Murray-slayer Thompson wants more scalps

NSW’s State of Origin loss to Queensland may have darkened Jordan Thompson’s mood, but the man who beat Andy Murray hopes he can produce a better showing than the Blues on Thursday

The self-confessed Wests Tigers tragic, whose bedroom wall as a child was adorned with pictures of Brett Hodgson and Benji Marshall has seen his world turned upside after a ‘pretty crazy’ 24 hours.

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Beaten in qualifying by veteran Frenchman Jeremy Chardy on Sunday, Thompson hung around the west London club hoping he may get a lucky loser spot and then struck gold at Tuesday lunchtime.

Five hours later the unassuming 23-year-old from Cherrybrook, on Sydney’s north shore, found himself in demand by the world’s media after inflicting a shock win over world No.1 Andy Murray.

It was the first time in 13 matches Murray, who claimed his fifth Queen’s title and second Wimbledon crown last year, had lost on grass and also the first time he had even been beaten by an Australian player.

The world No.90 also became the first player since Roger Federer in 2015 to not have his serve broken by the game’s best returner.

Not being blessed with a huge serve, Thompson relies on a solid all round game to make life difficult for opponents as he has shown in the past in the Davis Cup, where he boasts an unbeaten singles record.

However, he acknowledged that he needs to back up on the best win of his career against giant American Sam Querrey, the 2010 winner of this tournament, on Thursday.

“That’s the difference between the top players and guys that are battling to reach the top-10, the ability to win consistently.” Thompson told AAP.

“I’ve had to turn off the notifications on my phone because of all the positive messages from back home as I need to stay focused … and prove that beating Andy wasn’t just a one-off.

“I haven’t got the bigger body frame like a (Thanasi) Kokkinakis. He has a big game. I don’t have that. I’ve just got to play to my game.”

After a battery of media interviews following his win over Murray, Thompson spent Wednesday morning watching NSW squander a 16-6 lead allowing Queensland to level the State of Origin series in Sydney.

“I don’t know how we lost that, I watched it on my phone,” he said.

“It’s too hard to even talk about. I love my footy and the Tigers – Brett Hodgson was my hero as a kid.

“It would have been an amazing 24 hours had we (NSW) won the game but if I can win tomorrow (Thursday) it will make up for it.”.

Crows coach backs Sloane to find AFL form

Star Adelaide midfielder Rory Sloane is being backed by his coach to shrug off Hawthorn’s taggers in Thursday night’s AFL match.

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Sloane started the season in stunning form, bolting into Brownlow medal favouritism.

But rival clubs have applied hard tags to the damaging onballer, limiting the star Crow in the past five games.

Sloane can expect similar tactics from Hawthorn when the 17th-placed Hawks meet the ladder-leaders at Adelaide Oval.

“He’s handling it well. He’s a professional and he’s a great player,” Adelaide coach Don Pyke said of his vice-captain.

“There’s some options for Rory there but I think that he will work his way though it – and I will back him in to do that.”

Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said he would be asking for a team approach to shutting down the Adelaide playmaker.

“We quite often take the approach that it’s about team defence and your whole team being able to look after players like that,” Clarkson said.

“That will probably be the approach again but needless to say he’s a pretty special player for them.

“Particularly in the 18 months since Paddy (Dangerfield) has gone to Geelong, Rory has really stepped up with both a leadership role as well as an on-field role in terms of his importance.

“We need to be mindful he doesn’t have a big influence on the game but we’re hoping we won’t have to use just one bloke to nullify for the whole game.”

The Crows (nine wins, three losses) enter the fixture as hot favourites to down the struggling Hawks.

But Pyke was expecting the unexpected from Clarkson after both teams reset during last weekend’s bye.

“We may expect they do something slightly different coming off their first 12 games review, and we have obviously got to prepare for that,” Pyke said, citing the threats posted by Luke Hodge, Grant Birchall and Luke Breust.

“They are very capable. The comp is so even, they are 4-8 and sitting in 17th but they are really two games out of the eight.”

Dumbest half of football NSW played: Joey

NSW legend Andrew Johns has blasted the Blues’ for failing to target an injured Johnathan Thurston in their State of Origin II loss to Queensland on Wednesday night.

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In an extraordinary post-match tirade Johns labelled their second half performance as one of the dumbest halves of football in Origin history.

Johns pointed out how NSW strayed away from a first half assault on Thurston – led by second-rower Tyson Frizell – that set up a 16-6 halftime lead at ANZ Stadium.

The Maroons halfback missed a game-high four of his 13 tackles for the match.

“They had all the running, their gameplan was perfect,” Johns said on the Nine Network post game.

“You got a player out there that can not pick his arm up off the ground and they didn’t target him, his side of the field, or go at the defenders either side.

“If he’s buggered, the defenders either side are so nervous, then you manipulate the holes inside and outside him. But they didn’t go there once, I didn’t know what they were doing.”

Johns, who was part of five series triumphs, was stunned to see the Blues welcome the Maroons back into the game in the second period and reverted to robotic plays.

He accused the Blues of putting the cue in the rack.

“They stopped playing, then they went back to this out-the-back block plays and were no threat. We’ve got JT here who’s shoulder was absolutely buggered,” he said.

“How they didn’t identify that, was rubbish. You can see him there, he can not pick his right shoulder up. That’s the game plan. You just go at him the whole game.”

Johns is adamant Thurston is so injured that he will undergo surgery in the next few days.

“I think he’ll be going in for an operation this week,” he said.

“The way he was holding that shoulder, there’s no way he can continue, which speaks volumes for Thurston and the way he played on.”

Tomic, Thiem sent packing in Halle

Bernard Tomic has been sent crashing out of the Halle ATP grasscourt event in Germany by a sweet-swinging Richard Gasquet, 6-3 6-3.

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Buoyed by Tuesday’s excellent win over wily German Tommy Haas, the Queenslander was looking to build on that victory ahead of Wimbledon, starting on July 3.

However, he made the worst possible start as the world No.30 broke his serve in the opening game and again in the 10th to seize the early initiative.

The second set followed a similar pattern, as Tomic struggled to overcome the Frenchman’s excellent returning game and was broken two further times to sink to defeat in exactly one hour.

At the very least Tomic had good company in exiting the tournament. Second seed Dominic Thiem shocked by big-serving Dutchman Robin Haase 6-3 7-6 (9-7).

The Austrian world No.8 struggled with Haase’s consistency throughout and missed two set points in the second set before double-faulting on his opponent’s first match point.

Thiem suffered a solitary break as the 30-year-old Dutchman, ranked 42nd in the world, went 5-3 up before serving out the set.

The 23-year-old Thiem was again under pressure as the unforced errors started to pile up and had to dig deep to save further break points at 2-2 and 4-4 in the second.

Haase finally got the break he wanted two games later, firing an audacious lob and slapping a desperate and risky crosscourt forehand that Thiem could not return to go 6-5 up.

But instead of serving out the match Haase was broken straight back and had to save two set points before Thiem handed him the game with his fourth double-fault.

Haase will next face Gasquet in the quarters.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev, last year’s finalist in Halle, found little resistance against Philipp Kohlschreiber to win 6-3 6-3 and set up a quarter-final against Roberto Bautista-Agut, who beat Dustin Brown 6-4 1-6 7-6 (8-6)

Trump congratulates new Saudi crown prince, raises Qatar row

“The president and the crown prince committed to close cooperation to advance our shared goals of security, stability, and prosperity across the Middle East and beyond,” the White House said in a statement about their telephone talks.

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“The two leaders discussed the priority of cutting off all support for terrorists and extremists, as well as how to resolve the ongoing dispute with Qatar,” the statement added.

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The region is in the throes of a deep crisis. 

Earlier this month, Riyadh and several of its allies including Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, cut ties with Qatar over accusations that Doha supports extremist groups, including some linked to Saudi foe Iran — a claim Tehran denies.

In addition to diplomatic isolation, other measures taken included closing Qatar’s only land border, banning its planes from using their airspace and barring Qatari nationals from transiting through their airports.

Qatar is home to the biggest US air base in the Middle East — a hub in the war against the Islamic State group.

Contradictory signals

Trump’s administration has sent contradictory signals on the crisis. While Trump has made statements siding with Saudi Arabia, Washington has shown mounting frustration over the kingdom’s role in the crisis.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday that the US was “mystified” that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have failed to present details justifying their embargo on Qatar.

“The more that time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” Nauert said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has been tasked by Trump to oversee an end to the crisis, has been working the phones in recent days trying to defuse a standoff that has put key US allies at loggerheads with one another.

Tillerson said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia and its allies had prepared a list of demands to be presented to Qatar.

“We hope the list of demands will soon be presented to Qatar and will be reasonable and actionable,” Tillerson said in a statement.

“We support the Kuwaiti mediation effort and look forward to this matter moving toward a resolution.

Saudi boys pose in front of a billboard showing King Salman, with his 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.AAP

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman ousted his nephew as crown prince and installed Mohammed, his son, as heir to the throne.

Trump, 71, and Mohammed, 31, have met twice — once in Riyadh during the US leader’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia and once in mid-March at the White House.

Lions captain Warburton on bench, O’Mahony leads team

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony will lead the side, with his compatriot Sean O’Brien taking the number seven jersey.

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Warburton will come off the bench.

“It’s a reward for how the back row has gone,” Gatland said in a statement on Thursday. “There is a nice balance there while Peter captained the side against the Maori All Blacks and has done a good job.”

It is the second successive tour that Gatland has shown no sentimentality towards players in order to win the test series.

He dropped Ireland and Lions stalwart Brian O’Driscoll for the deciding third test against Australia in 2013, which prompted an outcry among media, fans, pundits and from the player himself. The Lions won the game 41-16.

Wales utility Liam Williams was surprisingly named at fullback after a strong game against the Waikato Chiefs on Tuesday.

Leigh Halfpenny, who had been impressive against the Maori All Blacks last Saturday has dropped to the bench with Williams offering a more incisive running option and the ability to cover wing.

Gatland has opted for a hard-running midfield combination in Jonathan Davies and Ben Te’o while England’s Owen Farrell starts at flyhalf after shaking off an injury.

England duo Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson will start on the wings. Welshman George North is not in the squad.

“We have picked a side based on form with a lot of players putting their hands up, especially from the Crusaders and Maori All Blacks games, and it was a lively selection meeting,” Gatland added.

“The win against the Chiefs was also extremely important for the squad and some players played themselves into the side.

“Elliot has been very accurate in the way he has played and we saw some excellent attacking play from Liam.

“We are excited about the 15 that take the field but also the very strong and experienced bench players who will have an impact.”

Lions: 15-Liam Williams, 14-Anthony Watson, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Ben Te’o, 11-Elliot Daly, 10-Owen Farrell, 9-Conor Murray, 8-Taulupe Faletau, 7-Sean O’Brien, 6-Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5-George Kruis, 4-Alun Wyn Jones, 3-Tadhg Furlong, 2-Jamie George, 1-Maka Vunipola.

Replacements: 16-Ken Owens, 17-Jack McGrath, 18-Kyle Sinckler, 19-Maro Itoje, 20-Sam Warburton, 21-Rhys Webb, 22-Jonathan Sexton, 23-Leigh Halfpenny.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ed Osmond)

First Nation Iftar dinner brings together cultures

As the sun set over an Aboriginal childcare centre in Melbourne’s north, more than a hundred guests settled down to a Middle Eastern and African feast.

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Islamic Council Of Victoria president Mohamed Mohideen proposed the Iftar get-together, attended by invitees from the state’s Islamic and Aboriginal communities.

Mr Mohideen says the communities have plenty in common.

“I think the value of the country, the land, is all part and parcel of Islamic thinking as well. We need to respect the land, and we need to respect the culture, and we need to also accommodate and welcome people.”

Lisa Thorpe is chief executive of the Indigenous Child Care centre that hosted the event.

She says the get-together was a welcome opportunity for her community and the Muslim communities to learn about each other.

“As a minority group as well, and how everything that happens in the world is our responsibility, it’s been a really good time for us to share who we are. It’s exciting.”

Links between Australia’s Aboriginal and Muslim people date back hundreds of years.

They essentially begin with Macassan traders in the 1700s, then continue with Afghan cameleers who helped transport goods though outback Australia over the next two centuries.

Melbourne general practitioner Umber Rind’s great-grandfather, a cameleer, married an Aboriginal woman in Western Australia in the early 1900s.

In doing so, Dr Rind says, they began a proud lineage identifying as Aboriginal Muslims.

“I definitely see a link. There’s the respect for one another, the care for the land, the environment, definitely a lot that Islam and Indigenous culture have in common.”

Dr Rind established a medical clinic in Melbourne’s north with her own cultural and religious background particularly in mind.

“The reason I set up the medical clinic is I really wanted to create a safe and respectful space for Indigenous people, and, also, the refugees as well. And I wanted to make a space where women could feel welcome.”

She says the inaugural First Nations Iftar Dinner has offered a rare opportunity to witness the two groups — both important in her development — growing, mixing and learning together.

“(I’m) very proud to have that Indigenous background and, obviously, very proud to be a Muslim, and I feel very lucky that I’ve had opportunities to pursue an education and become a doctor as well.”

Those from the Aboriginal and Islamic communities attending the get-together say they hope the inaugural First Nations Iftar Dinner will not be the last.

 

 

O’Mahony leads Lions against Maori All Blacks

Warburton arrived on tour under an injury cloud having not played since April due to a knee injury and only returned to action in the opening match against the Provincial Barbarians, a 13-7 victory.

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The Welsh flanker scored a try in Tuesday’s loss to the Otago Highlanders but will be hoping for plenty of gametime to impress in Rotorua on Saturday given the back row talent coach Warren Gatland has available to him.

Gatland was expected to select close to his first choice side for the fifth match of the tour with the first test against the All Blacks only a week away.

If that is the case, then the New Zealander will clearly be looking to dominate the hosts physically in midfield after naming Jonathan Davies and Ben Te’o in the centres.

Jonny Sexton also returned at flyhalf in an all-Irish combination with scrumhalf Connor Murray, while England’s Owen Farrell will be on the bench.

The hulking George North and pacy Anthony Watson will occupy the wings with Leigh Halfpenny named at fullback, a position that might have been taken by Stuart Hogg had the Scot not been ruled out of the tour by injury on Tuesday.

In the pack, England duo George Kruis and Maro Itoje will make up the second row with their international team mate Jamie George getting the nod at hooker.

“At this stage of the tour it is important to build on the foundations that have been laid in the last few weeks,” Gatland said in a news release.

“We were obviously disappointed with the loss against the Highlanders and realise that we need to improve in several areas, including our discipline, but we feel that overall we are building well towards the test matches.

“Every game is a big challenge, which is what we wanted, and this is an experienced Lions team with eight of the starting 15 involved in the last test in Australia in 2013.”

O’Mahony will lead the team from the blindside of the scrum with his Irish team mate Sean O’Brien at openside and Welshman Taulupe Faletau in the number eight jersey.

“Peter is a proven captain with Munster who never takes a backward step and we believe that those leadership qualities will serve us well on Saturday against a quality and determined Maori All Blacks team,” Gatland added.

Lions: 15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Anthony Watson, 13-Jonathan Davies, 12-Ben Te’o, 11-George North, 10-Johnny Sexton, 9-Conor Murray, 8-Taulupe Faletau, 7-Sean O’Brien, 6-Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5-George Kruis, 4-Maro Itoje, 3-Tadhg Furlong, 2-Jamie George, 1-Mako Vunipola.

Replacements: 16-Ken Owens, 17-Jack McGrath, 18-Kyle Sinckler, 19-Iain Henderson, 20-Sam Warburton, 21-Greig Laidlaw, 22-Owen Farrell, 23-Elliot Daly.

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury, writing by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Ian Ransom)

Bairstow leads England to rout of South Africa

South Africa chose to bat and laboured to 142 for three before Bairstow and Alex Hales shared a superb unbroken second-wicket partnership of 98 to guide the hosts to their target with 5.

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3 overs to spare.

“I’m trying to progress all the time and I played a few shots I didn’t have a few months ago,” said man of the match Bairstow.

“I’m feeling good, I was really pleased. The lads bowled outstandingly well, to take wickets up front is what we wanted and then our spinners tied them down.”

David Willey bowled JJ Smuts with the first ball of the match and South Africa quickly subsided to 32 for three.

Captain AB de Villiers (65 not out) and Farhaan Behardien (64 not out) shared an unbroken stand of 110 but they never broke free from the shackles imposed by a disciplined England attack and the total always looked below-par.

England openers Jason Roy and Hales plundered 45 off the first four overs before Roy, playing a risky reverse sweep, was trapped lbw by Andile Phehlukwayo for 28.

But Hales (47 not out) and Bairstow looked completely untroubled by a toothless South Africa attack, hitting four sixes and nine fours between them to cruise to their target.

Both teams were playing their first matches since the Champions Trophy in which hosts England lost to Pakistan in the semi-finals and top-ranked South Africa failed to advance from the group stage.

“It is difficult to sum up the performance. The result doesn’t look good for us. We lost our way at the start, had to rebuild and we were 20-30 runs short in the end, which probably cost us,” De Villiers said.

The second game of the three-match series is in Taunton on Friday.

(Reporting by Ed Osmond; Editing by Toby Davis)

Bairstow leads England to rout of Proteas

Jonny Bairstow struck a sublime unbeaten 60 to lead England to a dominant nine-wicket victory over South Africa in the first Twenty20 international in Southampton.

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South Africa chose to bat and laboured to 3-142 before Bairstow and Alex Hales shared a superb unbroken second-wicket partnership of 98 to guide the hosts to their target with 5.3 overs to spare.

“I’m trying to progress all the time and I played a few shots I didn’t have a few months ago,” man of the match Bairstow said.

“I’m feeling good, I was really pleased. The lads bowled outstandingly well, to take wickets up front is what we wanted and then our spinners tied them down.”

David Willey bowled JJ Smuts with the first ball of the match and South Africa quickly subsided to 3-32.

Captain AB de Villiers (65 not out) and Farhaan Behardien (64 not out) shared an unbroken stand of 110 but they never broke free from the shackles imposed by a disciplined England attack and the total always looked below-par.

England openers Jason Roy and Hales plundered 45 off the first four overs before Roy, playing a risky reverse sweep, was trapped lbw by Andile Phehlukwayo for 28.

But Hales (47 not out) and Bairstow looked completely untroubled by a toothless South Africa attack, hitting four sixes and nine fours between them to cruise to their target.

Both teams were playing their first matches since the Champions Trophy in which hosts England lost to Pakistan in the semi-finals and top-ranked South Africa failed to advance from the group stage.

“It is difficult to sum up the performance,” De Villiers said. “The result doesn’t look good for us.

“We lost our way at the start, had to rebuild and we were 20-30 runs short in the end, which probably cost us.”

The second game of the three-match series is in Taunton on Friday.