Following in the footsteps of the World Club Challenge, long contested by NRL and Super League clubs, the premiers of PNG and Fiji’s national leagues will now play off for a regional title. The match will take place at Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby on Saturday 10 October 2015 at 7pm. Six clubs remain in contention to win PNG’s Digicel Cup – Lae Snax Tigers, TNA Simbu Lions, Hela Wigmen, Agmark Rabaul Gurias, Mendi Muruks and Mount Hagen Eagles. The Digicel Cup Grand Final will take place on Saturday 5 September, and the winner will progress to the Melanesian Club Championship. Eight clubs are battling it out to win Fiji’s Vodafone Cup – Fair Trade Makoi Bulldogs, Saru Dragons, Nadera Panthers, Sabeto Roosters, Nabua Broncos, Nadi Eels, Kinoya Sea Eagles and Burenitu Cowboys – and the winner, who will go on to contest the Melanesian Club Championship, will be determined in the Vodafone Cup Grand Final on Saturday 19 September. “This match will be an annual marquee rugby league event in the region that will promote and enhance our respective national competitions, give the local teams something extra to aspire to, and provide an international competition for our elite domestic teams and players to compete in,” said Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League (PNGRFL) Chairman, Mr Sandis Tsaka. “This competition has the potential to provide another pathway for our elite local players to showcase their skills and talents on the international stage and hopefully attract the attention of international talent scouts. It will not only promote rugby league development in the two countries, but also enhance people-to-people relationships between our rugby league players and officials in both nations. “I would like to thank the Fiji National Rugby League (FNRL), the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF), the PNG Digicel Cup, the Fiji Vodafone Cup, the major sponsors of both competitions (Digicel PNG and Vodafone Fiji) and the PNG Sports Foundation for getting behind the concept and supporting it.” The Chairman of PNG’s Digicel Cup, Mr Sudhir Guru, said: “I thank the PNGRFL for developing and formalising the Melanesian Club Championship concept, which will greatly promote our national Digicel Cup program. This concept will provide a good motivation and incentive for our national franchises to aspire towards a high quality international competition for our players and officials.” Speaking on behalf of Digicel, Head of Marketing Eva Jando acknowledged Tsaka for his insight and direction in promoting rugby league in PNG, as well as regionally. “Rugby League in PNG has grown tremendously in the last few years and is a highly popular sport in the country,” she said. “The Melanesian Club Championship will go a long way towards highlighting our local talent in the Digicel Cup and will create another avenue to showcase young rugby league talent in both PNG and Fiji, producing an atmosphere where each side can learn from each other and help strengthen Melanesian ties between the countries.” Fiji rugby league officials and sponsors said they were delighted with the introduction of the match to the regional calendar. “This is an exciting time in our Melanesian partnership,” said FNRL Chairman, Filimoni Vosarogo. “FNRL has always considered PNGRFL an exponential part of Rugby League’s growth in the Pacific and it is fitting for them to host this first ever challenge. We look forward to the challenge and many more years to come of such competition. “Out of this challenge, we hope to inspire our players to lift their game and aim for NRL and Super League Club Championship status in the future. On behalf of FNRL, we extend our sincere appreciation to the Chairman of PNGRFL, Mr Sandis Tsaka, his fellow board members and management, for putting on this historic event.” Sanjeewa Perera, Chief Marketing Officer of Vodafone Fiji, the major sponsors of Rugby League in the country, said: “Vodafone is pleased to support the concept of the Melanesian Club Championship. This is an excellent idea for the development of Rugby League in the two countries and more exposure for our players at a higher level. “Vodafone has been supporting Rugby League in Fiji for a number of years and we are passionate about taking the sport to the next level. We will support initiatives that give more exposure to our players in regional and international competition and can open up new opportunities for our local players to take up professional playing contracts.” Ticketing details for the Melanesian Club Championship will be released in due course.
The Lewas cruised to an 8 wicket win over Japan yesterday in a rain affected match.Japan batted first and finished at 9/105. It was Veru Kila Frank 2/14 and Mairi Tom 2/14 who made light work of Japan’s batting attack.Papua New Guinea (PNG) have finished the 2016 ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier – East Asia-Pacific undefeated, following their fourth win of the tournament today in a rain-affected match.Etsuko Kobayashi (31*) was the only Japanese batter to make it into double figures.Lewas captain, Pauke Siaka (25*) and Konio Oala (52*) steered the Lewas home to an easy win losing only two wickets along the way.Japan and Samoa will play the last match of the qualifier today.
The Hunters sealed an 18-16 win in the last three minutes of the match in what was a thriller at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby.“We threw everything at PNG. They’re a very physical team and to their credit, they defended really well,” said Walker.Captain of the Jets, Dane Phillips, added on that his team had enough chances but failed to get the job done.“If you’re giving PNG too much ball, they’re going to score points. We just didn’t get over the line.“Playing against them is always very physical; they’re one of the hardest teams in the competition and you know they’re going to run hard and straight at you,” said Phillips.Walker said the Jets’ chances of making the finals now rest on winning their remaining games and on favourable results going their way.He finished by saying it was always a good experience coming to PNG to play the Hunters at home.“We are probably the two most exciting teams to watch in the competition. We always look forward to coming to PNG to play. It’s always good and the facilities here are first class,” said Walker.
The Central Bougainville side opened the scoring in the 15th minute of the game, but Kimbe fought back to level the scores at 1-1 before the break.After the break, it was anybody’s game for the taking as Kimbe showed a lot of courage in front of their home crowd. But the Bougainvilleans held a strong side to defend as they push their forward packs in attack.After several attacks from both sides, Bougainville forwards broke through the host team’s defence to convert their only chance to lead 2-1.Bougainville hold onto the lead until the final whistle to book the second spot in the cup finals.Central Bougainville will now take on their brothers South Bougainville in the finals for the first time in their first NGI Besta Cup appearance.
The 39-year-old made quick work of the rematch as Poland’s Fonfara barely survived the opening round at the Bell Centre Arena in Montreal.Fonfara’s trainer Virgil Hunter stepped in and stopped the fight early in the second round because his boxer was taking too much punishment.”I was very focused on him. I took my time and finished the job,” said Stevenson.”I caught him with my left. I knew he was coming so I took the punch.”The fight was a rematch of their action-packed meeting in 2014, when Fonfara sent Stevenson to the canvas but was knocked down twice himself as Stevenson won by scores of 115-110, 115-110 and 116-109.On Saturday, Fonfara was the first to hit the canvas in the opening round. Stevenson hurt him with a hard left to the temple, which was followed quickly by the knockdown.Later in the round, a helpless Fonfara had to be saved by the bell after Stevenson trapped him in the corner and was landing punches at will.Stevenson now boasts a record of 29-1-KO24, and has previously talked about unifying the division, with a bout against the winner of Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward potentially next in the making.
Rain washed out much of Saturday’s final practice for the Italian Grand Prix with only seven of the 20 drivers completing a timed lap.Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton were not among them.Brazilian Felipe Massa ended up on top of the meaningless timesheets, with a best effort of one minute 40.660 with Williams team mate Lance Stroll second in the slippery conditions.Fans huddled under umbrellas or sought shelter under the grandstands as the rain teemed down before it eased off enough for them to see some action in the final 20 minutes.“It was definitely not safe, a lot of aquaplaning. Especially on the back straight the risk of aquaplaning is very high,” race director Charlie Whiting said during the first part of the session after the safety car went out.
League frontrunners Anorthosis maintained their two-point lead at the top over AEK with a hard fought 2-1 win over Ethnikos Achnas, while AEK defeated champions Apoel by 3-1.Pafos FC and Doxa Katokopias continued their impressive start to the season by crushing Nea Salamina and Alki respectively, while Apollon and Omonia registered narrow 1-0 wins over Aris and AEL.AEK could not have expected such an easy afternoon against Apoel as they bossed play for most of the game with consummate ease. Their defence was rarely troubled while their goalkeeper Pablo was called into action on just one occasion (other than the goal he conceded) during the 90 minutes.The champions, for yet another game, were poor, predictable and bereft of any attacking options. The expensively assembled squad appeared more like a team struggling for its first division survival rather than a championship challenger.Two more players (Embezilio and Lago) were also added to their already long (10 in all) injury list making the job of their manager even more testing.Two first-half goals by Florian Taulemesse gave the Larnaca team a deserved lead going into the break.Even though Apoel managed to pull a goal back just after the hour mark through their young Hungarian Roland Sallay, they failed to create any worthwhile chance from there on and even conceded a third six minutes from the end after Acoran raced into the box and fired past Apoel’s keeper Raul Gudino.Anorthosis had to battle hard against Ethnikos Achnas and had their towering central defender Gordon Schildenfeld to thank for as for the second consecutive game he scored and salvaged points for his team.Palanka had given Anorthosis the lead but a brilliant solo effort by Ethnikos’ Kipiani brought the game level before Shildenfeld blasted in the winner six minutes from the end.After going three games without a win Omonia managed to defeat AEL and put an end to their poor run.The only goal of the game was scored by Gonzales in the 74th minute.AEL should have equalised three minutes from the end but Aldair failed to beat Omonia’s keeper from close range.Pafos FC scored four against hapless Nea Salamina and continued their march to the top of the table.Bruls opened the score for the Pafos team in the first half, while three second hand goals by Fylaktou, Roguljic and Deul made sure of the three points that keeps them in third place.Just behind them are Doxa who thumped five past Alki.All goals were scored in the second half, with Nils Zatl getting a hattrick with Tiago Gomes and Berat Zadik also getting on the scoresheet.Alex da Silva gave Apollon the three points against Aris, with a fierce drive mid-way in the second half.Apollon were by far the better side and squandered a number of chances to make the game safe even before the end of the first half.In the final weekend game Olympiakos doubled their wins thanks to a very late goal against Ermis Aradippou.The Nicosia team took the lead just before the hour mark only for Tsoumou to equalise in the final minute of normal play before Samaras struck from the penalty spot for Olympiakos in the fifth and final minute of added time.A full midweek programme is on the cards in the next few days, with Doxa taking on AEK at home (18:00) and Omonia facing Nea Salamina (20:00) away on Tuesday.FOOTBALL HIGHLIGHTS
Grigor Dimitrov’s French Open hopes bit the dust as the fourth seed was outplayed by Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco in the third round on Friday, the Bulgarian losing 7-6(4) 6-2 6-4.Dimitrov was pushed to five sets by American Jared Donaldson in the previous round and once he failed to convert four set points in the 12th game of the opener against Verdasco and lost the ensuing tiebreak, he looked flat.The aggressive left-handed Spaniard broke twice in the second set and although he allowed Dimitrov back from 4-2 in the third, he broke again to claim his third career win against the 27-year-old.Verdasco has now reached the last 16 in Paris for the seventh time and will hope to finally break through that barrier having fallen at that stage on six occasions.In other early action on Friday, American 13th seed Madison Keys overcame a second-set wobble to beat Japan’s Naomi Osaka 6-1 7-6(7) and reach the last 16 for the second time.A match between two of the biggest hitters on the WTA Tour failed to really catch fire on a cool and half-empty Suzanne Lenglen Court with Keys helped on her way to the first set by a succession of wild errors from Osaka.Keys broke for a 3-1 lead in the second set and looked to be closing in on a straightforward victory when 21st seed Osaka suddenly found her range and levelled the set.Osaka’s mini-revival looked to have fizzled out when she dropped serve with a double-fault at 4-4.Keys squandered a match point in the next game, however, and the 23-year-old US Open runner-up looked increasingly tight as the set moved into a tiebreaker.Osaka led 4-1 but Keys dragged it back to 4-4 with a searing backhand pass but faced a set point at 5-6 and needed some superb defence to fend off the fired-up Japanese.Keys saved another set point at 6-7, this time with a booming first serve. She then wrong-footed Osaka to bring up a second match point and was relieved as her opponent coughed up another double-fault to end the contest.She will face either fourth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine or Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu next.Keys is one of three Americans to reach the third round with Sloane Stephens, who beat her in the Flushing Meadows final last year, and three-time champion Serena Williams also in the hunt.
France have yet to shine at the World Cup, but they have good reason to show they have something special when they take on Denmark in their Group C finale on Tuesday.Les Bleus have qualified for the knockout stage with victories against Australia and Peru, but they are keen to avoid Croatia in the last 16 after the way the Balkan side, favourites to top Group D, impressed in their opening games.France need a draw to also top their group for a potentially more favourable meeting with likely second-place finishers in Group D, Argentina or Nigeria.Another reason for them to show off their best is the remark made by Denmark coach Age Hareide, who last month dismissed Didier Deschamps’ side as “nothing special.”“We talked about this between ourselves and we will want to show him that he was wrong,” said midfielder Corentin Tolisso.Hareide also criticised Paul Pogba’s love for haircuts, a remark the French midfielder laughed off.“I should have dyed my hair red. But seriously, we’ll do the talking on the pitch,” he said on Sunday.Denmark will advance with a draw but a defeat, paired with an Australia win against Peru, could send them packing.France seem to fear Croatia much more than Denmark, an opponent they have beaten six times in their last seven meetings.“In that Group (D), Croatia seem to be the most dangerous opponent so let’s try to finish first to avoid them,” said Tolisso.“Let’s say Croatia is the team to avoid,” echoed Pogba.It is yet unclear whether Deschamps will be keen to rest some key players before the knockout stage.The form of striker Antoine Griezmann, who arrived tired in Russia after a long club season with Atletico Madrid, remains a potential headache for the team.“I am going to get better. It was the same at Euro 2016. I was at my best for the knockout stages,” said Griezmann.Should Deschamps opt to rest several players, he could put Pogba and Blaise Matuidi on the bench after they were booked in the opening games.Denmark’s William Kvist, who was injured in their first match against Peru and had returned home for medical examinations, will return to Russia on Sunday, but will probably not be fit to play, Danish broadcaster TV2 reported.
Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou has called on tennis governing bodies to come together and devise a way of helping lower level professionals struggling financially due to the coronavirus shutdown.The tennis season was halted in early March due to the pandemic, leaving players in the lower tiers who solely depend on tournament winnings without the opportunity to earn a living.In a letter posted on Twitter and addressed to the tennis community, Mouratoglou said the current situation showed how “dysfunctional” the sport was.“Unlike basketball or football players, tennis players aren’t covered by fixed annual salaries. They’re independent contractors,” he said.“They’re paying for their travels. They’re paying fixed salaries to their coaching staffs, while their own salaries depend on the number of matches they win.”While tennis rewards top players handsomely those in the lower echelons often struggle to make ends meet.Mouratoglou, who started working with Williams in 2012 and has guided her to 10 of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles, said the top players deserved everything they earned.“However, I find it revolting that the 100th-best player of one of the most popular sports in the world – followed by an estimated one billion fans – is barely able to make a living out of it,” the Frenchman said.The men’s ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs the women’s circuit, suspended all tournaments until mid-July after countries started locking down their borders to contain the spread of the flu-like virus.A 2018 International Review Panel report commissioned to address betting and integrity issues said that players in the lowest tiers were susceptible to corruption because of the difficulty in making a living.Only 250-350 players, the report said, earned enough to break even.Georgia’s Sofia Shapatava, the world’s 375th ranked women’s singles player, has started a petition seeking assistance from the International Tennis Federation for lower-level professionals.Many others have joined her to voice their concerns about the financial hardships players face during the shutdown.The WTA and the ATP said they were working to boost players’ earnings when the sport resumed and might extend the 2020 season to allow more tournaments to be held.Mouratoglou said it was crucial to keep lower-level players in the game.“We all rely on those governing bodies, who have the power to protect the professional tennis economy and hold social responsibility,” he added.“We can’t leave lower-ranked players behind anymore. This isn’t right. Tennis needs change. Let’s use this free time to start a discussion.”