Five Metre Gap – Origin I 2017

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from the first game of the State of Origin series. New South Wales ran out 28-4 winners in Brisbane to take a 1-0 series lead. Unlike our normal column you likely saw the fixture between the Blues and the Maroons but this is what we have noted at Five Metre Gap HQ.

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Laurie Daley’s Blues side were favourites heading into the game with Queensland missing Johnathan Thurston, a significant absence, and others such as Greg Inglis and Matt Scott to long-term injury but it wasn’t until just before halftime when halfback Mitchell Pearce scored that it felt as if NSW was a strong chance to win game one in the Sunshine State as they did in 2014 (the last time they won an Origin series.) Even allowing for that it probably wasn’t until Queensland’s short drop-out in the second period which saw NSW win possession and subsequently score that the Blues seemed home.

 

After round 11 of the NRL we noted Queensland centre Justin O’Neill didn’t have terrific attacking statistics this season (he was the only player among the 14 starting backs to not score a try or be responsible for a try assist to date in 2017) but the Cowboys back ended up a defensive liability as well. Close to the line he missed key tackles which played a part in the NSW triumph – missing six on the night. O’Neill also lost the ball running out of his own in goal area allowing Blues forward Andrew Fifita to score. Queensland coach Kevin Walters will have to think hard about the value of his participation in game two.

 

Game one last year saw Boyd Cordner, now the Blues captain, run for 127 metres as the best NSW forward in that regard but this time around Cronulla forward Fifita ran an ultra-impressive 123 metres in the first half alone. The Blues prop finished with 178 metres from 15 runs to go with his second half try.

 

Also in game one last year NSW, well more specially then fullback Matt Moylan, let two kicks bounce on kick return causing his team trouble but on Wednesday evening it was a different story. Whilst there were some good Queensland kicks which caused New South Wales trouble they looked far more assured with Tigers fullback James Tedesco playing the custodian role. Not afraid to offload Roosters-bound Tedesco outran his opposite number Darius Body by 81 metres running for 194 metres with 102 of those on nine kick returns and made a try-saving tackle.

 

After 15 errors in game one last season the 2016 opener was a high quality one. A near flawless first half when the only two errors came from attacking  plays – such as Queensland winger Corey Oates trying to stretch out and score. The standard had to drop away in the second stanza but only 10 errors for the game was impressive for both sides who finished with 83% (Queensland) and 89% (NSW) completion rates.

Image via smh.com.au

 

 

Golf Capital – Noren masterclass at Wentworth, Tiger’s DUI

@hamishneal

 

A collection of golf news, thoughts and notes from the week which saw wins for Kevin Kisner and Shanshan Feng in the states plus a victory for Alex Noren in England – highlighted by his course record on Sunday.

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Opening drive:

One of last week’s noted players Noren put in the performance of the weekend (if not the month) to claim the European Tours’ PGA Championship at Wentworth when he blitzed the field to shot 10 under (62) in the final round and come from seven strokes behind on Saturday night before prevailing by two strokes from Italy’s Francesco Molinari. His effort was capped by an eagle on the 18th, he then had a nervous wait for the ten groups ahead of him to finish play which was some wait. The Swede has now won five times in a period stretching back to July last year and has now risen to career-high ranking of eight in the world. The European Tour heads to Sweden for the Nordea Masters in Malmo Sweden with Matt Fitzpatrick the 2016 champ. Tournament changes venue this year to Barseback Golf and Country Club. Last hosting the event in 2009 it’s the local course of Henrik Stenson.

 

Kisner nudged home by a stroke in the Dean & Deluca Invitational staged in Forth Worth, Texas. The South Carolina native benefited from the likes of Webb Simpson dropping down the leader-board but it was a close run thing with three players one stroke back including Texas duo Jordan Spieth and Sean O’Hair plus Spain’s Jon Rahm.

 

Michigan staged the weekend’s LPGA event which saw China’s Feng win for the first time since November claiming victory in the Volvik Championship. Australia’s Minjee Lee was tied for second with South Korea’s Sung Hyun Park. It was a good result for Lee after her recent disqualification. This week the top women are in New Jersey for the Shoprite LPGA Classic (won in 2016 by Anna Nordqvist) at the scenic Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club course in Galloway.

 

Player performance notes:

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. With the US Open on in Wisconsin starting on June 15 there are two more tournaments on the US PGA Tour before then with the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio this week. William McGirt was a surprise winner here last time out.

 

20 to 50: Matt Kuchar. Since Kuchar started strongly in this tournament last year with a pair of 66s before a T4 finish and since his T4 at the Masters he’s had three top 12 finishes in five starts. The venue at Muirfield, designed by Jack Nicklaus, has nods to Augusta so Kuchar’s result in the major is significant.

 

20 to 50: Adam Scott. The Australia has played a limited schedule of just eight events to date in 2017 and five of those results have been T14 or better. 2014 was his last time here and Scott nearly won before throwing away four shots on the back nine to finish T4.

 

50 to 100:  Byeong-Hun An. The South Korean improved in each round here last year 71-70-69-67 to finish four shots from the top. An, 25, has a T5 and T8 in his last two starts in the states and tees off in the second group in Thursday.

 

50 to 100: Danny Lee. The world number 93 has hit form in the last few weeks with a sixth-place in Fort Worth which followed a T5 in the Byron Nelson. This came after two missed cuts so it’s be a significant improvement.

 

100 to 200: Tommy Fleetwood. The Englishman has been jet-setting a lot in 2017 having played in seven countries but his steady form has seen him rise from 56th to 31st. He ranks best for greens in regulations on the European Tour and accuracy will be at a premium here.

 

200 to 500: Zac Blair. If not for a final round 75 Blair would have been well in contention for the crown here in 2016. The Utah native has scattered good results with missed cuts in 2017 so far but his early tee off in a low key group could see him set a platform for the weekend.

 

Greens in regulation:

Last week in this column we noted Dimitrios Papadatos would be featuring in the European qualifying for the US Open at Erin Hills. Papadatos didn’t make it inside the 15 that progressed to the major but another Australian Wade Ormsby did. In Monday’s qualifying Adelaide-born Ormsby did enough over the 36 holes to qualify for his first major at the age of 37. The cut throat nature mean many players better-credentialed that Ormsby missed out but such is the nature of this format. The winner – Aaron Rai – is one to watch. Rai, 22, has already won twice in 2017 on the European Tour’s second tier Challenge Tour.

 

Tap in:

Tiger Woods getting arrested well after midnight is an easy chance to take pot-shots but what’s the point? Perhaps the most interesting aspect was Woods stated the issue came about due to a mix of medication. Interestingly, Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg offered a similar reason when he was arrested for DUI. The relevant authorities at the time made a point of saying it was alcohol-related. Even if Woods is correct and the incident was related to medication, Why hasn’t Woods learnt from Steinberg’s incident? (Even it Steinberg lied.) Playing memories can always be found online and it’s easy to remember elite Tiger but the death-of-career-by-press-release is bad enough. I hope it doesn’t get worse.

Image via yahoosports.com

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 12 2017

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round 12 of the NRL with a look ahead to Origin 1. Round 12 saw half the competition on the bye so as a result four games were contested across the weekend with wins for Parramatta, New Zealand, Cronulla and Canberra. All of this comes with the caveat of the Origin series and the fact some sides playing were more understrength than other teams due to the 34 players getting set for Wednesday night’s game.

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Parramatta moved up ninth spot on the ladder after seeing off South Sydney in the first game of the shortened round as pivot Mitchell Moses eases into his new team he was influential in running the ball on the last tackle to set up a late try to Josh Hoffman but an impressive effort from forward Daniel Alvaro was one of the unsung performances. Elevated to the starting line-up Alvaro ran for 146 metres in 16 runs in his 44 minutes on the field plus he made 31 tackles. Only Manu Ma’u 156 metres did better in the Eels pack and Ma’u played the whole game. Alvaro wasn’t dynamic in terms of offloads and tackle breaks but when he had team mates like Kenny Edwards (seven tackle breaks) that task could be left to others.

 

For the first time this season the Warriors back three (fullback and two wingers) each ran for over 150 metres with Stephen Kearney’s side registering win number five for the campaign – but they remain in only 13th. Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ran for 214 metres from 20 runs with rookie winger Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad from 15 runs racking up 167 metres and Samoan international Ken Maumalo running from 171 metres from 20 runs. Even allowing for inexperienced players in the opposition, and considering not all runs are equal in significance, the start to the sets this trio were able to establish was critical as the Warriors built a 22-0 lead before winning 28-10.

 

Tactically the Raiders very nearly cost themselves late on Sunday in Canberra before running out 24-16 winners against the Roosters. Middle forward Junior Paulo got himself into dummy half for some reason with ten minutes to go on a last play when they led 18-12. Paulo threw a high pass to Aidan Sezer and from an already slow play-the-ball the play broke down despite clever kick from Blake Austin. In the Raiders following set Paulo ended up with the ball and decided to run across field on the third tackle when the play should have been a hard run up the middle to set for a field goal. Instead Paulo tried to drop kick towards the touchline or his winger (I’m still not sure.) The following set saw the Roosters score through Latrell Mitchell. Only Michael Gordon’s missed conversion meant the Raiders were still leading but it was a close run thing for the home side. It’s unfair to pin the Raiders’ failure to close the game out earlier on former Eel Paulo but it’s something which the Raiders will not get away with when they meet stronger sides – even allowing for coach Ricky Stuart’s valid points about the Roosters at time splitting their marker defence to disrupt the Raiders.

 

Like the Raiders, Cronulla nearly fell to defeat at home despite dominating position and possession in their 9-8 triumph over the Bulldogs. Cronulla ran for nearly 400 metres more than the visitors and it was only a late Chad Townsend field goal that saw Cronulla grab the two points. Cronulla’s poor completions in the second period 11/19 (58%) even allowing for Gerard Beale’s try kept the Bulldogs in the game when they had earlier grabbed the lead after 27 minutes. Given Canterbury had to adjust for the loss of middle forward James Graham it was actually promising game for the Bulldogs fans, who currently sit 11th. However, the key issue for Des Hasler’s side remains a lack of direction and attacking zest in the opponents’ red zone.

 

Finally, a random statistic towards the opening Origin match at Suncorp Stadium. It was interesting to note the preparation of the New South Wales team on the weekend ahead of the game in Brisbane on Wednesday night. On Sunday Laurie Daley’s side matched up against the Gold Coast Titans Under 20s side in a training session. This may lull the Blues into a false sense of security though depending on the intensity and focus of the session as this Titans youngsters have been profligate in defence during season 2017. Whilst the Ben Woolf-coached outfit are sixth in the 16-team competition they are leaking points having conceded a whopping 360 in 11 games – at 32.7 points per game. Only the bottom two sides Wests Tigers (362) and Warriors (368) have let in more.
Image via abc.net.au

Golf Capital – Horschel beats Day in playoff as Jang says bye LPGA

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, notes, and thoughts from the week. Americans Billy Horschel and Lexi Thompson had contrasting wins plus a top ten player calls it quits from the top tier.

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Opening drive

Horschel’s triumph, his first since the Tour Championship in 2014, came after Day missed his par putt in the playoff which clinched Horschel the Byron Nelson and a spot back inside the world’s top 50 (44.) Day had a wild back nine – pitching in on 15 before hitting a spectator on 16 and then missing a birdie putt on that hole – so it may not be surprising he wasn’t as composed in the playoff. Hopefully Day will maintain his composure in bigger events coming up.

 

Following his refusal to play the WGC event in Mexico due to security concerns (in the end he didn’t qualify) I’ve not been a huge fan for the Floridian but from a playing point of view the 30 year-old who was once ranked as high as 12 in the world has experienced a turnaround and after missing three consecutive cuts was an outsider here but has now found some form. Horschel’s wife opened up about her issues with alcoholism  subsequent to the victory so I’m prepared to give Horschel a pass for his over-doing about security in Mexico when given his personal situation he could sensibly have taken off the last 12 months or so, or wound back his playing schedule stating it was family issues, and be done with it. I disagree with his assertions over perceived security issues in Mexico but at least he was honest and, under duress, the fact he’s picked up this win Texas is a nice story.

 

Speaking of recent family issues. Queenslander Day’s preparations for tournaments had resulted in some withdrawals but he’s now looking good (bar a couple of errors on Sunday) ahead of the season’s second major. (By the way read this if you haven’t already – it’s the definitive piece on Day and his family.) The US PGA tour stays in Texas for the Dean and Deluca Invitational this weekend in Fort Worth where Jordan Spieth is the reigning champion.

 

It’s not a major but Lexi Thompson has saluted on the LPGA Tour with little hint of controversy this time winning by five strokes in the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg . There were five rounds of 65 as the best score across the tournament and Thompson, 22, had three of them. Danielle Kang, who finished fourth, and Thailand’s Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras (T18) had the other two with Thompson’s third-round 69 her other score for what was 22 year-old’s eighth triumph on the LPGA tour.

 

On the Asian Tour Rattanon Wannasrichan lead from start to finish with two-stroke triumph in the Thailand Open in Bangkok. Waannasrichan, 21, vaulted up the rnakings from 404 to 239 with the win. In Sicily Alvaro Quiros won The Rocco Forte Open via a play-off but he scratched around all day and left the door ajar for Zander Lombard before the South African missed a simple putt on the second playoff hole. Spaniard Quiros had a five-shot advantage heading into the final day before a poor back-nine saw him roll back to the pack dropping four shots combined on 15, 16 and 17.  It was the 34 year-old’s first win since 2011.

 

Player performance notes

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. One of the European Tour’s big events for the season the PGA Championship, won by Chris Wood last year, takes place at the Wentworth Club. It’s also the first leg of the new Rolex Series – the new seven-tournament format replacing the old final series.

 

Under 20: Alex Noren. The Swede was eighth in this tournament two years ago and finished 10th last time out at The Players. A winner four times last year, including the British Masters.

 

20 to 50: Tommy Fleetwood. A winner already in 2017 Fleetwood hias the best greens in regulation stats on tour plus he was second last time out in China. That’s enough to show he can overcome a poor last two goes at this tournament.

 

50 to 100: Haotong Li. China’s Li rose to a career high ranking of 128 after finishing third in Sicily last weekend. Li’s played here before (T27) so will be used to the venue.

 

50 to 100: Thorbjorn Olesen. A winner of one of the key end of season events, the Turkish Airlines Open, Olesen also triumphed in the recent GolfSixes as half of Team Denmark. He did miss the cut here last year but will be better for the experience.

 

100 to 200 Andrew Johnston Last year’s final round at the tournament was hard work with only six players breaking 70, including winner Wood, but ‘Beef’ fired 67 and was only four strokes from the top. London native Johnston is not playing well but a return to a familiar venue should help.

 

100 to 200: Soomin Lee. The South Korean has recorded three consecutive top tens in Asia and this is a step up but the 23 year-old will have benefitted from his appearance here last year. We are also hoping for a Garcia-type inspiration Quiros got with his win after Lee’s compatriot Si Woo Kim won The Players.

 

Greens in regulation

In Western Australia it was a second victory of the season for Central Coast golfer Dimitrios Papadatos. His victory in the WA PGA Championship nearly didn’t happen as he almost elected to travel to the UK and miss the event at the Kalgoorlie Golf Club. Victory by a stroke “as the red dirt swirled” as reported by pga.org.au means Papadatos is in good form as he now focuses on Europe Sectional Qualifying for the US Open at Walton Heath in Surrey from May 29. It is one of 12 sectional qualifying sites but only one of two not in the USA.

 

Tap in

The premature retirement of recent Australian Open winner, 25 year-old Ha Na Jang, from the top flight LPGA tour came out of the blue with the current world number ten choosing to devote more time to her family. Whilst not as lucrative, Jang still intends to play on the Korean tour but it will not offer the opportunities for notoriety which had come her way after four wins in the space of 12 months, including the victory in Adelaide. Jang was involved in one of the more bizarre off-field incidents of recent years when a luggage mishap involving her father and fellow South Korean golfer In Ghee Chun. The latter was temporarily usurped by Jang for a spot in the Korean Olympic team but Chun eventually recovered to play in Rio and Jang missed out. Funny game golf.

Image via yahoosports.com

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 11 2017

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points you may have missed from round eleven of the NRL plus a look ahead to Origin I. The weekend started with victory for the premiers Cronulla on Thursday and finished in Perth with a win for Melbourne. The Storm are sole leaders on 18 points with the Broncos, Sharks and Roosters two points further back.

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Thursday night saw Cronulla pick up their second home win of the season but, yet again at Southern Cross Group Stadium, they made hard work of it. Down 14-0 to the visiting Cowboys a second-half revival was enough to register an 18-14 triumph and their eighth win of the campaign. Their only other home win this season was a 19-18 triumph over the hapless Knights. The comeback was in a large part due to skipper Paul Gallen who ran for 206 metres from 18 runs but 147 metres alone in the second stanza. Retired from representative football after his last act of a goal for City Origin in Mudgee recently Gallen made 39 tackles and helped guide his team to an important win to maintain a top four spot. He was ably assisted by a strong overall team effort in the second stanza.

 

As the Broncos brushed aside the Tigers 36-0 on Friday night there was a surprise top metre-gainer in their pack in the form of interchange forward Joe Ofahengaue. In his 46-minute effort he ran for 142 metres in 16 runs and made 32 tackles to help lead the Brisbane pack to a dominant victory. Ofahengaue, 21, also provided the final pass for the last Broncos try. A regular on the Broncos bench since Tevita Pangai junior’s injury a month ago Ofahengaue hadn’t played more than 24 minutes this season until the weekend and the extra minutes this weekend came about after hooker Andrew McCullough was forced off with a head injury.

 

As the Dragons arrested a recent slide beating the Warriors 30-14 on Friday evening New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney must be scratching his head. The visitors did fail to convert a few opportunities in the first half so could have lead by more than 18-6 at the interval but what must be even more galling for Warriors fans was the fact that their side (despite scoring a late try) was so far out of the contest the Dragons were running the ball on the last tackle just to try some plays to see how they would go during the last ten minutes. When you are home side, even though they were playing in Hamilton, who need to be more competitive for the whole contest. At times it looked like an opposed training session.

 

When South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds went from the field for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA) it proved crucial as the notional ‘home’ side fell apart late in their sets with poor attacking options as the Storm won in WA on Sunday evening 14-6. This was typified by John Sutton who kicked one ball out of the full and kicked another dead, all within a short space of time. As they fell by eight points Sutton was given the role to take the last play kick options and the gulf in class between him and the two-cap Origin halfback Reynolds was clear. Chasing the game before eventually falling 14-6 Sutton’s two poor kicks came just before Suliasi Vunivalu’s decisive try six minutes from time.

 

With the State of Origin sides selected for game one, to be played on Wednesday May 31 in Brisbane, the back-lines (as in the selected 1-7 starters) for each side match-up evenly in terms of tries with 23 each so far this season but Queensland have a distinct advantage in creating try-scoring opportunities with six more try assists (23) recorded compared to 17 for New South Wales. Whilst try assists are not the only measure of try-scoring opportunities it is noteworthy that Queensland’s halves of Anthony Milford (Brisbane) and Cooper Cronk (Melbourne) have combined for nine tries with 12 try assists in their club games to date this season whilst the Blues duo of James Maloney (Cronulla) and Mitchell Pearce (Sydney) combining for eight tries with nine try assists. Despite the Maroons vaunted attacking dominance underscored by the fact they outscored NSW eight tries to six last season in their 2-1 series victory last year one of their backs, Justin O’Neill, hasn’t got a single try or try assist this season in the eight games he has played. The Cowboys centre has also failed to score in the Origin arena in the three game he played last year. From a NSW point of view the player with the least attacking output in the first 11 rounds is Josh Dugan with two tries.

Image via abc.net.au

 

 

Golf Capital – Kim wins The Players plus different paths for recent Masters champs

@hamishneal

A collection of golf news, notes, and thoughts from the week. Si Woo Kim became the youngest-ever winner of  the ‘fifth major’ when he triumphed at The Players and England’s Matt Wallace vaulted into the top 140 winning the Portugal Open at the Morgado Golf Resort.

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Opening drive

Kim triumphed at TPC Sawgrass following three sub-70 rounds. This included a final round of 69 on a day which he was one of only two players who finished inside the top 11 and broke 70. Kim’s bogey-free card saw him win by three strokes from Louis Oosthuizen and Ian Poutler. Spain’s Sergio Garcia was on contention but shot 78 on Sunday to tumble down the leader board to finish T30 but that was nothing compared to the collapse of JB Holmes who started the day tied for the lead but finished 13 strokes from the winner in T41st after he signed for an 84. Golf can be a cruel game.

 

Having entered the week ranked 73rd, Kim has now won at least one professional title in each of the last three years and secured a tour card for the next five years. Kim won the tournament despite having suffered a back issue which required treatment on Saturday evening and has forced his subsequent withdrawal from this week’s Byron Nelson. At the age of 21 Kim has registered multiple withdrawals due to injury (three in the last year) so it is mildly concerning the South Korean is already, seemingly, injury-prone.

 

With a dual ranking Challenge and European tour event Matt Wallace was the victor in Portugal and the Englishman has now picked up full tour status following his three-stroke triumph over American Julian Suri and the rest of the field. Entering the tournament ranked 242 Wallace was prolific on the lower-tier Alps Tour and won with a score of 21 under. The Sicilian town of Agrigento hosts the Rocco Forte Open this week before the ET’s PGA Championship at Wentworth next week.

 

The LPGA resumes this weekend in Virginia with world number one Lydia Ko in danger of losing the top spot to either defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn or world number two So Yeon Ryu. When Jutanugarn won the Kingswill Championship last year it was her second triumph in 2016. The 21 year-old would go on to win on three more occasions – including the British Open. Also resuming this week is the Asian Tour with the Thailand Open in Bangkok.

 

Player performance notes

Players I’m interested in to see how they go with notes that interest me related to capital investment if that’s your thing. TPC Four Seasons, near Dallas, hosts the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson. The tournament was won by Sergio Garcia in a playoff last year despite the Spaniard finding water twice on Sunday. The Masters champ defeated Brooks Koepka in extra holes at the course in Irving, Texas.

 

Under 20: Brooks Koepka. Last year’s beaten playoff finalist here has notched a T16 and second in his last two individual stroke-play events.

 

20 to 50: Bud Cauley. I’m still on Cauley Island and his recent good results are supported by his T4 finish last year when he was two shots away from the playoff. Tees off in the first group on at the 10th hole on Thursday.

 

20 to 50: Tony Finau. The Utah native was T3 at the recent Texas Open and four top tens this year to his credit. T12 here last year with rounds no worse than 68 shows he likes the event.

 

20 to 50: Charl Schwartzel. The former Masters champ contended at Augusta. Has an early tee time on Thursday to get things rolling.

 

50 to 100: Sung Kang. The Jeju-born golfer has two top six finishes to his credit this season in tournaments played in Texas which included a T6 last time out in San Antonio. Ranked 85 in the world currently.

 

100 to 200: Zac Blair. If not for a third round 75 Blair would have been well in contention to win the Houston Open in early April. Has the ability to continue the trend of recent drought-breakers on tour.

 

Greens in regulation

With Garcia suffering a final day slide at TPC Sawgrass it was nothing compared to 2016 Masters champ Danny Willett who withdrew from the tournament citing a back strain and needing to take a break. This news came after Willett was been sacked by his caddie Jon Smart in his previous tournament at Hilton Head. Since his major triumph 13 months ago the Englishman has had four top ten finishes but he’s missed three cuts in his last six starts to go with the recent withdrawal. At 29 he’s not a spent force but it has not been a good few weeks for Willett. He is yet to announce when he plans to return to the tour.

 

Tap in

Former world number one Vijay Singh threatened to roll back the years and embarrass PGA Tour officials in the process when he found himself in the spotlight at TPC Sawgrass before finishing in T16. Remember the deer antler spray case? Well Fijian Singh, 54, is in the midst of a legal suit (which has been going since 2013) against the tour for how they handled the situation four-years ago. It wasn’t a return to his halcyon days (he’s not won since 2008) after Singh shot 79 on Saturday but officials may have been nervous after he started with rounds of 70 and 68. A trophy presentation could have been very awkward with the Hall of Famer still taking the authorities to task regarding the scenario which he still claims came about because he did not know the contents of the substance – which turned out to be banned. May honesty prevail.
Image via golfweek.com

Five Metre Gap – NRL Round 10 + City-Country Shield

@hamishneal

Like the way of the five metre gap in defence looking at the points your may have missed from round ten of the NRL plus a new representative fixture. The Gold Coast produced a stunning comeback to beat the Storm during the Saturday night double-header in Brisbane which also saw the Broncos defeat Manly. The Sharks and Roosters both won on the weekend and share second with Brisbane behind Melbourne.

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Friday night saw a Souths player make a case for Origin representation, and I’m not talking about Robbie Farah. Edge forward Angus Crichton, who made his NRL debut in round 19 last year, ran for 160 metres in 12 runs as the Rabbitohs beat the Tigers 28-8. Crichton, once an Australian schoolboys rugby union representative, had a first half (83 metres/five runs and one try) which was vastly superior to Origin incumbent Josh Jackson – who also plays on the right edge. In 80 minutes the night before, as the Bulldogs were beaten 30-14 by the Cowboys, Jackson made a miserly 54 metres from eight runs plus gave away three penalties. Whilst it was only the Tigers who have won just three times this season, if the result/effort is enough for Farah’s claims to be pushed for Laurie Daley’s side Crichton has at least done his hopes no harm – perhaps not for 2017 but at least in the near future.

 

Former Bronco Jarrod Wallace was the benchmark forward as the Titans upset the Storm 38-36 for their fourth win of the season at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday evening. Wallace, who joined the Gold Coast in the off-season after five years and 73 first grade games with Brisbane, ran for 212 metres from his 18 runs to go with his 20 tackles. Wallace, who has featured in every game for Neil Henry’s side this season, pulled off these statistics playing 53 minutes in the contest.

 

Having made his NRL debut in round nine Warriors winger Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad scored his first NRL four-pointer on the weekend in a bright spot for the New Zealand side as they capitulated from leading 28-6 to fall to defeat 36-28 at the hands of the Penrith Panthers. Cooks Island international Nicoll-Klokstad dotted down twice on Saturday in the first half the week after featuring for the Kukis when they were beaten 32-22 by Papua New Guinea. His try-scoring double means Nicoll-Klokstad becomes the fourth player from Melbourne club side Altona Roosters to score in the NRL – the other three are Drury Low, Gareth Widdop and Jeremy Smith. The latter two both played for the Storm during their career. Low and Nicoll-Klokstad both featured in the 2015 World Cup qualifier for the Cook Islands in which Tonga were 28-8 victors and got the Asia-Pacific qualifying slot at this year’s World Cup.

 

From the backs to the forwards another player who featured in the Pacific Tests in Sydney recently had a season-best’s effort in round ten – Fijian forward Daniel Saifiti. In the Knights’ 34-20 triumph over Canberra on Sunday the Newcastle middle forward ran for 201 metres from 20 runs and also made 21 tackles. Saifiti, who scored a try in Fiji’s defeat to Tonga in Campbelltown, hadn’t run for any more than 140 metres to date this season so his 60-minute performance was a key effort in the second win for Nathan Brown’s side in 2017. (However if you count the pre-season game in Queanbeyan the Knights have beaten Canberra twice and it’s only May – sorry to make it worse Raiders fans)

 

In an ironic twist from the New South Wales Rugby League Sunday featured the birth of a concept with the inaugural women’s City-Country Shield fixture played at North Sydney Oval. After City won the final men’s contest in Mudgee last weekend the first female match of this rivalry has been established to further enhance the pathway to the NSW women’s side who, for the first time in nearly two decades, will be defending their women’s origin title after wresting the crown from Queensland last year after a 8-4 victory on the Gold Coast. The 2017 contest will be played in July and NSW will head into the contest with City having won the shield 20-8 with the final try for the winners going to Cronulla-Caringbah Sharks winger (and former Australian rugby union sevens squad member) Kate Mullaly as they got out to a 20-0 margin before two late consolation tries to the visitors.
Image via nrl photos – nswrl.com.au