Cheika’s extraordinary approach to referee

An exasperated Michael Cheika took the extraordinary step of inviting the referee and his assistants to the post-match press conference after Australia’s series-deciding loss to Ireland.
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The Wallabies coach was so bewildered by a series of contentious calls that went against his team in the 20-16 loss on Saturday night that he approached the referees’ liaison officer to have him ask French whistleblower Pascal Gauzere and TMO Ben Skeen to explain themselves to the media.

Cheika wanted to refer the inevitable questions about their performance to Gauzere but said the referee “didn’t want to” take up the offer.

“I don’t want to be the guy who looks like he’s a moaner because that’s how it always ends up,” Cheika said.

“You get portrayed as a moaner or a whinger, so let’s just get on with it and they can answer it themselves, to be honest.

“I don’t know if that happens in rugby but …”

The most puzzling call came in the 31st minute when Israel Folau was sin-binned for what Skeen deemed to be unnecessary contact from the Wallabies fullback on Peter O’Mahony during an aerial contest that resulted in the Ireland captain being concussed after landing awkwardly on the Allianz Stadium turf.

Replays showed Folau clearly going for the ball and not O’Mahony.

Cheika was asked if World Rugby needed to further clarify rules around such aerial challenges in light of French fullback Benjamin Fall being sent off by Australian referee Angus Gardner last week against New Zealand only for the red card to be retrospectively cancelled by the governing body.

“The key word these days is ‘clear’ and ‘obvious’, isn’t it? I don’t know anything that’s clear and obvious in a game of footy. Nothing, right? But they run with it,” Cheika said.

“Look at Angus last week. I really felt for him. He made the decision based on rules that they give him and then they left him out (to hang). Took away the red card, basically said you made the wrong call.

“So I’m not sure how you can clarify it any more or clarify it any less, to be honest.

“Rugby, there’s no black and white in this game. It’s a lot of grey and it’s about the interpretations in the grey so, yeah, I don’t know how they can clarify it, so there’s not much point in me asking about clarification.”

Cheika said he’d tried to clarify interpretations around tackling players without the ball with officials between the first and second Tests, only to be left frustrated by seeing Wallabies halfback Will Genia break his arm in an off-the-ball challenge last Saturday in Melbourne.

Cheika was also furious about a penalty late in the game, when the series was on the line, against Australia’s replacement hooker Tolu Latu for not releasing the tackled Irish player before winning a turnover.

“The only people that can answer the questions are the referee or the referees’ boss,” he said.

“Really, or if we’re fair dinkum, they’re the only people that can answer it because I’m only going to give you one side of the story. I’m sure Ireland will have another side of the story.

“But it’s all little things, I don’t know. I’ll just keep it to myself.”

Australian Associated Press

Belgium belt Tunisia in ominous warning

Belgium seem to be getting better and better, maybe even the best yet at the World Cup.
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It’s still early but a hugely talented Belgium squad made a big statement with a 5-2 rout of Tunisia.

No team has scored more goals than Belgium’s eight so far, and only Cristiano Ronaldo can match Romelu Lukaku’s tally of four.

Belgium have yet to face South American or European opposition, however, and playing England on Thursday should decide who advances to the round of 16 as the winner of Group H.

“In the end, we need to play better teams and have better focus,” Lukaku, who has scored two goals in each of Belgium’s two victories, said.

No player has had back-to-back World Cup games like that since Diego Maradona in 1986, though Argentina’s iconic captain did it in the quarter-final – against England – and semi-final – against Belgium – before lifting the trophy.

Though Belgiumare a long way from a first World Cup title, they have looked like the most complete attacking force in Russia.

On Saturday, Eden Hazard scored twice in the dominant display that produced the highest scoring game of tournament.

It could have been more. After replacing Hazard in the 68th minute, substitute Michy Batshuayi had several good chances before scoring in stoppage time.

“I think the whole of Belgium should celebrate,” coach Roberto Martinez, who has overseen a 21-game unbeaten run since losing to his native Spain in his first game in charge in September 2016, said.

If Belgium had one worry, though, it was allowing Tunisia to score twice. The tenacious North Africans also got five of their 15 shots on target.

The Belgians were rampant at times and had the luxury of taking off Lukaku and Hazard early in the second half to nurse injury concerns.

Martinez said Lukaku had pain in his right ankle and Hazard hurt a calf muscle.

Still, it could suit the coach to rotate his line-up against England with more decisive games ahead.

“In a tournament like the World Cup you’re only as good as the 23 players, so there will be opportunities for the other players,” Martinez said.

At at Spartak Stadium, Hazard scored with a sixth-minute penalty kick he earned by being tripped, and Lukaku angled a low, left-foot shot into the corner of Tunisia’s goal in the 16th.

“We knew that if we scored early, the game would be easy,” Hazard said. “So after five minutes we scored, and we controlled the game.”

The Tunisians cut the lead when defender Dylan Bronn headed in a goal in the 18th minute, but Belgium wasn’t done.

Lukaku clipped a right-foot shot over advancing goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha in first-half stoppage time. Hazard then ran on to a long pass in the 51st, flicked the ball around Ben Mustapha and shot into an empty net.

Tunisia captain Wahbi Khazri then scored with almost the last kick of the match.

Australian Associated Press

Labor to counter NBN ‘horror stories’

Labor has launched a plan to end NBN “horror stories” by ensuring compensation is paid to small businesses and families if service is not up to scratch.
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But Communications Minister Mitch Fifield says the opposition is simply playing catch-up to the “real action” that has been taken by the Turnbull government to improve consumer safeguards.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says if elected to government Labor would put in place penalties for NBN Co under-performance, allowing for compensation.

In 2017, complaints about the National Broadband Network increased by 204 per cent.

But Labor says there are no meaningful remedies to make NBN accountable for missed appointments and customer downtime.

“We all know someone with an NBN horror story under Turnbull,” Mr Shorten said.

“Parents taking half a day off work only for a technician not to turn up for the fifth time, small businesses out of action for weeks because a fault isn’t fixed.”

NBN Co should lift its game on customer service or pay the price, he said.

There would be clear standards for connection time-frames, fault repairs and missed technician appointments.

Missing the time-frames would result in fines for NBN Co and compensation for customers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would have oversight.

Labor plans to work with the ACCC, NBN Co and experts to finalise the standards and penalties.

But Senator Fifield says under the direction of the government the Australian Communications and Media Authority is already putting in place enforceable standards, backed by penalties to make consumers are not left without working internet and phone service when connecting to the NBN.

“Labor are completely in the dark, floating thought bubbles that disregard the independent regulator’s inquiry, which is still to report,” Mr Fifield said in a statement.

Australian Associated Press

Fever back on top with Thunderbirds win

West Coast Fever are back on top of the Super Netball table and remain undefeated at home after a 76-56 win over the struggling Adelaide Thunderbirds.
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Fever were coming off a 14-goal road loss to the Melbourne Vixens but responded as coach Stacey Marinkovic would have hoped they would against the winless Thunderbirds on Saturday night at Perth Arena.

West Coast were rarely troubled, with Jhaniele Fowler dominant in attack with 66 goals from 73 attempts.

Adelaide had no answer to Fever’s full-court pressure and couldn’t get enough ball to Shimona Nelson.

It wasn’t as if Fever were at their sharpest but again the Thunderbirds showed why they are winless, having won just two quarters from eight games now.

West Coast have won six of their eight games this season and all four in Perth.

Fever forced the Thunderbirds into 30 turnovers and pulled off six intercepts. Adelaide did manage to make West Coast turn it over 21 times but had just the two intercepts.

As well as Fowler’s 66 goals for Fever, Nat Medhurst produced 10 of 11. Defensive duo Courtney Bruce and Stacey Francis were again standouts along with underrated mid-court leader Verity Charles.

Nelson did hit 47 of 52 for the Thunderbirds but she just didn’t get enough ball with Fever taking 84 shots to 66.

The Thunderbirds didn’t actually start too badly and were just five down by quarter-time but a 6-0 run for Fever through the second period blew it open.

They went on to lead 34-24 at the half before the first four goals of the second half left no doubt about the result.

The lead ballooned to 20 by three quarter-time but the Thunderbirds did show some heart in the last term with honours ending up even.

Fever coach Marinkovic wasn’t surprised by Adelaide’s fight in the last quarter to deny them all four bonus points, but was happy with the response from her team.

“They will still shake a couple of teams with points but if we just keep focusing on us and we get the points that we are, ultimately getting the wins is the first and foremost thing,” she said.

“It was good to get a bit of rhythm and we got our speed back, which was nice. There’s still lots to improve on but it was certainly a better brand than last week.”

Australian Associated Press

Irish win 3rd Test, claim Wallabies series

Ireland have won the Lansdowne Cup with a heartstopping 20-16 win over Australia in the series-deciding third rugby Test in Sydney.
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A ground-record 44,085 fans packed into Allianz Stadium on Saturday night to see the reigning European champions hold off the Wallabies in a gripping series finale laced with drama and controversy.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was visibly furious throughout the match, as French referee Pascal Gauzere made a series of bewildering decisions against the home side, allowing Jonny Sexton to ultimately boot the Irish to a famous victory through five penalty goals.

Flanker and man of the match CJ Stander scored Ireland’s only try in the 45th minute, before winger Marika Koroibete replied with Australia’s lone five-pointer shortly after to cut the visitors’ lead to a point and set up a grandstand finish.

A late Sexton penalty goal gave the visitors a touch more breathing space but there were hearts in the mouths of every men in green right up until the fulltime whistle. The television match official (TMO) agonised over a possible intervention in Australia’s favour in the final minute.

After several minutes, the TMO eventually decided there was inconclusive evidence to penalise winger Jacob Stockdale for a deliberate knockdown that would have given the Wallabies one last attacking chance in front of the posts.

Ireland’s victory, a week after they levelled the series in Melbourne with their first Test win in Australia in 39 years, consolidated their world No.2 ranking and denied the Wallabies a first three-Test series win since beating the British and Irish Lions in 2002.

Both sides played most of the match without their captains and inspirational No.7s after Michael Hooper suffered a hamstring injury in the 16th minute and Irish flanker Peter O’Mahony was concussed on the half-hour mark.

There was drama even before kickoff, with the Irish team’s arrival at the ground delayed by half-an-hour after being caught in traffic.

Coach Joe Schmidt was livid.

His mood might have lightened after an early Sexton penalty goal gave his side a 3-0 start.

With Kurtley Beale controlling field position with clever tactical kicking and David Pocock dominant at the breakdown, the Wallabies nudged ahead 6-3 with two penalties to Bernard Foley.

But the home team suffered a huge blow when Hooper limped off and momentum – and the weight of possession and territory – shifted Ireland’s way almost immediately.

Despite being a man down after Stockdale was yellow-carded for an elbow to Nick Phipps’ throat, Ireland regained the lead after two more Sexton penalties before the Wallabies had Israel Folau contentiously sent to the sin bin.

The TMO deemed Folau had unnecessarily “placed” his hand on O’Mahony during an aerial challenge, resulting in the Ireland captain landing awkwardly on his head – and having to be taken off on a medicab.

Ireland carried a 12-9 lead into the break via a fourth Sexton penalty after the halftime siren had sounded. Stander’s try left the Wallabies desperately chasing the game over the last half hour.

“Some things didn’t go for us. You need a few things to go for you in a game,” said a shattered Cheika.

“It could have gone either way. It was pretty tight. I really feel for our supporters who came out here tonight.

“It was an electric atmosphere and I promise you we’ll be back for the next (Bledisloe Cup) series against New Zealand in better shape and we’ll be trying our best to make them proud.”

Australian Associated Press

Last-gasp Roos break Bulldog hearts in AFL

North Melbourne skipper Jack Ziebell has kicked a last-minute winning goal to break Western Bulldogs hearts in a two-point AFL thriller at Etihad Stadium.
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The brave Dogs fell behind in the final term after leading most of the night.

They retook the lead through Billy Gowers with about two minutes left only to see Ziebell slot through a goal with 20 seconds remaining to seal a 12.5 (77) to 11.9 (75) win in front of 26,301 fans on Saturday night.

“We were on the wrong end of quite a few of those (results) last year,” North coach Brad Scott said.

“They’re really painful at the time but you then train it and it’s great for the players to be on the right side of one of those really close games when it looked like it had slipped away from us.”

Ben Brown, who booted a game-high five goals, found Ziebell on the edge of the goal square with a neat soccered pass in the frantic dying seconds for the last goal of the contest.

Ziebell finished with three goals, while Shaun Higgins (32 possessions and two goals), Ben Cunnington (30 touches) and Todd Goldstein (20 possessions and 42 hitouts) were also influential.

Hayden Crozier had a career-best 30 disposals in his best game for the Dogs, with Lachie Hunter (30) and Toby McLean (26) prominent.

It was a cruel end for the Bulldogs who have disappointed for much of the season but rediscovered the high-intensity game that propelled them to the 2016 premiership.

The fired-up Dogs led the listless Roos by a goal at quarter-time and 18 points at halftime.

But as they have too often in a frustrating season they were unable to maintain the same intensity.

The Roos lifted as well, Brown adding two more and Higgins booting the last two goals on the third quarter to slash the margin to two points.

North looked set to overpower the Dogs after they booted the first two goals of the final term.

Ed Richards and Gowers had Bulldogs fans on their feet only for Ziebell to get on the end of a pivotal coast-to-coast play.

“We fell apart structurally in the last two minutes,” coach Luke Beveridge lamented.

“It’s frustrating (actually) it’s more than frustrating … it’s extremely disappointing.

“We got ourselves into a position to win it, that’s a positive sign, but we couldn’t sustain what we’d done in the first half.”

The Kangaroos improved to an 8-5 record with the result, while the Dogs (4-9) slipped to their fifth loss in a row.

Australian Associated Press

One killed in Ethiopia rally explosion

An explosion has struck a huge rally for Ethiopia’s reformist new prime minister shortly after he spoke and was waving to the cheering crowd that turned out to support sweeping changes in Africa’s second-most populous nation.
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Addressing the country minutes after he was rushed to safety, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called the blast a “well-orchestrated attack” but one that failed. He did not lay blame but said police were investigating.

Health Minister Amir Aman confirmed one death while Abiy’s chief of staff said 83 people were hurt, six critically.

“The prime minster was the target,” a rally organiser, Seyoum Teshome, told The Associated Press. “An individual tried to hurl the grenade toward a stage where the prime minister was sitting but was held back by the crowd.”

The man with the grenade was wearing a police uniform, witness Abraham Tilahun told the AP. Police officers nearby quickly restrained him, he said. “Then we heard the explosion.”

AP video from the scene showed bloodstained ground and abandoned shoes while people chanting the prime minister’s name fled, some clutching their heads in shock and despair.

The attack was “cheap and unacceptable,” Ethiopia’s prime minister said, and added: “Love always wins. Killing others is a defeat. To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded.”

The explosion in packed Meskel Square in the capital, Addis Ababa, came after weeks of reforms that had shocked many in the East African nation after years of anti-government tensions, states of emergency, thousands of arrests and long internet shutdowns.

The 42-year-old Abiy took office in April and quickly announced the release of tens of thousands of prisoners, the opening of state-owned companies to private investment and the unconditional embrace of a peace deal with rival Eritrea. Websites were unblocked and opposition figures were invited to dinner. Ethiopians said they could hardly keep up with the pace of change.

Saturday’s rally began as a show of exuberance, with supporters wearing clothes displaying Abiy’s image and carrying signs saying “One Love, One Ethiopia.”

Informal in a neon green T-shirt, Abiy told the tens of thousands of supporters that change was coming and there was no turning back.

Australian Associated Press

No need for red cards in AFL, says Fagan

The AFL doesn’t need to introduce red cards, Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan says.Brisbane might have been cruelled by the loss of Harris Andrews but coach Chris Fagan doesn’t believe Jeremy Cameron’s ugly hit on him should spark calls for the AFL to introduce red cards.
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The Lions had to play out most of Saturday’s clash against GWS without Andrews, their vice-captain and key defender, after he was knocked out cold by an elbow from star forward Cameron.

The incident is likely to lead to a lengthy suspension for Cameron, who already had a poor tribunal record – but unlike Andrews, he was able to play out the match.

Cameron proved crucial to the Giants’ cause in the end, kicking three goals as they prevailed by 27 points.

The Lions, meanwhile, were left with only three players on the bench and Fagan said he was forced to move Josh Walker from the forward line into defence to compensate.

That, in turn, allowed GWS to take a number of key marks in Brisbane’s forward 50 during the second quarter, when the visitors eked out what proved a winning edge.

Social media lit up with calls for the AFL to introduce red cards to punish players like Cameron for such occurrences of foul play.

And while Fagan admits there is an injustice about what happened, he isn’t about to petition for change.

“It comes up, doesn’t it? It’s so hard for the AFL though to decide on that,” he said.

“If an umpire makes a mistake and a big final’s lost because of it and the player goes to the match review panel and (finds) there’s nothing much in it, it’s a real tough issue.

“I know it hurt us tonight, and if Cameron is rubbed out, the teams (GWS) plays down the track will be the beneficiary of the fact that he’s not playing and we weren’t tonight.

“I reckon you could argue for and against that over a beer for 10 hours … (but) I don’t think we need a red card system.”

Australian Associated Press

GoT stars to tie the knot, dad ‘thrilled’

Game Of Thrones actress Rose Leslie’s father says he is “thrilled” for his daughter as she prepares to wed former co-star Kit Harington.
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The couple, who played on-screen lovers in the epic TV drama, are tying the knot at Leslie’s 12th Century family castle in Scotland.

Fans of Game Of Thrones have been gathering outside Wardhill Castle in Aberdeenshire hoping to catch a glimpse of the couple.

Speaking outside the castle, where the pair, both 31, will exchange vows, Sebastian Leslie said: “We are absolutely thrilled for Kit and Rose to be marrying today.”

“It’s an absolutely lovely day for us,” he added.

The couple met while filming the fantasy saga in 2012 and played on-screen lovers Jon Snow and Ygritte.

Two years after they met, Leslie left Game Of Thrones, while Harington has become one of the show’s most popular stars and has appeared in every episode.

Two students from China, currently studying in Glasgow and clutching floral bouquets for the stars, were among the fans who gathered at the venue.

Yunyao Li, 23, and Qiong dan Xu, 23, said they are fans of Harington’s alter-ego in Game Of Thrones.

“We would like to see him if possible,” they said.

A wedding date of June 23 was previously posted at Aberdeenshire’s Huntly registration office.

The stars announced their engagement in the Times newspaper last year.

And speaking to L’Uomo Vogue, Harington said it was “easy” to fall in love with Leslie and his best memory of the show was meeting his future partner while filming in Iceland in 2012.

“The country is beautiful … the Northern Lights are magical … it was there that I fell in love,” he said.

“If you’re already attracted to someone, and then they play your love interest in the show, it becomes very easy to fall in love.”

The Good Fight actress Leslie said she had been too busy to plan the wedding, telling Town And Country magazine: “I haven’t tackled it. There’s just too much to do.”

Australian Associated Press

Cameron elbow overshadows Giants AFL win

Jeremy Cameron faces a long spell on the sidelines after a sickening hit on Brisbane defender Harris Andrews which has blighted Greater Western Sydney’s 27-point AFL victory at the Gabba.
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The star Giants’ forward caught the Lions’ vice-captain flush in the jaw with a raised elbow as he attempted to spoil 11 minutes into Saturday’s first quarter.

Andrews appeared to be out cold before he hit the ground and was taken off on a medicab with a bleeding chin after a lengthy stoppage.

Cameron, who came in from behind and appeared to be no chance of winning the ball, stressed after the match he did not mean to hurt Andrews.

“It was unfortunate, the way it panned out. I just played the ball on its merits – I like hitting it nice and hard,” he said.

Both coaches were reluctant to discuss the incident in detail.

“He’s a bit sick and sorry. It was a big knock … (but) the judicial system will deal with that,” Lions coach Chris Fagan said.

Andrews, 21, was fortunate to escape serious injury, needing only four stitches to repair the damage and was apparently cracking jokes in the Brisbane rooms after regaining consciousness.

But his absence meant the Lions lost one of their most-important players for almost the entire match.

They were ahead on the scoreboard when he was felled but were outscored four goals to one for the rest of the quarter.

Two of them came from Cameron, who went on to kick his third goal after the halftime siren to give GWS a 24-point lead.

They were never in doubt from there despite a brave attempt at a comeback by a Luke Hodge-led Brisbane, who closed to within 15 points in the last quarter.

The Lions eventually fell 16.13 (109) to 12.10 (82) as the Giants recorded their seventh win of the season and third in a row.

Cameron was reported and looked set to be sent straight to the tribunal and hit with a lengthy ban.

He was roundly condemned on social media by AFL identities, including ex-Lions captain Tom Rockliff and former umpires boss Peter Schwab.

He was also vigorously booed by the 11,267-strong crowd every time he touched the ball.

Cameron’s poor disciplinary record won’t help his cause.

He has already been charged 10 times in his seven-year AFL career and suspended twice for a total of five weeks.

Australian Associated Press