Struggling Widnes hammered as Castleford go third

Struggling Widnes hammered as Castleford go third
Greg Eden

Betfred Super League
Widnes (18) 24
Tries: Ah Van 2, Hanbury, Hansen Goals: Ah Van, Inu 3
Castleford (28) 52
Tries: Eden 3, Trueman, Laulu-Togaga’e 2, Holmes, Clark, Milner Goals: Ellis 8

Greg Eden’s hat-trick helped Castleford Tigers into the Super 8s section of the Super League in third place after a convincing win at bottom-side Widnes.

Cas’ devastating four-try, seven-minute first-half spell turned the game and established a 28-18 half-time lead after Widnes had led early on.

The Tigers scored four tries after the break to bring up the 50-point mark, and secure a third win in four games.

Defeat means Widnes have now lost their past 16 Super League games.

Daryl Powell’s Castleford finished the 2017 regular season as far and away the stand-out team in Super League, and despite not quite reaching the same heights in 2018, they still finish the 23-game stage ensconced in the top four.

Hooker Paul McShane was an influence throughout, with some smart play key to tries for Eden, Oliver Holmes and half-back Jake Trueman.

In addition full-back Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e added two scores to his tally while prop Mitch Clark got his first score in Black and Amber.

The only sour note for Castleford was the sight of full-back Peter Mata’utia limping on his debut.

Patrick Ah Van scored two tries for Widnes while debutant Harrison Hansen crossed in his first appearance following a midweek move from Leigh.

Widnes coach Francis Cummins:

“It will depend on when we go but we are where we are and we were always going to get things dictated to us because of our league position.

“What we have to do is go to those places and win. Other teams have done it so why can’t we?

“Liam [Finn – new signing] went well but I’m not happy with the intercept at the end and I know he won’t be. We were throwing big ones as we tried to get back at them and that didn’t pay off. Liam is an experienced player and we need that around us.

“Harrison was good. He’s a very aggressive player and that’s why I brought him in. He gave us some grunt.”

Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell:

“I don’t think we started great or finished great but in between there was outstanding rugby league played.

“We conceded a few soft tries, in particularly the first one but in the second half when we applied ourselves – we put the game to bed.

“We’ll have a bit of a breather now and then into the Super 8s. We have four days off now. The players deserve a few beers tonight. We will chill out and then get back on it.”

Castleford Tigers: Hanbury; Ah Van, Whitley, Inu, Ince; Mellor, Finn; J. Chapelhow, D. Walker, Olbison, Dean, Hansen, Hauraki.

Replacements: Craven, Leuluai, T. Chapelhow, Farnworth.

Castleford: Laulu-Togagae; Clare, Mata’utia, Shenton, Eden; Ellis, Trueman; Watts, McShane, Massey, Holmes, McMeeken, Milner.

Replacements: Moors, Sene-Lefao, Clark, Turner.

Referee: Liam Moore (RFL)

Danilovic becomes first player born in 2000s to win WTA title

Olga Danilovic

Olga Danilovic became the first player born in the 2000s to win a WTA title with victory in the Moscow River Cup.

Danilovic was a break down in the final set against fellow 17-year old Anastasia Potapova but recovered to win 7-5 6-7 (7-1) 6-4.

The Serb is the youngest winner of a WTA title since 2015.

She is also the first ‘lucky loser’ to win a WTA title, after being granted a place in the main draw despite losing the final round of qualifying.

Hungarian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton wins to extend title lead

Hungarian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton wins to extend title lead
Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton won a tense strategic battle at the Hungarian Grand Prix to head into Formula 1’s summer break with a 24-point championship lead.

Ferrari appeared to blow their best chance to challenge the Mercedes driver, delaying a pit stop for Sebastian Vettel long enough to lose their advantage over Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas and emerge behind the Finn.

It was a critical error that could have cost Vettel second place – but he fought back and passed Bottas with five laps to go.

Bottas misjudged an attempt to defend from Vettel, who passed on the outside on the run to Turn Two. Trying to keep the place from too far back, Bottas locked a wheel, slid onto the kerb, hit Vettel and damaged the Mercedes’ front wing.

Vettel emerged unscathed and Bottas carried on, only to have another contact with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo when the Australian tried to pass around the outside at Turn One and Bottas locked up and slid into him.

Bottas’ troubles allowed Kimi Raikkonen to come through into third place behind his Ferrari team-mate, while Ricciardo passed him on the last lap to take fourth.

Despite the late drama, the big picture is that Ferrari have now lost two races in a row that they might have won in different circumstances.

Hamilton’s advantage with nine races to go is almost a race victory and puts him in a strong position for when the season re-starts in Belgium at the end of August.

How did Hamilton and Mercedes do it?

Mercedes went into the race pondering how best to maintain the first and second positions they earned thanks to rain in qualifying – had it been dry, they were resigned to the Ferraris being faster.

Mercedes accepted that Ferrari would be faster in the race, too, so it was a case of how best to play the strategy to try to keep Hamilton in the lead.

Hamilton and Bottas led from the start and Vettel passed Raikkonen to run third in the early laps.

The Mercedes were on the ultra-soft tyres, while Vettel was on the more durable softs, planning to run long and attack at the end of the race.

The plan was working well for a while. An early pit stop for Raikkonen on lap 14 triggered a response from Mercedes a lap later with Bottas, and now Vettel was in second behind Hamilton.

But the world champion’s tyres were hanging on better than might have been feared and he held an eight-second lead over Vettel until beginning to lose time shortly before his pit stop on lap 25.

That put Vettel in the lead, and by lap 29 the German had enough of a lead over Bottas to make a pit stop and re-emerge in the lead.

But Ferrari preferred to wait, to ensure he did not have too long to run on the ultra-soft tyres in his final stint.

They arguably waited too long. For a few laps, Vettel had five seconds in hand beyond the 20 seconds that would be lost in a pit stop, but from lap 35 Bottas began to eat into Vettel’s advantage.

The Finn then unleashed a fastest lap on lap 38, two seconds quicker than he had been going before, and when Vettel pulled into the pits on lap 39 it was now touch and go whether he would get out in front.

A problem fitting the left front wheel delayed Vettel and ensured he emerged behind the Mercedes.

From hoping to attack Hamilton, Vettel now had to try to find a way past Bottas.

And despite the Mercedes’ fading tyres, and the Ferrari right behind him for 30 laps, Bottas drove superbly to hold on until five laps to go and the critical incident.

Vettel closed in at Turn One, Bottas squirmed under power on the exit and Vettel got the run on the Mercedes into Turn Two.

Bottas then seemed to lose his head.

Not only did he clash with Vettel but he made another error in the incident with Ricciardo, who despite being forced off track caught the Mercedes again. Bottas was ordered by his team to give the place back, perhaps hoping to avoid a penalty when the stewards investigate after the race.

Bottas was given a 10-second penalty but it made no difference to the result.

Behind the big two

McLaren cars

Ricciardo drove well to fight from 12th on the grid to finish fourth for Red Bull, despite the damage from the Bottas incident. Their second driver Max Verstappen retired from fifth place in the early stages with the latest in a series of engine problems, causing the Dutchman to swear into the radio at his frustration at the repeated problems.

Pierre Gasly took a strong sixth for Toro Rosso, from the same place on the grid after excelling in qualifying, ahead of Haas driver Kevin Magnussen.

And there was finally some good news for Fernando Alonso on the two-time world champion’s 37th birthday. McLaren made the same strategy as Vettel work beautifully, jumping Alonso and team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne ahead of Renault’s Carlos Sainz, Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg to take eighth.

Sadly for the under-pressure Vandoorne, after his best race for some time, the Belgian’s gearbox broke with 19 laps to go and he had to retire.

Driver of the day – Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton

What’s next?

Nearly four weeks off, until F1 reconvenes at the Belgian Grand Prix on the magnificent Spa-Francorchamps circuit, followed by the Italian Grand Prix at Monza a week later. Can Ferrari rebound? They need to.

BBC

Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Nick Heidfeld

Thomas Tour win was planned in December – Team Sky boss

Thomas Tour win was planned in December - Team Sky boss
Geraint Thomas puts on the yellow jersey

Tour de France, Paris
Coverage: Live text and BBC Radio 5 live commentary of the final stage from 15:00 BST

Geraint Thomas’ Tour de France victory should not be considered a shock win because his entire season has been planned around the race, says his Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford.

Chris Froome was overwhelming favourite to win a record-equalling fifth Tour.

But Thomas went in to the race as Team Sky’s other ‘protected rider’ and will complete his win in Paris on Sunday.

“In December we decided his season should be based around peaking in July. He did it perfectly,” said Brailsford.

“It couldn’t have climaxed in a more emotional way. It seemed like such a long race and on a knife edge for the last few days and then all the emotion came out.”

The 32-year-old took control of the race by winning two stages in the Alps in the second week of the three-week race – taking the leader’s yellow jersey after stage 11 and the following day becoming the first Briton to win on the fabled Alpe d’Huez.

Thomas was equal to numerous challenges from second-place Tom Dumoulin in the Pyrenees in the final week, while defending champion Froome faltered.

The Welshman took a lead of more than two minutes into the time trial on Saturday’s penultimate stage and lost only 14 seconds to world champion Dumoulin.

And with Tour convention dictating the yellow jersey is not challenged on the final stage in Paris, Thomas knows he only has to cross the finish line to become the third Briton to win the race – after Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Froome’s subsequent quartet of wins.

A proud Welshman

Geraint Thomas being congratulated by his wife Sara after stage 20

Brailsford said the Team Sky squad were under “strict orders” not to have any alcohol on Saturday evening, although they were “allowed a burger”, but he conceded “there is no way that curfew can survive tonight [Sunday]”.

He added: “His next race is meant to be on Saturday but I’ve had so many texts and calls saying how many Welsh people are coming to Paris that I fear he might not make it.

“He’s like the guy next door – nobody has a bad word to say about him. You couldn’t find a prouder Welshman. Every time he has the opportunity to go home to his family he will do.

“When he’s on the bike he makes the sacrifices but when he’s not, he’s the life and soul of the party.

“And like most Welshmen, he likes to have a pint and start singing.”

Dauphine win key

June’s Criterium du Dauphine race is an excellent indicator of form heading into the Tour de France.

Wiggins won the week-long race in 2012 before going on to triumph in the Tour and Froome has won the Dauphine on three occasions, each time then going on to take the Tour title.

Thomas won this year’s edition and Brailsford said on BBC Radio 5 live’s Sportsweek: “It was probably his biggest win in a stage race up to that point and it set him up perfectly.

“Psychologically he went into the Tour with great self confidence and a quiet assuredness and he just quietly went about his business, chipped off every day and then found himself in the yellow jersey.

“He didn’t think about winning the overall title, took it day by day and did a fantastic job.”

Froome deserves praise

Four-time Tour champion Froome was widely expected to join Belgian Eddy Merckx, Spaniard Miguel Indurain and Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault on five wins.

He came into the race as defending champion and holder of all three Grand Tour titles, having won the Vuelta a Espana last September and this year’s Giro d’Italia in May.

But his hopes of also matching Merckx’s record of four consecutive Grand Tour victories were ended in the Pyrenees mountains in the final week.

Brailsford said: “The person who deserves a mention is Chris. We had two leaders – Chris was the actual leader, Geraint the protected second leader.

“And the moment it dawned on him that he wasn’t going to win, Chris immediately switched to the support of Geraint.

“All the focus was on Chris and that let Geraint just get on with his business and when the pressure did come he had Chris at his side, and he supported him with such grace that it gave him a calmness that helped him through.”

General classification after stage 20:

1. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) 80hrs 30mins 37secs

2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Team Sunweb) +1min 51secs

3. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +2mins 24secs

4. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Team LottoNL-Jumbo) +3mins 22secs