Carlton hold off Pies in Bendigo

Carlton have seen off a late challenge from Collingwood to defeat the Pies by seven points in their AFL clash in Bendigo.

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In front of a sellout crowd of 9542 fans on Sunday, the Blues looked set for a blowout victory when they led by 33 points halfway through the first term, but a resurgent Collingwood made them work hard for their 1.9.8 (71) to 1.7.13 (64) win.

However, both teams left the match with injury concerns over their ruckmen.

The Pies’ Brodie Grundy was subbed out with a hip problem at halftime and the Blues’ Robbie Warnock copped a knock to a shoulder early in the third quarter.

He was briefly attended to by club doctors and took no further part in the match, but coach Mick Malthouse later said it was only a precautionary move.

Grundy appeared to be moving with great difficulty, but Nathan Buckley played down the severity of the issue.

“He’s all right – we can make bigger things of what they actually are, but he copped a knock,” Buckley said.

The clash was the first hitout of the NAB Challenge for some star players from both sides.

For the Blues, Chris Judd had an immediate impact and worked hard all match for his 23 disposals, with 10 clearances. Andrew Carrazzo was also impressive with 25 touches.

Bryce Gibbs skippered the side in Marc Murphy’s absence, but he played only one half before being subbed out.

Carlton brought in eight new players to the side defeated by West Coast and, with that many new faces, Malthouse said he had expected fluctuations in the team’s performance.

“We started off very well, but then we started to swim with gumboots and a raincoat – we just had to weather the game,” Malthouse said.

“With players coming in like that they’ll go for it then they’ll need a breather. The best things out of these games are that you get a game into those guys.”

For Collingwood, Scott Pendlebury (16 possessions) showed flashes of his trademark class, Dane Swan (12) was quiet early but got better as the game went on, and Travis Cloke largely struggled to get into the game, finishing with one goal.

The Blues’ Andrejs Everitt started with a bang with three goals, two regulation and one nine-pointer, in the first quarter.

He roamed further afield after that, but he and Liam Jones combined well in a first half, when tall target Levi Casboult had little influence.

The Pies fought back well late in the first term, with Jarryd Blair bagging two goals in his first game of the pre-season series, but the Blues were able to keep them at arm’s length despite their best efforts.

Collingwood got to within two points late in the third quarter, but could never get their noses in front as the Blues hung on for the win.

Carlton’s Chris Yarran was at his eye-catching best off half-back with 21 disposals, while Levi Greenwood was the Pies’ leading possession winner with 17.

Injured Bottas misses Australian GP

The Finn, who had qualified sixth at Albert Park, felt pain during Saturday’s qualifying session and was taken to hospital for scans.

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Williams said the scans showed Bottas had suffered a small tear to the annular part of a disc in his lower back.

“Valtteri has since been evaluated by the FIA’s medical team and following a series of tests, the FIA Medical Delegate has deemed Valtteri unfit to take part in this afternoon’s race,” they added.

“The team respect the FIA’s decision and will now work with Valtteri ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix (on March 29) to ensure he receives the treatment required to get him back to full fitness.”

Bottas enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2014, securing six podium finishes for Williams to claim fourth place in the championship.

The 25-year-old said he was confident he would able to resume driving for the next race.

“I have done a lot of work since the issue with my back came in qualifying to get myself ready, starting treatment immediately, so the news that I couldn’t race today was obviously disappointing but I respect the decision,” Bottas said.

“I now have two weeks until the next race to receive further treatment to ensure I will be back to full fitness and even stronger in Malaysia.

“I’m very eager to get back in the car and race because the FW37 is looking competitive and I’m confident we can fight for podiums.”

Williams do not have a reserve driver at present, with Britain’s Susie Wolff — wife of Mercedes motorsport head Toto — serving as a tester and Alex Lynn as a development driver.

Brazilian Felipe Massa finished fourth for Williams in Sunday’s race after starting third on the grid.

(Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by John O’Brien/Peter Rutherford/Alan Baldwin)

Hamilton wins season-opening Australian GP

Pole-sitter Hamilton started from a grid reduced to 15 cars from a possible 20 and cruised to his 34th race win with a 1.

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3-second gap to runner-up team mate Nico Rosberg.

With Mercedes enjoying a Sunday stroll, Sebastian Vettel finished third — 34 seconds behind Hamilton — on his Ferrari debut after winning a battle for the podium with Williams driver Felipe Massa.

Ferrari’s cheer was tempered, however, by two botched tyre changes for Kimi Raikkonen, the second forcing the Finn to retire when fifth late in the race due to his left rear wheel not being properly attached.

Interviewed on the podium by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Hollywood ‘Terminator’, Hamilton said it was great to be back on top.

“It is an incredible feeling to continue winning,” he said.

Max Verstappen’s record-setting turn as the youngest ever F1 driver ended on a sour note when the Dutch 17-year-old rolled to a stop near the pit entry after complaining of smoke in the cockpit of his Toro Rosso.

Only 11 cars finished, with both Lotus drivers out before the end of the first lap on an embarrassing day for a series that prides itself on being the pinnacle of motorsport.

McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, standing in for the absent Fernando Alonso, and Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat were unable to start after both suffered failures on their formation laps.

The two Manor Marussia cars were scratched on Saturday after failing to participate in qualifying or any practice sessions, while Williams driver Valtteri Bottas was ruled out of the race with a back injury less than an hour before the start.

After a chaotic start that saw Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado crash into the barrier on turn two after being nudged from behind, Hamilton and Rosberg sped away from the chasing pack.

Opening a 15-second gap to third placed Felipe Massa after the 20th lap, Hamilton successfully kept his team mate Rosberg at arm’s length.

Following a week of legal battles, Sauber were buoyed by a fifth place finish for Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr, gaining their first points since 2013.

It was the best finish by a Sauber rookie, with Nasr’s team mate Marcus Ericsson and Red Bull’s Carlos Sainz also earning their first points by finishing eighth and ninth respectively.

Local hero Daniel Ricciardo had a terrible start and his Red Bull lacked pace but he battled hard to finish sixth in front of home fans.

It was a dark day for Honda-powered McLaren, however, with Jenson Button finishing last of the 11 cars and lapped twice by Hamilton and the leaders.

Force India driver Sergio Perez had an eventful afternoon, being instructed to drop back two places after over-taking illegally when the safety car was out early.

He then overcame a collision with Button in a battle to avoid the indignity of last place.

(Editing by Alan Baldwin)

Stuart laments basic Raiders errors

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart says just two basic errors just after halftime led to his side’s downfall in their 18-6 NRL loss to the Warriors at GIO Stadium.

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Locked at 6-all at the break on Sunday, Raiders forward Paul Vaughan dropped a simple pass from the kick-off to gift the Warriors prime real estate, which they immediately converted into six points through a maiden try to Solomone Kata.

Another mistake minutes later gave the Warriors another solid crack and they soon scored through Ryan Hoffman (172m, 24 tackles), and the opening of the floodgates beckoned.

The New Zealanders had put on 50-plus points against the Raiders in their past three outings, but this time Canberra held strong to put on a performance Stuart aptly described as an “arm wrestle”.

“We’re all disappointed with the loss, but I’ll never be disappointed with their attitude and desire,” Stuart said.

“We were exactly where we wanted to be at halftime.

“But two fundamental errors in the first five minutes of the second half loses the game. And that’s the competition we’re in.”

Stuart backed impressive young forward Vaughan to bounce back from the crucial mistake.

“You probably won’t see him make it again this year,” Stuart said.

Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei continued his strong form against the Raiders by notching up his 13th try against them in six games when he opened the scoring in the 27th minute.

And while the win gets the ball rolling on the Warriors’ 2015 campaign, there are concerns aplenty for them in the week ahead.

Captain Simon Mannering was put on report for a high tackle on Raiders winger Sisa Waqa midway through the first half.

Golden Boot holder Shaun Johnson also played through obvious discomfort after hurting his wrist in the 22nd minute, and fullback Sam Tomkins twisted his ankle in the second half.

“Shaun was certainly in a bit of pain, but I think he’ll be OK,” he said.

“Hopefully, they can back up next week.”

Meanwhile, Raiders winger Jeremy Hawkins (dangerous tackle) and forward Luke Bateman (crusher tackle) were placed on report.

The first half was full of brilliant end-to-end footy, but both sides were guilty of impatience in good field position to enter the break at 6-all.

“The ball was in play for a good 10 to 15 minutes in the first half and both sides were fatigued,” Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said.

“To come out on top of those little exchanges is really important for us.

“There’s a perception around that we can’t play the full 80 minutes. But it was a tough win tonight.”

New winger Sisa Waqa has so far proved a great buy for the Raiders, getting them back to level pegging with some brilliant aerial skills from a Mitch Cornish kick.

Vanuatu aid effort kicks in after cyclone

Relief supplies have begun arriving in cyclone-devastated Vanuatu as the Pacific nation declared a state of emergency amid reports entire villages were “blown away” when a monster storm swept through.

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Late on Sunday the official death toll in the capital Port Vila stood at six, although aid workers said this was likely just a fraction of the fatalities nationwide.

Communications were down across most of the archipelago’s 80 islands, although the airport in Port Vila reopened with limited facilities, allowing much-needed aid in.

Two Australian air force planes landed with supplies of food, shelter, and medicine while a New Zealand military aircraft also arrived loaded with eight tonnes of tarpaulins, water containers, chainsaw packs, generators and water.

Commercial flights were scheduled to resume on Monday.

The government said it was still trying to assess the scale of the disaster unleashed when Super Cyclone Pam, a maximum category five system, vented its fury on Friday night, with winds reaching 320km/h an hour.

The UN had unconfirmed reports the cyclone had killed 44 people in one province alone and Oxfam said the destruction in Port Vila was massive, with 90 per cent of homes damaged.

“This is likely to be one of the worst disasters ever seen in the Pacific, the scale of humanitarian need will be enormous … entire communities have been blown away,” said Oxfam’s Vanuatu director Colin Collet van Rooyen.

Pictures from the city showed streets littered with debris, cars crushed by trees, buildings blown to pieces and yachts washed inland.

Vanuatu police commissioner Colonel Job Esau said some areas of the capital – such as shopping districts and the waterfront – had been put off limits in a bid to stop looting as darkness approached.

“Facilities, installations, private sectors, and also from the yachts that have been washed away by the cyclone,” he told Radio New Zealand.

“Those are the only areas we have been targeting at the moment, and also some other very affected locations in and around Port Vila.”

Vanuatu’s President Baldwin Lonsdale described the storm as “a monster that has devastated our country”, his voice breaking as he described Port Vila’s devastation.

“Most of the buildings have been destroyed, many houses have been destroyed, school, health facilities have been destroyed,” he told the BBC from Japan, where he was attending a disaster management conference.

Aid workers described scenes of devastation following what UNICEF spokeswoman Alice Clements said was “15-30 minutes of absolute terror” as the cyclone barrelled into the island.

“People have no water, they have no power, this is a really desperate situation right now. People need help,” she told AFP.

Clements said most of the dwellings on Port Vila’s outskirts, largely tin shacks, stood no chance.

World Vision spokeswoman Chloe Morrison said the situation appeared grim for the outlying islands in the nation of around 270,000.

“We’re seeing whole villages and houses blown away,” she said.

Save the Children’s head of humanitarian response Nichola Krey raised fears of food shortages in the subsistence economy and said conditions in evacuation centres were challenging.

“Many of the evacuation centres have lots of women and young children sleeping cheek-by-jowl, so health and protection will by key in the coming weeks,” she said.

Other Pacific nations were also struggling to cope. The Solomon Islands and Kiribati were both battered by the storm, although not to the extent of their neighbour.

NGOs have launched public appeals while governments around the globe pledged relief funding, including Australia, Britain, New Zealand and the European Union.