22 Jul 2020

Today's sports news: What you need to know

10:31 am on 22 July 2020

Latest - Watford's hopes of avoiding relegation suffered a double blow when they were thrashed 4-0 at home by Manchester City and then slipped into the English Premier League relegation zone after fellow strugglers Aston Villa beat Arsenal 1-0 in the late game.

Troy Deeney of Watford.


City were inspired by Raheem Sterling who struck twice before halftime at Vicarage Road while Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte scored after the break as the visitors racked up their 13th straight win over Watford in all competitions.

The previous two meetings between the sides resulted in an 8-0 home league win for Pep Guardiola's City side in September and a 6-0 victory in last year's FA Cup final.

Watford's only consolation was that the scoreline could have been even worse, although with Villa beating visiting Arsenal 1-0, their fate is no longer in their hands.

Watford are level on 34 points with Villa but have dropped below them into the relegation zone on goal difference. Second-bottom Bournemouth have 31 points but could still escape.

Watford face Arsenal away in their final game on Monday when Villa, who have the better goal difference by one, visit West Ham United. Bournemouth travel to Everton knowing they must win and hope the other two lose to have a chance of staying up.


Messam returning to Hamilton

Liam Messam is returning to Waikato to play in this year's national provincial rugby championship.

Waikato's Liam Messam returned from All Black duty to lead his team to victory over Manawatu, 2015.

Liam Messam in 2015 Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The former All Black hasn't turned out for the province for five years, having played in Japan and France since.

Before heading overseas Messam accumulated 85 provincial caps over 12 seasons with Waikato.

Waikato head coach Andrew Strawbridge is proud Messam has signed with the Mooloos for the upcoming season.

"Messam is a very talented and vastly experienced player, who can play a range of positions in the loose forwards," Strawbridge said.

"He is another one of these players that cares deeply about the jersey, his teammates and is well respected by the province, so we are very fortunate to have him back in the colours."

Meesam most recently played for Toulon.

Warriors show interest in SBW

The New Zealand Warriors have expressed an interest in signing Sonny Bill Williams on a short-term deal if the dual code international heads Down Under after being released by the Toronto Wolfpack.

Sonny Bill Williams playing for the Kiwis 2013.

SBW playing for the Kiwis in 2013 Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Toronto team has withdrawn from the August restart of Super League Europe due to financial challenges from the Covid-19 outbreak, leaving marquee recruit Williams free to find a club in the NRL.

The reigning champion Sydney Roosters, who Williams helped to the title in 2013, are likely to be first in the queue having lost a couple of key players to injury since the league resumed at the end of May.

Warriors chief executive Cameron George, though, said his side would also be interested in bringing the 34-year-old former Kiwis forward to the Auckland-based club.

"The stars would have to be aligned, and I don't know if and when Sonny could even get to Australia. But we'd be mad not to ask the question."

Four Warriors players will return home at the end of July to reunite with their families, leaving the squad with a manpower shortage compounded by a slew of injuries.


Nuggets go top in NBL

The Otago Nuggets have surged to the top of the National Basketball League thanks to a convincing 109-83 win over the Auckland Huskies.

Nuggets Jordan Hunt.

Jordan Hunt Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Nuggets were led by Jordan Hunt, who scored a game high 31 points and got support from Josh Aitcheson and Jarrod Kenny, who scored 22 and 20 respectively.

The Nuggets share the competition lead with the Manawatu Jets, who earlier beat the Franklin Bulls 99-84.

It was the Jets fourth win on the bounce and their fifth in six games and they now boast an 8-4 record with two regular season games left to play - a place in the favoured top two spots on the NBL ladder looking more than likely.

A white hot shooting performance from Tom Vodanovich paced the impressive Jets. The Tall Blacks forward put up the highest individual score of NBL 20 notching 43 points (10/16 3PG) whilst also adding 11 rebounds.

Injuries hit Warriors

Injuries have forced two changes while interim head coach Todd Payten has also made other switches for the Warriors NRL game against the Sydney Roosters on Saturday.

Warriors forward Wayde Egan.

Wayde Egan Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Ruled out are regular starting hooker Wayde Egan and interchange prop Agnatius Paasi, the latter missing out on an opportunity to make one final appearance before he returns home on compassionate grounds on Monday along with Ken Maumalo, David Fusitu'a and King Vuniyayawa.

With Egan and Paasi out, Payten has shifted the versatile Karl Lawton from the back row to hooker with utility Chanel Harris-Tavita coming onto the bench as dummy half cover.

Moved out of the starting line-up after starting in last Sunday's 10-46 loss to the Sharks are middle forward Adam Blair and centre Patrick Herbert.

Blair is replaced in the front row by Penrith loan forward Jack Hetherington while Adam Pompey, last used on the wing in the fifth-round win over North Queensland, comes into the centres with Herbert moved to the extended bench.

Taking Paasi's spot on the bench is Lachlan Burr, who was last used against South Sydney in round six.

Hetherington's move to prop results in Jazz Tevaga coming into the starting line-up for the first time since last season after being used from the bench in his first two games back from injury against Gold Coast and the Sharks.

Boks yet to decide on which competition to play

South Africa will either play in the Rugby Championship in New Zealand later this year or embark on a tour to Europe, but will not have space on the calendar for both.

The Springboks have not been in action since lifting the World Cup in Japan last year, and face an uncertain schedule in the remainder of 2020 as travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic limit their ability to tackle multiple tours.

South African Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said they were hoping to start an eight-team domestic competition in either late August or early September to prepare players for an international window somewhere between October and December.

Roux confirmed that the inbound tours by Scotland and Georgia, that had been scheduled for July, were cancelled and there would be no attempt to play them later in the year.

The Boks were due to travel to Italy, France, Ireland and Wales for their traditional set of November internationals, the latter two fixtures providing vital preparation for a home meeting with the British & Irish Lions in July-August 2021.

But it now appears likely their only tests prior to that lucrative tour, the biggest set of fixtures outside of a World Cup, will be against Southern Hemisphere opposition.


IPL set to be played in UAE

The Indian cricket board will seek government permission to stage this year's Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates.

Mitchell McClenaghan of Mumbai Indians

Mitchell McClenaghan Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Yesterday's postponement of this year's Twenty20 World Cup, which had been scheduled to take place in Australia from Oct. 18, has presented the BCCI with a new opportunity to stage the IPL, even if it has to be in another country due to the Covid-19 crisis in India.

September has been suggested.

Cricket boards in UAE and Sri Lanka have offered to host the league considering the situation in India where the number of coronavirus cases had surged to 1.16 million, including 28,084 deaths.

The BCCI has been looking for a new window in which to stage the lucrative league, which was postponed days before it was to begin in late March, and avoid a potential $800 million loss in revenue.

The 2009 edition of the franchise-based league, which coincided with India's elections, was held in South Africa, and the UAE hosted the early matches of the tournament five years later for the same reason.


RLWC schedule confirmed

The 2021 Rugby League World Cup will kick off on October 23 with hosts England taking on Samoa in Newcastle and champions Australia facing Fiji in Hull.

New Zealand will begin their campaign against Lebanon in Warrington on October 24.

The Kiwis then play Jamaica in Leeds on October 30 and Ireland in Leeds on November 5.

The Kiwi Ferns will play France in York on November 10, the Cook Islands in York on November 14 and Australia in York on November 18.

The 2021 edition marks the first time the men's, women's and wheelchair tournaments take place together.


Beko League will be played this year

New Zealand's second tier of netballers will get an opportunity to get back on court this year with a revamped Beko Netball League to be contested next month.

Six teams will compete over three weekends in a full round robin starting on August 29 in a shortened version of the league.

The Beko Netball League had originally been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the revised competition has been given the green light with the backing of Sport New Zealand.

Auckland, Wellington and Te Aroha are set to host the competition over three weekends - including 29-30 August, 5-6 September and 12-13 September.

Teams will play five games each during the shortened competition with the side ranked number one at the end of round robin awarded the 2020 title.

Zanardi out of coma

Italian former Formula One driver and Paralympic champion Alex Zanardi has been transferred to a specialist recovery centre a month after suffering serious head injuries in a handbike accident.

The 53-year-old was placed in a medically-induced coma and has had three operations at Siena's Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital since the accident during a road race near the Italian city on June 19.

Zanardi is an inspirational figure in the worlds of motorsport and Paralympic endeavour, a hugely popular and positive competitor who returned from life-changing injuries with a smile.

The hospital said in a statement that Zanardi's sedation had been suspended, allowing him to be transferred.

A double Champ Car champion in the United States, Zanardi had to have both of his legs amputated above the knee following a horrific crash in a race in Germany in September 2001.


Stokes tops all-rounder rankings

England vice-captain Ben Stokes' match-winning performance in the second test against West Indies hoisted him above Windies skipper Jason Holder to become the top-ranked all-rounder in the game's longest format.

Ben Stokes of England.

Ben Stokes Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Stokes followed up his 176 in the first innings with an unbeaten 78 in the second and also picked up three wickets in the contest to pull off a series-levelling win on Monday, earning the player-of-the-match award.

The 29-year-old overtook Holder in the latest rankings to become the first England player to reach the top spot since Andrew Flintoff in May 2006.

Stokes also climbed to a career-best third position among test batsmen, behind India's Virat Kohli and Australia's top-ranked Steve Smith.


Opening tennis tournament cancelled

The Citi Open in Washington, which was scheduled to restart the men's ATP tennis Tour after the Covid-19 shutdown, has been cancelled.

The Wshington tournament was set to begin on Aug. 14 and serve as a build-up for the U.S. Open but the organisers said concerns about travel restrictions and recent trends in the coronavirus outbreak had led to the decision to scrap the event.

The tournament's cancellation raises doubts about this year's U.S. Open, which is scheduled to be played without fans in attendance from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13.

Tennis, apart from some exhibition events, ground to a halt in mid-March, with Wimbledon being cancelled and the French Open being moved to September.

The men's claycourt swing is scheduled to begin on Sept. 8 in Kitzbuhel, Austria, overlapping with the second week of the U.S. Open.

The WTA Tour will resume with the women's event staged in Palermo, Italy from Aug. 3.


Marquez could be back next month

MotoGP champion Marc Marquez could be back in action next month after his Repsol Honda team reported successful surgery to his right arm.

Marc Marquez.

Marc Marquez. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Marquez suffered the injury when he crashed four laps from the end of the season-opening Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez on Monday.

The six times MotoGP champion had surgery in Barcelona, with the radial nerve not affected - a boost for the rider's hopes of an early return, although he is sure to miss the second round at the same southern circuit this weekend.

Honda said the Spaniard, who had a titanium plate fixed internally to his right humerus, would remain in hospital for up to 48 hours.


Actor and players form LA women's football team

Actress Natalie Portman and more than a dozen former U.S. women's national team players have formed an ownership group to set up a professional women's football team in Los Angeles from 2022.

The new team, which has yet to be named, has been announced by the National Women's Soccer League.

Olympic gold medallists and World champions Lauren Cheney Holiday and Abby Wambach are among 14 former national team players in the ownership group, which has named itself "Angel City".

The Los Angeles team will be the 11th to enter the NWSL and will follow Racing Louisville's debut in 2021.

Led by venture capitalists Alexis Ohanian and Kara Nortman and entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, the group also includes actors Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria, late night talk show host Lilly Singh.

Tennis star Serena Williams, who is married to Ohanian, is also part of the founding investors group.