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Silver Ferns break losing streak

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The Silver Ferns kept their hopes of regaining the Constellation Cup alive with a 56-53 win over Australia in Invercargill on Thursday night.

It was New Zealand’s first win of the four-match series after Australia had dominated the first two games on their home court.

The Silver Ferns temporarily had a lead early in the first quarter until Australia found their rhythm and ended the quarter with a 14-10 lead.

New Zealand fought back in the second quarter and went on a run of nine unanswered goals, keeping the visitors scoreless for nearly six minutes and forcing the Diamonds to make player changes.

The Silver Ferns outscored the Diamonds 18-10 in the second quarter as goal shooter Grace Nweke continued to be a reliable presence under the hoop to take a 28-24 lead at halftime.

Nweke, who only recently returned to court from an injury that ruled her out of the World Cup, was substituted part-way through the third quarter as she is on limited playing minutes to ease her back into competition.

Youngster Amelia Walmsley came on to replace Nweke and put in a solid performance.

Meanwhile, midcourter Jamie-Lee Price’s introduction made a difference for the Australians in the third quarter as they took a 42-40 lead.

In the final quarter, player of the match goalkeeper Kelly Jury troubled the Australian shooting circle as she disrupted the flow and forced them into uncharacteristic turnovers as she deflected a lot of ball.

Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio described the match as a “hard fought win”.

“It’s really cool to finally feel like what we’re doing is working in the games and that’s all we really need to push through and know that we can do it,” Ekenasio told Sky Sport.

“We’ve got some young girls out there and we’re still really trying to find our way. It’s almost (like) everybody takes a turn to make a bit of a mistake. It’s something we’ve been working so hard on but it’s just taking a while to really click.”

Coach Dame Noeline Taurua agreed and told Sky Sport it was good for her side to beat the world champions, but she still wanted more.

“It’s quite frustrating. Without being disrespectful, I thought we could have been a bit better out there on court,” she said.

New Zealand’s victory at ILT Stadium Southland – renamed Robyn Broughton Stadium in memory of the former Silver Ferns coach, who died last month – halted Australia’s six-game winning streak over the Silver Ferns, which dated back to October last year.

The final, and deciding, match of the series is in Auckland on Monday.

If the Silver Ferns win on Monday the winner of the Constellation Cup will be decided on goal difference across the series.

rnz

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Impressive win for Breakers extends their NBL season

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The Breakers season continues after beating the Sydney Kings in the first round of the NBL basketball play-offs.

The Breakers won the Play-In Qualifier 83-76 in Sydney to eliminate the Kings, ending their hopes of a “three-peat” of titles.

The Auckland side, who have had plenty of injury issues in recent weeks, got through on the back of a strong performance from import guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, who scored 34 points.

The Kings lead 22-15 after the first quarter and were up by nine at half time before the visitors fought back in the second half.

The Breakers outscored the Kings 45-29 to move into a Play-In battle with the Illawarra Hawks in Wollongong next Monday night.

Jackson-Cartwright was instrumental in New Zealand dominating the second half, he also had six assists and five rebounds.

Forward Zylan Cheatham injured an ankle in the second quarter, but came back on court scoring in the second half with points, four rebounds and three steals.

Will McDowell-White took to the floor just two weeks after suffering what initially looked to be a serious shoulder injury in the side’s Round 20 win over Brisbane.

“These guys are so tough,” said coach Mody Maor.

“They care about all the right things, they care about each other, and they’re battle tested, because this season has been tough and we’ve seen everything and been through everything.

“Once I walked into the locker room at half-time, I knew we were winning the game because there was no sign of anything but determination and being focused on the task. It was fantastic and I’m really proud.”

The victory means the retiring Tom Abercrombie gets to play at least one more game.

rnz

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Wagner retires from test cricket

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Black Caps pace bowler Neil Wagner has called time on his 64-test cricket career.

The 37-year-old pace-bowler will not be in the starting XI for the first Test at the Basin Reserve and will be released from the squad ahead of the second Test in Christchurch.

Wagner will finish his career fifth on the list of New Zealand’s top Test wicket takers with 260 wickets, at an average of 27.

His strike rate of 52 is only bettered by the great Sir Richard Hadlee (50) of New Zealanders to have taken more than 100 Test wickets.

Wagner won 32 of his 64 Tests, and claimed 143 wickets at an average of 22 in those victories.

Born in South Africa, he moved to Dunedin to play domestic cricket for Otago in 2008, before moving north to his current home in Papamoa in 2018 to play for Northern Districts.

The left-armer made his test debut in 2012 and was a key member of the side during their ascent to the number one ICC Test world ranking and victory in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship in 2021.

Wagner said the decision to retire was not an easy one, but it was clear the time was right to move on.

“It’s been an emotional week,” Wagner reflected.

“It’s not easy to step away from something you’ve given so much to and got so much out of, but it’s now time for others to step up and take this team forward.

“I’ve enjoyed every single moment of playing Test cricket for the Black Caps and am proud of everything we’ve been able to achieve as a team.

“The friendships and bonds built over my career are what I’ll cherish the most and I want to thank everyone who’s played a part in where I am today.

“My teammates have always meant the world to me and all I’ve ever wanted to do was what was best for the team – I hope that’s the legacy I will leave.

Neil Wagner of the Black Caps

Neil Wagner of the Black Caps after winning the first cricket test against Sri Lanka, 2023. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

“I’d like to thank my wife Lana for her support in helping me be the man I am today and for helping bring our two little girls Olivia and Zahli, and our boy Josh into the world.

“I’m looking forward to one final week in camp and will be doing everything I can to help prepare and support the boys.”

Alongside lifting the WTC Mace in Southampton in 2021, Wagner cited blocking out for a draw and a Test series win against England in 2018, and last year’s one-run victory over the same opposition, among the top highlights of his sparkling career in the Black Cap.

Black Caps coach Gary Stead said Wagner’s impact went beyond statistics.

“Neil’s numbers are phenomenal, but I don’t think we can underestimate his contributions to the team when the chips were down and he found a way to create a wicket.

“His accuracy, execution and tenacity has been instrumental in many of our great Test victories and he will always be remembered for his lion-hearted nature.

“Neil gave absolutely everything…and we are certainly going to miss his energy and ‘never give in’ attitude.”

Black Caps bowler Neil Wagner.

Neil Wagner Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Test captain Tim Southee described Wagner as one of the great team men.

“You always knew what you were going to get with Neil and that was 100% commitment to the cause,” he said.

“He would do anything for the team and has earned nothing but respect and admiration within the dressing room.

“Personally, I’ve enjoyed a great relationship with Neil on and off the field and am sure our friendship will continue for years to come.

“It’s going to be great to have him with us this week for the first Test and we’ll look forward to celebrating his incredible career at the end of the match.”

Wagner will be acknowledged at the Basin Reserve during the first Test and further celebrated at the New Zealand Cricket Awards in Christchurch next months.

He will remain available for Northern Districts, and confirmed his intention to continue playing next season – but is ye to decide if that’s in New Zealand or overseas.

-RNZ

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Everton punishment reduced to six points

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Everton have had their points deduction for a breach of the Premier League’s profitability and sustainability rules reduced to six points from 10 after an appeal, the club and the Premier League said on Monday.

Everton were docked points with immediate effect in November after being found to have breached profitability and sustainability rules (PSR) relating to losses.

“An independent Appeal Board has concluded that the sanction for Everton FC’s breach of the Premier League’s Profitability and Sustainability Rules (PSRs), for the period ending Season 2021/22, will be an immediate six-point deduction,” the Premier League said in a statement.

The original points deduction meant Everton dropped from 14th in the standings into the relegation zone with four points. The club filed an appeal against the initial deduction, which they labelled “wholly disproportionate and unjust”.

“Everton can confirm an Appeal Board has concluded that the points deduction imposed by an independent Premier League Commission in November be reduced from 10 points to six points, with immediate effect,” a club statement said.

The sanction was appealed on nine grounds, each of which related to the sanction, rather then the breach and two of those nine grounds were upheld by the Appeal Board.

Everton admitted to a breach of PSR for the period ending with the 2021-22 season, with their total losses for that period amounting to 124.5 million pounds according to an independent commission.

According to the Premier League’s Financial Fair Play regulations, clubs are permitted to lose a maximum of $216 million over a three-year period.

The Merseyside club recorded four straight wins after their deduction to climb up to 16th, but have been dragged back into the relegation battle following a run of nine league games without a victory.

The reduction means Everton move up to 15th in the standings with 25 points, five points above the relegation zone.

The club say they are still considering the wider implications of the decision and will make no further comment at this time.

Everton were then charged once again by the Premier League in January for a separate PSR breach, along with Nottingham Forest.

Everton players celebrate

Everton players celebrate Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Both clubs were referred to the chair of the Judicial Panel, the Premier League said, who will appoint an independent commission to determine the appropriate sanction, which may include a further deduction for the Sean Dyche-led club.

A second points penalty would increase risk of relegation and add to the uncertainty over the future of Everton, who are currently in the midst of protracted takeover talks with U.S. investment fund 777 Partners and also hoping to move to a new stadium ahead of the 2025-26 season.

BACKGROUND ON OTHER CLUBS

Last year, Manchester City were referred to an independent commission over more than 100 alleged breaches of finance rules since the club were acquired by the Abu Dhabi-based City Football Group in 2008.

No verdict has been reached in that case. Premier League CEO Richard Masters said last month that a date had been set for a hearing. City have denied any wrongdoing.

Clubs in England’s top flight have been docked points before.

Middlesbrough had three points deducted in 1997 when they failed to fulfil a fixture, while Portsmouth received a nine-point penalty in 2010 when the financially-troubled club entered administration.

-Reuters

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