to be or back to where I was, but it’s still great being here with everyone. This is my family.”Big congratulations to Katie Jones, 18 Elite, on her commitment to Nicholls State University. ?????? @katiejoness_14 pic.twitter.com/86nwSAZuon— Houston Stellar VB (@houstonstellar) October 28, 2016 Although four months without training set Jones back on the court, she is still hopeful because of the progress she has made since returning.“When I couldn’t do anything for that long my muscles deteriorated a lot so it’s hard getting back into it,” Jones said. “It’s like I’m starting from scratch. It has been hard to get back in shape, especially with my lungs – it feels like it’s hard to breath. In conditioning I have to go a lot easier than all the other girls do and I lift a lot lighter, but it’s definitely been a drastic change from the beginning to now.”The recent hiring of head coach Jay Van Vark has Jones even more excited to return to the court for the Colonels in 2018.“Coach Jay has been amazing honestly,” Jones said. “He’s made such a change in the last two months. He’s implemented new skills that I never would have thought of doing. He’s made me think more outside the box than I ever would have with any other coach. He’s more about what you’re doing in detail than the result of it. He’s done a lot for us the past two months that he’s been here.”Story courtesy of Nicholls Athletics
FRISCO, Texas – Two-time defending Southland Conference regular-season champion Sam Houston State was selected as the preseason favorite for the third-straight year as voted on by the league’s head coaches and sports information directors. The Bearkats earned 17 first-place votes to top the preseason poll, the league announced Thursday. Pl. School (First-place votes) Total 6. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 146 McNeese was named the No. 3 seed in the Nashville Regional, hosted by eventual College World Series champion Vanderbilt. The Cowboys dropped a pair of one-run decisions to No. 2 seed Indiana State and No. 4 seed Ohio State, bringing an end to their 35-26 season. Central Arkansas and McNeese led the way with five preseason all-league selections each, including three returning members of the 2019 Southland Conference All-Tournament Team in Nate Fisbeck and Jake Dickerson of the Cowboys and the Bears’ Beau Orlando. McNeese topped UCA 4-2 in the title game to secure the Pokes’ first Southland tournament title and NCAA Regional appearance since 2003. 5. Northwestern State 193 13. Houston Baptist 49 The 2020 season begins Friday, Feb. 14, with 15 games, starting when Houston Baptist visits No. 3 Texas Tech at 1 p.m. 1. Sam Houston State (17) 276 12. Lamar 87 4. Southeastern Louisiana (3) 243 Northwestern State is picked to finish fifth with 193 points while Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rounds out the top six with 146 points. UIW (144), Nicholls (108), New Orleans (101), Abilene Christian (98), Stephen F. Austin (92), Lamar (87) and Houston Baptist (49) were voted No. 7-13. 8. Nicholls 108 Sam Houston State posted a 20-10 mark in league play last season to claim their sixth regular-season crown in the last eight years. A third-straight title in 2020 would mark the sixth time in the league’s history that a team has won three-straight championships and make the Bearkats the first program to achieve the feat twice. 2. Central Arkansas (5) 247 3. McNeese (1) 244 Just four points separates the No. 2-4 teams in the preseason poll as Central Arkansas picked up five first-place votes and 247 total points, followed by reigning tournament champion McNeese with a single first-place nod and 244 points. Southeastern Louisiana came in just one point behind the Cowboys and earned three first-place votes. Both the Bears and the Lions are coming off 19-11 Southland records, while McNeese finished 16-14 in league play in 2019. 2020 Southland Conference Baseball Preseason Poll 10. Abilene Christian 98 Southland preseason polls are voted on by each program’s head coach and sports information director. Individuals rank the conference’s other 12 teams in predicted order of regular season finish, with first-place votes worth 12 points, second-place votes worth 11 points and so on to one point for 12th place. 9. New Orleans 101 11. Stephen F. Austin 92 The team garnered three preseason all-conference honorees, led by reigning Southland Conference Hitter of the Year Colton Cowser. The sophomore outfielder posted the Southland’s top batting average in conference play (.388) in his rookie season and tied for the league lead in extra-base hits in both overall and conference-only games. Senior catcher Gavin Johnson joined Cowser on the top squad, and junior outfielder Jack Rogers landed on the second team. 7. UIW 144
Men’s Basketball Player of the Week – Sha’Markus Kennedy, McNeese – Senior – Forward – Tuscaloosa, Ala.Against SLU on Wednesday, Kennedy scored 26 points on 11-of-13 shooting with five rebounds and five blocks, becoming the first Southland student-athlete to record five games with at least five blocks. He scored the team’s first six points and 14 of the Cowboys’ first 17 on the board within the first 9:33. Week 13 Southland Conference Release (PDF) Kennedy turned in a H&HP Complex record and career-high 37 points in Saturday’s win over HBU, missing just one attempt from the field as he finished 14-of-15 to lead McNeese to its sixth-straight win. He pulled down 12 rebounds, giving him his eighth double-double of the season and fifth double-double in conference play. During the Cowboys’ six-game streak, the senior forward is averaging 23.5 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game while shooting 76.9 percent from the field. Kennedy has four double-doubles in that run and has won back-to-back Player of the Week awards. FRISCO, Texas – McNeese forward Sha’Markus Kennedy is the Southland Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Week, the league announced Monday. Ranked second in Division I in field-goal percentage (69.9), Kennedy earns his second-straight weekly honor and fourth of the season after shooting an eye-popping 25-for-28 from the field and nearly averaging a double-double with 31.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. He also averaged four blocks a contest. The Cowboys (11-9, 6-3 SLC) kept their winning ways going with a 77-61 victory over Southeastern Louisiana and a 102-89 win over Houston Baptist to extend their win-streak to six games. McNeese will flex its 8-2 home record in a showdown with second-place Nicholls at 6:30 p.m. CT Wednesday before hosting rival Lamar at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Honorable Mention: Kevon Harris, Stephen F. Austin; Elvis Harvey Jr., Nicholls; Kai Mitchell, Sam Houston State.
IN A THRILLER, GIFT BOX DEFEATS McKINZIE BY A NOSE IN GRADE I, $600,000 SANTA ANITA HANDICAP; RIDDEN BY ROSARIO, HE GIVES SADLER HIS SECOND BIG ‘CAP VICTORY IN A ROW, COVERING 1 ¼ MILES IN 2:03.02 ON A STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL AFTERNOON, HUGE PERFORMANCES IN THE SANTA ANITA DERBY & THE BIG ‘CAP WOW AN ON-TRACK CROWD OF 30,713 ARCADIA, Calif. (April 6, 2019)–On a stunningly beautiful day at Santa Anita, the 82nd running of the iconic track’s signature race for older horses, the Grade I, $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap, developed into a thrilling stretch battle between the two principles in today’s affair, John Sadler’s Gift Box and Bob Baffert’s McKinzie. In the end, it was Joel Rosario and Gift Box by a nose over Mike Smith and McKinzie, with the gray Gift Box stopping the clock in 2:03.02 for a mile and a quarter.With longshot Prime Attraction showing the way into the Club House turn, Gift Box and McKinzie were in close attendance, no more than a length and a half off the early lead. Mid-way around the far turn, Rosario, who had his mount well in-hand, cruised to the lead past Prime Attraction a quarter mile out and was immediately engaged to his outside by McKinzie.From the three sixteenths pole home, it was a classic head and head battle that had all 30,713 on-track fans enthralled and yes, if even for a couple minutes, maybe far removed from the weight of an onslaught of bad news primarily wrought by a wet winter.“It was a good race,” said Rosario. “He broke perfect out of there and John told me to keep him close and when he wants to go, maybe follow someone…It was a good race turning for home. I knew McKinzie was coming for us in the last part…He showed a lot of heart today and I have to thank Hronis Racing for the opportunity and to John.”For Sadler and owner Hronis Brothers Racing, LLC, it was their second Big ‘Cap win in a row, having won it last year with eventual Older Horse of the Year Accelerate.Originally based in New York, Gift Box, a 6-year-old horse by Twirling Candy, out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Special Me, had been idle since his first Southern California start, a half length win in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles San Antonio Stakes on Dec. 26.“This is very special,” said Sadler. “I grew up with this race, to win it two years in a row is incredible. I came here as a kid with Lou Rowan (owner/breeder and original board member of the Oak Tree Racing Assoiciation) when Quicken Tree won the Big ‘Cap (1970), so it means a great deal to me.“Joel rode a great race, you could see he had a lot of horse around the turn and he was just sitting on him. To beat a top horse like McKinzie in a photo like that…We needed it because we lost that tough photo last week (with Catapult, who was beaten a nose by longshot Ohio in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile). This was the plan when we bought this horse and it happened. We couldn’t be happier.”Off as the 2-1 second choice in a field of six, Gift Box, in his first Grade I win, paid $6.20, $2.40 and $2.20. With the winner’s share of $355,000, he hiked his earnings to $879,160 and improved his overall mark to 15-5-5-2.For his part, McKinzie lost nothing by way of stature in defeat as he was 3 ¾ lengths clear of longshot Mongolian Groom. Off as the 2-5 favorite, 4-year-old McKinzie, who carried top weight of 123 pounds while spotting the winner one pound, paid $2.10 and $2.10.Ridden by Geovanni Franco, Mongolian Groom, off at 53-1, paid $3.40 to show.Fractions on the race were 24.24, 49.03, 1:13.70 and 1:38.37.Although Baffert was denied his sixth Big ‘Cap win, he took his record ninth Grade I Santa Anita Derby two races earlier, as Roadster upset his stablemate Game Winner by a half length in a thrilling stretch run that barring something unforeseen, should propel both colts to center stage in next month’s Kentucky’s Derby.Racing resumes with a nine-race card on Sunday. First post time is at 1 p.m. and admission gates open at 11 a.m.
HIGHER POWER ‘LOOKS GOOD’ IN CLASSIC WORK Tiago Pereira44 $107,975 14% SADLER PLEASED WITH HIGHER POWER’S CLASSIC DRILLTrainer John Sadler, seeking his second consecutive victory in the $6 million Breeders’Cup Classic this Saturday, worked Higher Power towards that goal at 6:30 this morning, sending the Pacific Classic winner six furlongs in a bullet 1:12.60 under Flavien Prat.“I had him in (one) 12 and two, which is a good work for six furlongs on this track,” said Sadler, who sent out Accelerate to capture the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year at Churchill Downs. “I had him out (seven furlongs) in (one) 26. He looked good.”Sadler also supervised Breeders’ Cup works this morning for Ollie’s Candy ($2 million Longines Distaff, four furlongs in 47 flat), and Selcourt (Filly & Mare Sprint, five furlongs in a bullet 59.60, fastest of 39 drills at the distance).BELLAFINA WORKS, ‘READY’ FOR FILLY & MARE SPRINTSanta Anita Oaks winner Bellafina had her final major prep for Saturday’s $1 million Filly& Mare Sprint this morning at 6:30, working four furlongs in 48.20 under exercise rider Ivan de Silva for Simon Callaghan.“It was what we expected,” the trainer said. “She’s fit and ready.”Addressing yesterday’s five furlong bullet work in 1:00.60 by Donna Veloce for the Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles, Callaghan said, “I was really happy.”A handy 9 ¼-length winner of her only start, at 6 ½ furlongs against five rivals, the bay daughter of Uncle Mo owned by Kaleem Shah seemingly faces a more daunting task against seasoned challengers with route experience in the Juvenile Fillies“She’s had only one run, but we just hope her talent can help pull her through,” Callaghan said. “It’s definitely a tough ask going from 6 ½ to a mile and a sixteenth Grade I Breeders’ Cup.“We know that, but we’re optimistic she can do it.”IN OTHER BREEDERS’ CUP NEWS:Also on Saturday’s work tab for the Breeders’ Cup were Eddie Haskell (Turf Sprint, four furlongs in 47 flat for Mark Glatt); Shancelot (Sprint, four furlongs in a bullet 46.40, fastest of 69 drills at the distance for Jorge Navarro); Stubbins (Turf Sprint, four furlongs in 49.20 for Doug O’Neill); and Acclimate (Turf, five furlongs in 1:01.20 for Phil D’Amato).Also: Bolo (Mile, five furlongs in 1:02.40 for Carla Gaines); Draft Pick (Classic, five furlongs in 1:00.80 for Peter Eurton), Giant Expectations (Dirt Mile, five furlongs in 1:01 for Eurton); Secret Spice (Distaff, five furlongs in 1:01 for Richard Baltas); Seeking the Soul (Classic, five furlongs in 1:01.40 for Dallas Stewart); and on the training track, Bowies Hero (Mile, four furlongs in 49.60 for D’Amato) and Hit the Road (Juvenile Turf, four furlongs in 49.80 for Dan Blacker).Bob Baffert plans to work Juvenile contender Eight Rings at 7:45 a.m. Sunday and Dirt Mile contender Improbable an hour earlier, with Classic favorite McKinzie breezing on Monday.AMERICAN THEOREM TO SKIP JUVENILE, OPTS FOR DERBY TRAILAmerican Theorem, second to Eight Rings in the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes on Sept. 27, will not run in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Friday, trainer George Papaprodromou said this morning.“I just feel he’s not 100 percent ready,” said Papaprodromou, who conditions the son of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah for owner Rustin Kretz. “If he’s not 100 percent for a race like this against the best horses in the world, we have to do what’s right by the horse.“He’s doing well, everything’s good, but he’s not 100 percent ready so we’re going to pass. There’s no sense pushing something we shouldn’t. We’ll wait and put him on the trail to the Kentucky Derby.”OLIVER SEEKS THIRD STRAIGHT IN COMMA TO THE TOPDoug O’Neill hopes he has a hit on his hands in Oliver when the streaking son of Papa Clem runs in Sunday’s $75,000 added Comma To The Top Stakes for three-year-olds and up at a mile on the main track.Owned by William Peeples, Oliver has won two straight, including the restricted E. B. Johnston Stakes over a mile at Los Alamitos last out on Sept. 7.“It seems like he’s in a good zone,” said the meet’s runaway leading trainer with 19 victories through 17 days, eight more than runner-up Phil D’Amato.“We’re real happy and excited about him. It’s a small field but a tough field.”The Comma To The Top is race seven of eight with a 12:30 p.m. first post time: Oliver, Martin Garcia, 7-2; Midcourt, Victor Espinoza, 4-1; Leading Score, Flavien Prat, 9-5; Ground Attack, Edwin Maldonado, 5-1; and Two Thirty Five, Abel Cedillo, 2-1.XPRESSBET FIRST CALLXpressbet First Call is a weekly handicapping and analysis podcast focused on the top Thoroughbred racetracks in America. It features industry veterans Jeff Siegel as the lead handicapper and host Jeremy Plonk. To listen to this weekly podcast please visit: https://www.spreaker.com/show/xpressbet-first-call.FINISH LINES: Jeff Bloom, founder of Bloom Racing Stable, part owner of Horse of the Year contender and Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff favorite Midnight Bisou and a newly appointed board member of the TOC, will be Tom Quigley‘s guest Sunday, 11:20 a.m., in the XBTV studio . . . Fans can support a worthwhile cause during Bash at the Breeders’ Cup, a fundraiser for Thoroughbred aftercare this Friday, Nov. 1. Join Breeders’ Cup at The Langham in Pasadena for one of a kind memorabilia. All proceeds benefit Thoroughbred Charities of America. For tickets, please visit breederscup.com. LATEST CONTENT FROM XBTV:FEATURES:Breeders’ Cup Memories: Beholder Noses Out Songbird in the Epic 2016 Breeders’ Cup DistaffBreeders Cup Memories: Arrogate Runs Down California Chrome in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup ClassicBreeders’ Cup Memories: Beholder Leads All the Way in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile FilliesBREEDERS’ CUP WORK OUTS:Improbable (Baffert) 10-26-19Hit the Road (Blacker) 10-26-19Secret Spice (Baltas) 10-26-19Shancelot (Navarro) 10-25-19Mongolian Groom (Ganbat) 10-25-19Blue Chipper (Young) 10-25-19Dennis’ Moment (Romans) 10-25-19War of Will (Casse) 10-25-19Donna Veloce (Callaghan) 10-25-19Croughavouke (Yellow Cap) (Mullins) 10-24-19La Force (Gallagher) 10-24-19Omaha Beach (Mandella) 10-23-19 44% 5 2 56% 1 $773,963 Win% $232,377 Flavien Prat65 7 15% 3 63% 18% 15% $228,619 4 33% 1st 48% 2 Vann Belvoir13 $891,676 10 Martin Garcia46 Richard Baltas42 13 16 JockeyMts 8 25% 11% 11 ITM% 2 58% 11 3 SANTA ANITA STATISTICS 4 60% 19% 4 Jorge Velez77 11% 5 Mark Glatt34 4 3 57% $336,488 Evin Roman39 9 OLIVER IN ‘GOOD ZONE’ FOR COMMA TO THE TOP 49% 18% 2 31% Geovanni Franco46 6 6 John Shirreffs11 6 10 Peter Miller32 18% 2 41% 7 $247,962 36% $616,538 2 5 $84,894 24% Drayden Van Dyke41 6 $116,343 Richard Mandella23 Mario Gutierrez29 3rd 4 2nd 62% 3rd 6 Ruben Fuentes62 44% 8 19 9 $334,119 8 5 $188,192 (Current Through Friday, Oct. 25) 15% 52% 4 $259,753 Doug O’Neill66 Money Won 7 48% 17% 44% TrainerSts ITM% $111,955 19% 3 11 13% 2 14 3 7 34% Philip D’Amato42 8% 7 19% 13 4 26% Abel Cedillo97 $801,554 $437,299 3 3 Win% 1st 7 29% Bob Baffert27 5 3 $240,633 Mike Smith25 52% $564,116 $228,650 35% 17% 19% 19% 13 9 John Sadler41 3 9 6 3 35% 47% 50% 4 4 Andrew Lerner16 3 13 $259,062 21% 1 13% Edwin Maldonado32 $456,773 10 4 3 4 2nd Rafael Bejarano52 5 57% 6 J. Keith Desormeaux16 $1,027,442 20% 17% 5 50% $187,086 3 4 BELLAFINA BREEZES FOR FILLY & MARE SPRINT AMERICAN THEOREM TO MISS THE BC JUVENILE 36% 26% 64% 13 5 5 Jeff Mullins26 16 36% 69% $460,676 $48,932 3 7 7 $285,924 $298,887 Simon Callaghan14 $323,570 4 Craig Anthony Lewis14 7 J.C. Diaz, Jr.48 5 6 21% 3 0 4 48% 1 5 Money Won Jack Carava20 12% 23% 46% 0 44% 17 0 Hector O. Palma21 $390,424 $655,673 $71,957
Meanwhile Barcelona came through a tough Group F ahead of Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and the plucky Slavia Prague.Also in the hat to face Spurs are RB Leipzig and Valencia.The Spaniards earned a superb win at Ajax on Tuesday night to edge ahead in Group H, where Chelsea finished as runners-up.And Leipzig won away at Benfica and Zenit Saint-Petersburg in their maiden march towards the Champions League last-16.latest football newsGossipCROWD RETURNFA Cup final ‘may see 20,000 at Wembley in trial allowing some fans at games’CommentPHIL THOMASDiving and whining was never a good look and will seem worse after lockdownExclusive’I’M IN A BAD WAY’Ex-England star Kenny Sansom talks for first time since being attackedExclusiveBOURNE AGAINHowe says Cherries are stronger after lockdown with FIVE fit-again starsExclusiveSWAN THAT GOT AWAYSwansea wanted £3m Davies three years ago but couldn’t get work permitNEXT STEPJonny Hayes set to move to English Championship having been let go by CelticBAYERN 5 DUSSELDORF 0Lewa bags two as Bayern thump rivals to close on 8th straight titleTHEIR CALLReferees in Northern Ireland will be given choice on coming back says union boss TOTTENHAM have confirmed their second-place finish in their Champions League group which could mean a tie with Juventus or Barcelona in the last 16.Jose Mourinho’s men lost their dead rubber with Bayern Munich, going down 3-1 and ending runners-up in Group B.1Next Monday will see the draw for the first knockout round made, commencing at 11am UK time.All eight groups are confirmed and seeded, leaving five possible opponents for Tottenham to face with teams from the same country and group ruled out at this stage.Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Barcelona pose the biggest threat to another run into the latter stages, which take place in February and March.Each of the trio has remained unbeaten in the group stages with four points taken off both Real Madrid by PSG and Atletico Madrid by Juve.Champions League TableSee More Tables See Full Table Spurs are no strangers to facing crunch European knockout matches against big sides.Ajax, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund were beaten on their run to last year’s final.But Juve edged a dramatic last-16 tie the campaign before and the club’s only other expedition in the latter stages came in 2010/11, when Real Madrid claimed a crushing 5-0 aggregate victory in the quarter-finals.Mauro Icardi’s model wife Wanda looks amazing as she takes part in some seriously sexy shoots
In front of a crowd of 87,122 at the MCG, the Blues took a 1-0 series lead after a hard-fought and fluctuating match that saw a number of fresh faces step up to the Origin challenge.The Blues held onto a 8-6 lead at the break and fell behind early in the second half, but powered home to score the final three tries.Rookies Latrell Mitchell, Tom Trbojevic and Josh Addo-Carr all crossed, as did fullback James Tedesco who was the Blues’ best.It was billed as the start of a new era in State of Origin.And while Queensland showed signs of life after the Big Three, the Maroons’ days of dominance may be numbered after NSW claimed the series opener.The Baby Blues – boasting 11 rookies – came of age against a Maroons side without retired greats, ex-skipper Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk.NSW was the greenest Origin side in 37 years after unveiling an unprecedented list of debutants under rookie coach Brad Fittler.But what they lacked in experience they made up with their much-vaunted backline firepower led by a man-of-the-match performance by full-back James Tedesco who scored the opening try.It capped a horror week for the rebuilding Maroons.The signs were ominous for Queensland after a chaotic lead-up, losing veteran full-back Billy Slater (hamstring) and sweating until the last minute for the availability of winger Dane Gagai (finger).The Maroons were already without 151 Origin games’ worth of experience.And their luck didn’t change on Wednesday as the most inexperienced Maroons side in more than a decade could not stop NSW registering Origin win number 50 – albeit six years after Queensland had notched the same landmark.The Blues – boasting just 39 games of Origin experience – will hope they have started a new Origin era after the Maroons claimed 11 of the last 12 series.New skipper Greg Inglis did his best to step up in the Big Three’s absence, laying on some inspirational tackles.And at first it seemed to work.Inglis’ 27th minute hit on Tom Trbojevic gave the Maroons a lift before winger Valentine Holmes scored an 85m intercept try a minute later to cut the deficit to 8-6 at half-time.And Queensland threatened to pull off another unlikely win when they led 12-8 after Gagai scored in the 43rd minute.But there was no denying the Blues who finally lived up to bookies’ favouritism as they ran in three second half tries through Latrell Mitchell (48th), Tom Trbojevic (50th) and Josh Addo-Carr (70th).It could have been worse – centre Mitchell and wing sensation Addo-Carr were denied tries.Queensland must regroup before game two on June 24 in Sydney.
With PNG ranked seventh and fifth for the men and women respectively at the 2011 Games, Nauru has not participated since 2003-2011.The women team, known as Valivas, will head on to the court at 5pm while the men will play their game at 7pm.PNG Valivas will be banking on key players Betty Angula, Nesta Sape and captain Marca Muri who have been outstanding in the previous two matches.Nauru has Shania Ika, Kerina Adam and Jeiziannie Deraudag to power them on.PNG Marlins will be banking on the combination of brothers James and Allan Wright, Purari and Apia Muri and playmakers Iakah Leahy, Gabriel Elavo and captain Dia Muri.Being a new team to the Games, Nauru will be hoping key players Dick Royce, Paul Detenamo and Johnson Hiram will lead them to victory.Marlins have so far won two games against Fiji and American Samoa but lost to gold medal holders New Caledonia.So far, Valivas have won one game against Guam but lost to gold medal holders Tahiti.Nauru men lost to New Caledonia 98-37 yesterday while in the women’s game they were defeated by Tahiti 113-36.
While the introduction of new laws in the scrums and line-outs slowed the momentum of the game, Warriors captain Peni Ravai said they had to adapt quickly to ensure a win against Samoa A. “I think we need to work our set plays. Even though the first half was not very good as the second half,” he said. Fiji had a narrow 12-6 lead in the first half, with the Samoa A’s Ki Anufe slotting three penalties to the Warriors’ converted try and two penalties to half back Serupepeli Vularika with the new trialled points system valuing a try at six points and a conversion, penalty and drop goal at two. Henry Seniloli created an impact upon substitution in the second spell, scoring a try and setting the pace for two more, one from Vasikali Mudu and the other a penalty try. The team’s fierce defence saw the opposition sitting on six points for the remainder of the match. Samoa captain Greg Foe said while he thought they would be in contention, they were dealt a different hand. “That was a tough physical game as expected. We thought we were going to come out here and dominate the game but Fiji really gave it to us and the ball didn’t really bounce our way but that’s all part of the game.“You’ve just go to move on and do our homework for the next game,” he said. Ravai said they had hoped to finish on a high and add to the success of the 7s team and continue to put a smile on the people’s faces. “I would like to thank the boys for the courage and the hard work they did today. Although we prepared just for two weeks, the coach believed in us. “We played today like we were training for more than two weeks and I would like to thank the boys for the great effort. “We played today to put the smile back on those who suffered and play hard on the next couple of games and maybe we can win the final,” he said. Meanwhile, a fair turnout at first round of the World Rugby Pacific Challenge at the ANZ Stadium in Suva has Fiji Rugby Union CEO John O’Connor pleased.O’Connor had on Monday revealed that all entry fees would be waived as members of the public work on gaining a sense of stability in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston. The union, World Rugby and the Fiji Sports Council had reached a decision on Monday resulting in the free access of all matches held at the Stadium until the fourth round on March 21. “I am quite pleased with the support from World Rugby, supporting the initiative of Fiji Rugby Union to allow free access.“Based on the crowd, it was a success getting people to come down and join this afternoon,” he said. While pleased with the win yesterday, O’Connor believes there is still more work to be done. “From Fiji Rugby Union’s point of view, we will take the win but this is just a start. We need to win all our games and then play in the final so it is a work in progress. Hopefully we can learn from here and qualify and go into the final and move on from there,” he said. The second round of matches on Saturday sees Samoa A take on Tonga A at 3.30pm while Tuesday victors Junior Japan take on the Telecom Fiji Warriors.Caption: A Fiji Warrior player fending off a Samoan defence.
Vipers took the lead in the first half with a 10-6.In the second half, Vipers added another two points on the board from a penalty kick, leading Lions 12-6.After Vipers lock Patrick Morea was sin binned for a dangerous late tackle to a Lions player, the Lions regrouped as they struck back to score a converted try to level the scores at 12-12.Both teams struggled to break the tie with only 10 minutes left before full-time.It was Micheal Yanis who snuck in through the Lions’ defence to score behind the corner post, stealing the win 16-12 before the full-time siren.