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England win surprise Tokyo sevens title

England won the final 21-14 but beaten opponents South Africa gained the most from the Tokyo leg of the world sevens series.

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The Blitzboks recorded a fourth successive runners-up finish on Sunday but, importantly for them, they finished ahead of arch rivals Fiji and New Zealand to open up their lead atop the standings with two tournaments to play.

South Africa are on 129 points going into the eighth and ninth legs in Glasgow and London in May while Fiji, who they pipped 7-5 in the semi-finals, are on 125.

New Zealand remain rooted in third on 120 after suffering a shock 19-15 loss to 11th-ranked Canada in the quarter-finals.

Australia are among the biggest losers of the round as they are now nine points behind fourth-placed England in the race for the automatic Rio 2016 Olympic Games qualification places.

The All Blacks Sevens suffered their first loss in 29 matches against the Canadians after both teams scored three tries but New Zealand missed all of their conversion attempts.

They bounced back in the Plate competition to beat France 19-12 and then Scotland 21-14 to finish fifth, earning some valuable extra points.

They face a stiff task to win a fifth successive series crown, having won just one event out of seven this season – their home tournament in Wellington in February.

England, whose loss in the final in Wellington had been their best previous result of the series, were deserved winners of a tense final.

It was locked 7-7 at halftime but England broke the game open through tries captain Tom Mitchell and Phil Burgess before veteran playmaker Cecil Afrika gave his team late hope with a try.

England move ahead of Australia into fourth place in the series.

The top four finishing teams qualify automatically for the Rio 2016 Olympics, where sevens will make its Games debut.

LEADING STANDINGS

South Africa 129pts, Fiji 125, New Zealand 120, England 100, Australia 91, United States 71, Scotland 67, Argentina 66.

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Mystics, Magic in thrilling netball draw

Two long-range goals to Maria Tutaia in the dying seconds have helped the Northern Mystics clinch a remarkable 45-45 draw with Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in the clash of the two leading New Zealand teams in the trans-Tasman netball league.

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The Mystics overcame a nine-goal deficit early in the final quarter, slowly clawing back from 41-32 down to give themselves a chance against the home side in Rotorua.

With 10 seconds remaining, the Mystics swung their centre pass straight down court and Tutaia had enough time to drill her second successive goal from the top of the circle to stun the crowd.

It keeps the Mystics top of the New Zealand standings with three wins, two draws and a loss. They are unbeaten since round two.

The Magic remain second but are vulnerable to being passed by teams below them who have played fewer games.

The result ends the Magic’s six-game winning streak against the Mystics and dents their fine record in Rotorua where they had won 14 of 15 games.

The Mystics’ comeback was unexpected after they lost Silver Ferns shooter Cathrine Latu to a rolled ankle late in the third quarter. Latu had shot 15 from 15, improving her championship-leading success rate for the season to 93.9 per cent (155 from 165).

Replacement Paula Griffith combined slickly with Tutaia and veteran centre Laura Langman over the final quarter, cutting through the Magic circle defence of Leana de Bruin and Kristiana Manu’a which had been impressive.

After a tight first quarter, a six-goal run midway through the second stanza helped push the Magic 28-21 clear at halftime.

They were led by another impressive display from wing attack Grace Rasmussen while goal shoot Jo Harten shot 23/27 and Ellen Halpenny 21/26.

However, the attack links broke down in the final quarter as pressure forced numerous turnovers.

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NRL record over Eels means nothing: Taylor

Wests Tigers’ winning record over Parramatta will mean nothing in Easter Monday’s NRL showdown at ANZ Stadium, says coach Jason Taylor.

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The Tigers have won seven of their past nine matches dating back to the beginning of 2010.

But with Taylor only joining the club at the end of last year, he’s yet to lead them against the Eels – whom he briefly coached in 2006.

“(It means) absolutely nothing,” he said when asked on Sunday about the record.

Both teams are chasing their third win of 2015, but are coming off very different results last Friday.

The Eels stunned defending premiers South Sydney 29-16, while the Tigers suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to Canterbury.

Taylor was without experienced campaigners Dene Halatau, Pat Richards and Aaron Woods, but all are in line to play on Monday.

“We’ve still got to play well with those guys out of the team – which we did last week – and we learnt a lot out of that game,” he said.

“(But) it is good to have those guys back in the team for this game.”

Taylor said he’d spent the week focusing on his side’s defence, given how fast-moving the Eels are.

“That’s Parramatta’s style – they’re really moving the ball around. It goes from one sideline to another really quickly,” he said.

“They’re playing a really entertaining brand of football; they’ve scored some really great tries this year; they’re really testing the opposition.

“Handling their forward pack and then their halves and ball movement is the biggest thing we’ve worked on.”

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur said he was thankful for the long 10-day turnaround between games, given the toll last Friday’s match took on the team.

“It’s given their bodies a bit of time to freshen up, and also allowed us to get a lot of work into the boys this week,” he said.

“So preparation should be at its peak – now we’ve got to take it onto the field.”

KEY STATS:

WESTS TIGERS V PARRAMATTA:

* The Tigers have won seven of their past nine matches against the Eels since the start of 2010

* A field goal has been kicked in five of the past six games between the two sides

* The Eels have struggled at ANZ Stadium the past few seasons, winning just one of their 16 fixtures since the beginning of 2011. Their last win there was round 14 last year

* Parramatta have scored 18 tries this season – only the Sydney Roosters (19) have had more – but struggle to break the line. Almost 80 per cent of their tries have come down the far left or right edge

* The Eels have scored 65 points in the second half this season – the second most in the league. The Tigers, on the other hand, have been poor in the final 20 minutes of their matches, managing a total of just five points

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AFL coach to Crows: take a cold shower

New Adelaide boss Phil Walsh tells his club to take a collective cold shower after Sunday’s dreamy 77-point demolition of North Melbourne.

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Walsh’s head coaching career debut was highlighted by a Taylor Walker special in the Crows’ 21.14 (140) to 9.9 (63) victory at Adelaide Oval.

“It’s round one. We all need just to take a little bit of a cold shower,” Walsh said.

“That gives us great confidence, albeit that is a very small sample size – it’s one game.”

Walsh heaped praise on new captain Walker, who potted 6.5 and had two goal assists, 15 marks, 21 disposals and seven inside 50s.

“What did he have, 11 shots at goal or something?,” Walsh said.

“He played team footy. It was a great captain’s game.”

Walker orchestrated an opening-half blitz: nearing halftime, the Crows led by 69 points and the key forward had already slotted three goals and taken 12 marks.

His feats helped the Crows to a defining 12.10 to 3.1 halftime advantage.

The Kangaroos briefly rallied with four consecutive goals in the third term to get within 30 points, but Walker then stirred his troops en route to a resounding triumph.

Walker feasted on offerings from his midfield colleagues Richard Douglas (31 disposals), Rory Sloane (26 possessions), Patrick Dangerfield (25 touches) and Brodie Smith (22 disposals).

And Walsh deployed Eddie Betts with devastating impact: usually anchored in a forward pocket, the livewire spent much time in the midfield and gathered 21 disposals to complement his four goals.

The Crows also stifled North Melbourne’s attack, with the exception of ex-Western Bulldog Shaun Higgins who banked four goals on debut for his new club.

But Roos coach Brad Scott refused to even rate Higgins’ display as a positive – according to the boss, there were none.

“We fumbled like I have never seen us fumble in my time as coach of North Melbourne, kicking efficiency was horrific,” Scott said, describing the performance as an indictment on his players.

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England end Sevens title drought with victory in wet Tokyo

Phil Burgess, Charlie Hayter and Tom Mitchell scored the tries in the final for the English, who bounced back from a thumping group stage defeat to Fiji on Saturday to win a first title since the Wellington Sevens in Feb.

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2013.

“I am unbelievably proud of this team. It’s a huge effort and we are so grateful to deliver this title,” skipper Mitchell said after victory at a wet Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground.

The 22 points moved them onto 100 and ahead of Australia into the fourth and final Olympic qualifying position available from the series. Further spots are available for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Games via regional qualifiers

South Africa still lead the way after collecting 19 for the runners-up spot to move onto 129, four clear of Fiji with only two rounds left in the series in Glasgow and London next month.

The Fijians, winners of the last two tournaments in Las Vegas and Hong Kong, picked up 17 points in Tokyo after edging Canada 21-19 to finish third.

The Fijian’s hat-trick bid was ended by the South Africans in a nervy, error-strewn semi-final that the Blitzbokke took 7-5.

New Zealand, winners of 12 of the 15 Sevens World Series titles and reigning World Cup sevens champions, endured a disappointing week in the Japanese capital, suffering a first ever loss to Canada in the quarter-finals.

The 19-15 defeat sent them into the second tier Plate tournament, which they won after beating France in the last four and then Scotland in the final after Dylan Collier’s try in the last play of the game. The 13 points keeping them third on 120.

Trans-Tasman rivals Australia dropped to fifth after a weekend to forget in Tokyo.

After losing to Portugal and Scotland in group play on Saturday, they then suffered a heartbreaking defeat to the United States in the lung-busting final of the third tier Bowl event.

Perry Baker scoring the match ending try in extra time as the ever-improving Americans prevailed 17-12.

Portugal won the Shield after edging Argentina 12-7 but last-placed Japan closed the gap on the Iberians to eight points in the battle to avoid relegation after picking up 10 for making a first Cup quarter-final.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O’Brien)

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Houlihan the man to beat in Stawell Gift

Just two years into his professional running career, big South Australian Luke Houlihan shapes as the man to beat in the Stawell Gift on Monday.

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Houlihan rocketed into $2.75 favouritism after recording the fastest time of 12.07 seconds in Saturday’s heats at Central Park.

The 23-year-old and his coach Anthony Tohl were encouraged by Houlihan’s fourth-placed finish at the prestigious Bay Sheffield race in Adelaide in December.

“From then, we just decided to press on and keep racing,” he said.

“I’ve stayed in good shape.

“It’s always hard to tell coming into a big meeting how well you are going to perform.

“It’s good to get the first one out of the way and now I can rest up and get ready for Monday.”

Houlihan – who is running off a 7.25m mark in Stawell – grew up playing basketball, touch football and Australian Rules before shifting his focus to sprinting.

The second favourite with TAB Sportsbet at $3 is Queensland beach sprinter Murray Goodwin (6.5m), who also caught the eye with a dominant heat win.

Goodwin’s coach Brett Robinson is a two-time Gift finalist who also coached Mitchell Williams to the 2011 title.

“I came down here last year and really just got a taste for it,” said the 28-year-old Goodwin.

“I hadn’t really put the work in that was required, but that just really got me motivated to put in the work this year and try and come away with a good result.

“But I don’t know about being the favourite.

“I guess the public will decide who is worthy of those sorts of things but I’m not really too interested in the betting to be honest.”

After edging through the heats, Australia’s fastest boy Jack Hale has avoided the title favourites in the semi-final draw.

But fellow rising teen star Darcy Roper has his work cut out after being drawn in the same semi as Goodwin.

Roper, 17, finished second in the long jump at last weekend’s Australian championships in Brisbane.

Australian 100m record holder Melissa Breen has the fiendishly difficult task of trying to win the women’s Stawell Gift off scratch.

She has been drawn in the same semi as 2014 Australian 400m champion Morgan Mitchell.

The prizemoney for the women’s Gift is now the same as for the feature men’s race, with $40,000 going to the winner.

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Grant Hackett seals swimming comeback

Simply looking at a bathtub once put Grant Hackett off a return to the water.

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Yet the dual Olympic champion still found the strength on Sunday night to cap one of the great swimming comebacks by earning a 2015 world titles team berth.

Needing a top-six 200m freestyle finish to seal what once seemed an unlikely relay nod, Hackett cruised to fourth in one minute, 46.84 seconds as Cameron McEvoy (1:45.94) defended his national title in one of the greatest fields assembled in Australia.

At 34, Hackett had initially claimed that making the team after just six months’ training and a six-year layoff would feel like “winning an Olympic gold medal”.

But clearly, his incredible result on Sunday night meant so much more after Hackett reflected on how much he had turned his life around in the past 12 months.

“If you had asked me 10 years ago if the only thing that got me on the team was on the relay it would be bitter disappointment,” Hackett said.

“But right now, it is one of the biggest achievements of my life.”

Hackett’s personal life fell apart last year as he sought treatment for sleeping pill addiction.

Yet, his professional demons went back as far as his last major meet, the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, where he was denied a record third straight 1500m gold medal.

Tunisia’s Oussama Mellouli touched out Hackett in China.

“I will be honest. I hated the sport for a long time,” Hackett said.

“I got scared getting into a bathtub.

“To discover a love for something that has been such a big part of my life is really pleasing now because I don’t walk away with that taste of Olympic silver in my mouth by a few hundredths of a second.

“I can really enjoy the sport for what it is now.”

Hackett had been adamant he had not even launched a comeback after entering the 2015 national titles.

But, he allowed himself a moment to reflect on how far he had come in the past year while savouring the remarkable 200m result in which he shaved three seconds off his best time since his return.

“It was a challenging few years and I had to live it pretty publicly,” Hackett said.

“One thing I am good at is listening to people around me.

“I never sit there and feel too sorry for myself for too long. I take accountability for my actions – right or wrong.

“I tried to make the best steps forward – that is all I have ever tried to do.”

Meanwhile, Mitch Larkin (53.10 PB) claimed the 100m backstroke final in the fastest time in the world this year.

It would have claimed silver at the 2013 world titles.

Emily Seebohm (58.91) held out young gun Madison Wilson (58.94) to win her sixth national 100m backstroke title in seven years.

Taylor McKeown – a Commonwealth Games 200m breaststroke champion – surprised everyone including herself by claiming the 100m title (1:07.07) ahead of defending champion and Glasgow silver medallist Lorna Tonks (1:07.46).

And Chelsea Gubecka (16:23.95) won the 1500m freestyle final.

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Bulldogs put dark AFL season behind them

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge says the club’s bright 10-point round one win over West Coast will go some way to mending the wounds from their dark off-season.

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The Bulldogs lost their coach, captain and chief executive during a tumultuous few months.

For Beveridge, who kicked off his AFL coaching career with the 10-point defeat of the Eagles, there’s no better way to move on from the tough times than on the field.

“I’m really proud of the boys and the way they stuck at it,” Beveridge said.

“They’ve had a tough summer, our boys, they’ve had to deal with a lot of ridicule and innuendo,” he said.

“They copped a bit of the blame for certain things that went on here last year

“They don’t deserve that, none of it was their fault.

“Their brilliant young men, lots of integrity, plenty of character … and really deserved to win tonight.”

Only Tom Boyd was a new face in the Bulldogs side that emerged victors over the Eagles.

But Beveridge made a point of mentioning that several players had come from their VFL premiership outfit.

“There were eight boys who played tonight who played in last year’s VFL premiership side,” he said.

“That’s a real positive, it’s new life.

“Some of them really took hold of that tonight.”

That includes Lin Jong, who had plenty of the ball, Brett Goodes and Tory Dickson.

But there were strong performances too from 20-year-olds Jackson Macrae and Jake Stringer.

Forward Boyd was tightly held for much of the night before making his first goal for the club a crucial one in the final term.

Beveridge said even before Saturday night’s result, the mood at Whitten Oval has been transformed in recent months.

“It’s a positive vibe and I couldn’t be happier for everyone at the club,” he said.

“Our administration, our board, everyone’s gone through a really tough period.

“If we can win some games early and we can give our fans a bit of hope, and there’s a bit of light there, that’s really crucial for us at the moment.”

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Dockers pip Power by seven points in AFL

Fremantle gained a sweet slice of revenge for last year’s finals exit with a seven-point win over Port Adelaide in Sunday night’s AFL clash at Domain Stadium.

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Port Adelaide came from 31 points down to beat a wayward Fremantle in last year’s semi-final in Perth, with their famed running game spooking the rest of the competition.

But it was the Dockers who landed the defining blows when it mattered most in Sunday’s re-match, with the home side scoring four goals to three in the final term to secure the 11.9 (75) to 10.8 (68) win.

The Power led by seven points early in the last term.

But David Mundy produced a final quarter of epic proportions to will Fremantle over the line.

Mundy tallied 13 possessions and five clearances for the term, while skipper Matthew Pavlich booted two clutch goals to finish with four for the match.

Midfielder Nat Fyfe also starred with 31 possessions and a goal before Mundy and Pavlich took the game by the scruff of its neck.

Port Adelaide midfielder Brad Ebert was influential with 34 possessions and a goal, but he was placed on report late in the match for tripping.

The Power suffered a big blow before the match when ruckman Matthew Lobbe was forced to withdraw because of quad tightness.

Young forward John Butcher was parachuted into the 22, but Lobbe’s absence meant Paddy Ryder had to endure a heavy workload in the ruck work in his first match for the club.

Both teams produced their fair share of embarrassing errors in a hard-fought first half.

Power forward Jake Neade was looking for a hole to hide in after kicking it out on the full from his 25m set shot directly in front.

And in defence, Port veteran Alipate Carlile copped it from the 34,099 crowd after fumbling a high ball over the boundary with no one else around.

Fremantle’s errors proved more costly though.

Neade was gifted a goal from point-blank range when Chad Wingard’s set shot fell short and the Dockers’ defence failed to clean it up.

And in attack, Fremantle’s Michael Walters almost dribbled through a long-range goal – only for Hayden Ballantyne to fumble the ball through for a point in his attempt to scoop it up and score.

Apart from that moment, Ballantyne was at his frenetic best in the opening half, with the 173cm, 77kg pocket rocket using his body as a battering ram to apply mass pressure on the Power.

Port scored the next two goals after Ballantyne’s fumble to take a two-point lead into the long break, and they still led by three points at the final change despite having to withstand a Fremantle surge in the third quarter.

But the Dockers finished the match full of run to secure the win.

“They were able to convert when they needed it most and we couldn’t quite get what we wanted for a long enough period,” Power coach Ken Hinkley said.

“If it had gone for another quarter or two quarters, the same thing would have happened.

“It would have been more tough footy and they probably would have just come out in front, because they just won the couple (of contests) that they just needed to win.”

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon was proud of his team’s efforts.

“It was exactly what we thought it would be,” Lyon said.

“We knew it was going to be on. But I knew our group was going to give great effort. That last quarter was fantastic for willpower and desire – 20 entries for 4.4.”

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Jakarta archbishop slams death penalty

Jakarta’s Catholic Archbishop has expressed his concern over Indonesia’s use of the death penalty, adding the treatment of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran was a show of force over humanity.

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Following Easter Sunday mass in Jakarta, Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo told reporters the church was strictly against the use of the death penalty.

He said he was saddened by the heavy-handed relocation of Australians Chan and Sukumaran from Kerobokan prison to the island where their execution is being planned.

The operation involved hundreds of balaclava-clad police and Sukhoi fighter jets.

“These men were handcuffed, was it necessary to be guarded by Sukhoi?” the archbishop said.

“For me that’s not strictness, for me that’s very saddening because it’s obvious that power wants to show itself and human dignity is not cherished.” The archbishop said using the death penalty was “a failure of humanity”.

He raised concerns also for Filipina Mary Jane Veloso, 30, who is set to face the firing squad with Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33.

Veloso has been denied a judicial review of her heroin smuggling trial, even though she didn’t have a qualified translator, and despite concerns the domestic worker was set up.

“I’m not sure at all that she’s guilty,” Archbishop Ignatius said.

“I don’t know about the evidence in the trial, but what I know that she doesn’t understand English … she knows only Tagalog and when she was on trial, no one translated in that language.

“How could the trial have been fair?” The Philippines government says it plans to file a second application for a judicial review for the single mother of two.

Meanwhile a court will on Monday decide whether Chan and Sukumaran can challenge the president’s decision to deny them clemency.

Jakarta plans to send 10 drug offenders to the firing squad at once – its biggest ever execution – but is waiting for all to run out of legal options.

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