6 Jan 2022

Today's sports news: What you need to know

5:46 pm on 6 January 2022

Latest - The Wellington Blaze have returned to the top of the domestic T20 Super Smash competition after beating the Otago Sparks by 33 runs at the Basin Reserve.

Xara Jetly of the Wellington Blaze.


The match was reduced to 12 overs per side after rain prevented a start on time.

Wellington made 108 for eight with Rebecca Burns and Maddie Green both scoring 30.

In reply Otago were in trouble early with White Fern Suzie Bates dismissed in the first over and they were eventually dismissed for 75.

Kate Ebrahim top scored with 29, while spinners Amelia Kerr and Xara Jetly took two wickets each.

The unbeaten Blaze top the standings on net run rate from Otago, although Wellington do have two games in hand.

Otago have lost just two games so far this season, both times to Wellington.

Meanwhile the Wellington Firebrds beat the Otago Volts by 8 wickets in a rain affected men's game.

Unvaccinated Irving returns to NBA court

Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter as the Brooklyn Nets made his NBA season debut a successful one by overcoming a 19-point deficit for a 129-121 victory over the host Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.

Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets

Photo: AFP

Irving returned as a part-time player due to being unvaccinated against COVID-19 and the vaccine mandate in New York City, which prevents him from playing in home games. He was dominant in the fourth quarter as the Nets snapped a season-high three-game losing streak.

With his father Drederick sitting courtside, Irving shot 9 of 17 from the field in 31:59 of play. It was his first action since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Milwaukee when he injured his ankle.

Kevin Durant led the Nets with 39 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as Brooklyn shot 56.3 percent and made 13 of 19 shots in the fourth. James Harden added 18 while LaMarcus Aldridge chipped in 13 and DeAndre' Bembry and Nic Claxton contributed 12 apiece as the Nets outscored Indiana 35-20 in the fourth quarter.

The Pacers dropped their sixth straight and blew a double-digit lead to the Nets for the second time this season despite getting big games from Domantas Sabonis and Lance Stephenson.


Covid forces potential change to Six Nations home games

The Welsh Rugby Union is considering playing home Six Nations games in England because of Covid crowd restrictions in Wales.

Welsh Rugby Flag

Welsh Rugby Photo: Photosport

First Minister Mark Drakeford imposed restrictions on sporting events in Wales, effectively meaning professional games are behind closed doors.

There is no date set for when measures could be eased, with the next review scheduled for 7 January.

Wales are due to host Scotland in Cardiff on 12 February.

Wayne Pivac's side are also scheduled to meet France on 11 March and Italy eight days later at the Principality Stadium, meaning Wales could face the prospect of playing over half the competition on home soil with no fans.

As things stand, sporting events in England have no restrictions, so Wales' visit to Twickenham on 26 February will be played before a full house of 82,000, provided spectators can prove full vaccination status or a negative lateral flow test.

Wales launch the defence of their Six Nations title against Ireland in Dublin on 5 February, with current restrictions of 5,000 fans there.

Scotland also has restrictions on spectator numbers of 500, France has a limit of 5,000 fans and Italy has a Covid pass system in place after tightening restrictions in December.

The WRU lost £13.5m in matchday revenue during the 2021 Six Nations after home games against England and Ireland were played behind closed doors.


Thomas Tuchel praises Lukaku in Chelsea league cup semifinal win

Chelsea seized control of their league cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur, beating their London rivals 2-0 in the first leg on Wednesday thanks to an early strike by Kai Havertz and an own goal by Spurs defender Ben Davies.

The Blues swamped their visitors right from the kickoff and, after a mix-up in the Spurs defence in the fifth minute, Havertz fired an angled shot that was goal-bound before it went in off the foot of Davinson Sanchez.

Half an hour later, the dominant hosts got their second goal, albeit with a slice of luck, when Japhet Tanganga headed away a Hakim Ziyech free kick, only for the ball to rebound into the Spurs net off Davies' shoulder.

The win dented the hopes of Spurs, under former Chelsea coach Antonio Conte, of winning a first trophy since lifting the league cup in 2008. In that time, Chelsea have won 12 major trophies including three Premier League and two Champions League titles.

Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel restored record signing Romelu Lukaku to the team having dropped him for Sunday's 2-2 draw with Liverpool as punishment for the Belgian saying in an interview that he was unhappy with his role at Stamford Bridge.

While Lukaku did not mark his return to the Chelsea side with a goal he earned the praise from the team's coach.

"I am happy with the performance, I liked how he played," Tuchel told reporters. "He was strong, involved and showed huge commitment in our defensive work which was important.

- Reuters

Two New Zealand players are chasing semifinals this afternoon at Australian Open warm-up events.

New Zealand's Marcus Daniell.


Erin Routliffe is in the quarterfinals of the WTA Adelaide International with her Canadian partner, the US Open singles finalist Leylah Fernandez.

Toyko Olympic bronze medallist Marcus Daniell is playing with American Denis Kudla at the ATP Melbourne Summer Set. In this afternoon's quarterfinal Daniell and Kudla will face the British fifth-seeded team of Dominic Inglot and Ken Skupski.

Fellow Olympic bronze medallist Michael Venus' campaign was off to a disappointing start with a first round doubles loss in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Arsenal v Liverpool League Cup semi-final first leg postponed

The first leg of the League Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Liverpool on Friday has been postponed due to a severe outbreak of COVID-19 infections at Liverpool, the English Football League.

Alexandre Lacazette and other Arsenal players.

Alexandre Lacazette and other Arsenal players. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The first of the two legs will now take place at Anfield on Jan. 13, while the rearranged game will be played as the second leg at the Emirates on Jan. 20.

Liverpool had requested the EFL on Tuesday to reschedule the game because of the rise in COVID-19 cases at the club.

The Merseyside club temporarily closed their training ground on Wednesday due to a rapidly growing number of suspected COVID-19 infections at the club.

"The EFL has been in regular dialogue with the club over the past 48 hours in an attempt to understand whether the tie could proceed but significant developments over this period have resulted in the Club reporting an ever-increasing number of COVID cases," the EFL said.

As a result of the postponement, the order of the ties has been changed with the first of the two legs now taking place at Anfield on Jan. 13, while the rearranged game will be played as the second leg at the Emirates on Jan. 20.

Liverpool players Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino and Joel Matip returned positive tests on Sunday, while manager Juergen Klopp tested positive at the weekend.

Virgil van Dijk, Thiago Alcantara, Fabinho and Curtis Jones were also forced into isolation last month following positive tests.

- Reuters

Barty rallies back to defeat American Coco Gauff at Adeliade International

World number one Ash Barty was plagued by unforced errors but displayed plenty of fight on her return to the WTA Tour yesterday, as she rallied from a set down to beat American Coco Gauff 4-6 7-5 6-1 at the Adelaide International on Wednesday.

Ashleigh Barty of Australia.

Ash Barty. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Barty, the 2020 Adelaide champion, last played competitively at the U.S. Open in September before heading home to Australia and appeared rusty at times in the contest before mounting a brilliant comeback to reach the quarter-finals.

Earlier, world number 100 Kaja Juvan beat second seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(6) 6-1 while Shelby Rogers knocked out Maria Sakkari 7-6(5) 2-6 6-4.

World number six Sakkari forced the decider but Rogers hit back to close out the win and set up a clash with seventh seed Elena Rybakina, who secured a 6-3 6-4 victory over Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova.

- Reuters