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The sports wrap 28th May 2018

LanguedocLiving, May 27

Britain’s Chris Froome pulls off historic Giro d’Italia victory.

Chris Froome safely negotiated Sunday’s largely ceremonial final stage of the Giro d’Italia to lay his hands on a third straight Grand Tour title following his wins in the Tour de France and La Vuelta a Espana last year. The Briton completed a remarkable victory after retaining the leader’s pink jersey at the end of stage 20 on Saturday. The 33-year-old Team Sky rider, who held off reigning champion Tom Dumoulin, became the first British rider to take the honours at the Giro and join Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault as the only other men to hold the three Grand Tour titles simultaneously. The four-time Tour de France winner becomes the seventh man to complete the set of Grand Tours. He held off late attacks from the Dutchman Dumoulin on the penultimate stage into Cervinia and extended his overall advantage to 46 seconds with Sunday's final stage in Rome traditionally a procession. In fact, the traditional leisurely pace of the final stage dropped even lower as the peloton, unimpressed by the route over Rome's historic cobbles, succeeded in getting the stage neutralised for general classification purposes. Froome appeared to be barely in contention a matter of days ago, but moved into the lead on Friday, when he made an audacious solo charge from 80km out on the mountainous stage from Venaria Reale to Bardonecchia. It was a monumental effort which propelled him from three minutes and 22 seconds off the lead to the frontrunner by 40 seconds. Spaniard Mikel Nieve was the stage winner on his birthday, but it was Froome’s mastery of the general classification that dominated. Reflecting on the exacting nature of a course which has taken many high-profile contenders to the limits, Froome said: “This Giro has been brutal, absolutely brutal. When someone tends to have a bad day here it’s not just a matter of 30 seconds or one minute, it’s 10-15 minutes. It’s a brutal race.”

Bale wonder goal helps Real to 3rd successive European crown

Welsh international Gareth Bale scored one of European football's great goals to help Real Madrid overcome Liverpool 3-1 in Kiev on Saturday night and win their third successive Champions League title as goalkeeper Loris Karius suffered a personal nightmare. Substitute Bale made his mark on another Champions League final with a stunning overhead kick to put Real 2-1 up after 64 minutes. Liverpool had already suffered the devastating blow of losing top scorer Mohamed Salah midway through the first half - with a shoulder injury sustained in a challenge with Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos - when calamity struck for German keeper Karius. Six minutes after half-time he inexplicably threw the ball against the outstretched foot of Karim Benzema and watched in horror as the ball rolled behind him into the net. Liverpool recovered from the shock to equalise through Sadio Mane before Bale stepped off the bench to score his wonder goal.There was to be no comeback from Liverpool this time and Karius's misery was complete when he fumbled Bale's hopeful 30-yard shot behind him to seal Real's record 13th win in this competition, and their fourth in five seasons to give French coach Zinedine Zidane his third triumph in three years. For Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, it was disappointment again - he lost his third successive final since arriving at Anfield, having suffered defeats in the League Cup and Europa League finals of 2016. He also lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich when coaching Borussia Dortmund in 2013.

Australian Ricciardo drives masterful race to win in Monaco

Australian Daniel Ricciardo overcame a power issue with his Red Bull car and drove a masterful race to fend off Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari and win his maiden Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday. He dominated the weekend and led from pole but shortly after his only pit stop suffered a power loss at one-third distance. He managed to hold off Vettel for the remaining 50 laps, as reigning world champion champion Lewis Hamilton took third in his Mercedes. The result means Hamilton leads Vettel by14 points in the standings with Ricciardo moving into third place, 38 points adrift. Winning from pole position for the first time in his career, Ricciardo earned high praise from his team. “You have done an amazing job today,” team boss Christian Horner said after Ricciardo took the chequered flag 7.3 seconds clear of Vettel. Ricciardo’s only previous pole had been in Monaco two years ago, when he lost out to Hamilton on strategy and finished runner-up. This time Ricciardo also made a clean start and, controlling the pace and the race, looked as much of a certainty for victory as ever exists on Monaco’s treacherous metal-fenced streets. And then it all seemed to unravel when he reported a loss of power over the team radio. “OK mate, we can see what’s going on,” his race engineer replied after a pause. “You just need to keep it smooth, keep focussed.” “Will it get better?” enquired the Australian. “Negative,” came the reply. From then on, Ricciardo - down on power and with Vettel in his rear-view mirrors - was a model of consistency on a track where overtaking is a challenge for even the greatest of talents.

Saracens beat Exeter 27-10 to win Aviva Premiership final

Saracens were crowned English champions for the third time in four years when they outclassed holders Exeter 27-10 in the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday. Veteran American winger Chris Wyles marked his last game before retirement with two tries. Having been deposed as back-to-back European champions it was a fitting way for Saracens to end the season as their superb defence absorbed everything Exeter threw at them while they also looked by far the more dangerous in attack. After an early try by Billy Vunipola it was two more either side of halftime for Wyles, playing his last game for the club he has served so well for 10 years, that effectively settled the match. The Exeter Chiefs, who finished top of the standings after the regular season, showed great heart but not enough variety and, though Gareth Steenson got them briefly back to within nine points after 63 minutes, a Ben Spencer penalty and a Nathan Earle try gave Saracens the deserved win. “That was an absolutely brilliant performance - the effort the players put in was extraordinary,” said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall. In the Pro 14 final in Dublin, a superb display by lock Devin Toner laid the foundations for Leinster to outclass Scarlets 40-32 at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, capping a fine season with another trophy to add to the European Cup they won two weeks ago in Bilbao. In  England’s match against the Barbarians on Sunday their preparations for the tour of South Africa suffered a setback as they lost 63-45 in a non-cap match at Twickenham, their fourth defeat in a row. The hosts fielded a mixture of regular internationals and young players, but the inexperienced line-up was no match for the power of the Barbarians who ran in nine tries in an entertaining game full of running rugby.

Montpellier to play Castres in Top 14 final

Montpellier Herault will play Castres in the Top 14 final next Saturday at the Stade de France after the Tarn side shocked Racing 92 19-14 in Saturday’s semifinal in Lyon at the Groupama Stadium. Montpellier had easily despatched Lyon 40-14 in the other semifinal at the same venue on Friday night in front of a 59,000 crowd. Castres’ perfectly executed game plan, plenty of Racing 92 ill-discipline and a slice of luck helped them to victory over their more fancied Paris opposition. Castres, after beating Toulouse in the play-offs, oozed self belief and commitment and despite Racing seeing the majority of the early ball, they raced into a 10-0 lead. Racing hit back but Castres went in at the interval with a narrow 16-14 advantage as Argentine fly-half Benjamin Urdapilleta added two penalties to an earlier strike. The same player scored the only points of the second period when he notched a penalty midway through. The final quarter of an hour saw the Parisians bombard the Castres line with scrum penalty after scrum penalty. Castres victory was sadly tempered on Saturday night by a crash involving a supporters’ bus which killed three of them and seriously injured eight others. Montpellier moved a step closer to their first ever French championship following a dominant win over Lyon. Kiwi coach Vern Cotter’s men, who finished top of the table, were superior in every facet and they touched down twice in the first-half via Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo and Alexandre Dumoulin. The rest of their points in the opening period came through Ruan Pienaar and a long-range three-pointer from Frans Steyn, while Mike Harris responded with three penalties. Pienaar then extended the advantage before Louis Picamoles effectively completed the victory seven minutes after half-time. The game duly became loose and mistakes were prevalent but Paul Willemse sealed Montpellier’s passage into the final.

Pakistan thrash England by nine wickets in 1st Test

Pakistan wrapped up a crushing nine-wicket victory over England on the fourth day of the 1st Test on Sunday to inflict the hosts’ first defeat in a May test match at Lord’s. England’s last four wickets tumbled in 27 minutes and Pakistan knocked off the 64 runs they needed in less than an hour to put the touring side 1-0 up in the two-match series. England resumed on 235 for six after Jos Buttler and debutant Dom Bess had shared an unbroken partnership of 125 in the final session on Saturday to save their team from a humiliating innings defeat. Buttler fell in the second over, trapped lbw by man-of-the-match Mohammad Abbas for 67. Mark Wood hit one four before he nicked Mohammad Amir, bowling with the second new ball, to wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed. Stuart Broad edged Abbas to Sarfraz without scoring and Amir comprehensively bowled the 20-year-old Bess for 57 to dismiss the hosts for 242 as England lost their last four wickets for the addition of only six runs. James Anderson bowled Azhar Ali for four with a fine delivery before Imam-ul-Haq (18 not out) and Haris Sohail (39 not out) shared an unbroken second-wicket partnership of 54 to see Pakistan to their target. The second test at Headingley starts on Friday. In Mumbai, veteran Shane Watson struck an unbeaten 117 off 57 balls as Chennai Super Kings beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by eight wickets in the Indian Premier League final. The Australian, who did not score off his first 10 deliveries, hit 11 fours and eight sixes as Super Kings passed a target of 179 with nine balls left. Kane Williamson, the tournament's leading run-scorer, made 47 in Sunrisers' 178-6. Victory gave Super Kings a record third IPL title.

Resurgent Catalans Dragons batter Leeds Rhinos

Winger Jodie Broughton scored his eighth try in four games to help a resurgent Catalans Dragons defeat Leeds Rhinos 33-20 in Perpignan on Saturday and consign the city of his birth to a third straight Super League defeat (see report by Jake Hazell). Tries from Benjamin Jullien, Ben Garcia and Michael McIlorum helped Catalans lead 17-4 at the break, with Ash Handley grabbing last season’s champions only points. Early second-half tries from Brett Ferres and Ryan Hall gave Rhinos hope. However, tries from Tony Gigot, Josh Drinkwater and Broughton, who came through the Rhinos’ academy, saw Dragons prevail for their fifth win in six games. A last-minute Brad Dwyer effort was of little consequence for Brian McDermott's side, who remain sixth in the table and 13 points adrift of leaders St Helens. The Dragons move up to 10th and to within a point of the top eight after securing back-to-back wins in Super League for the first time this season, with a defeat to St Helens the only blemish on a fine recent run by Steve McNamara's men. At the top end of the table, St Helens remained at the helm with a thumping 40-18 away win to Castleford Tigers on Thursday night. They are on 28 points, four ahead of Wigan Warriors who surprisingly went down 24-8 to lowly Hull KR.

Brilliant LeBron James spurs Cleveland into NBA final

LeBron James was at his brilliant best once again, scoring 35 points, with 15 rebounds and nine assists as his Cleveland Cavaliers beat Boston Celtics 87-79 to win the Eastern Conference finals 4-3 in Boston on Sunday night and go into the NBA finals. It followed his devastating display to level the best-of-seven series on Friday. He scored 46 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in a 109-99 win in Cleveland. In the Western Conference finals, Golden State Warriors came back from a 17-point first-quarter deficit to beat the Houston Rockets 115-86 on Saturday. The defending champions' win tied the series at 3-3, forcing a decisive game seven at Houston on Monday. They are aiming for a fourth successive NBA finals appearance, while Houston last made the finals in 1995.

Reigning champion Ostapenko knocked out of French Open

Defending champion Jelena Ostapenko and seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams both went out of the French Open in the first round on Sunday. American ninth seed Williams, a finalist at Roland Garros in 2002, was beaten 6-4 7-5 by world No.91 Wang Qiang of China. Latvian Ostapenko was stunned by Ukrainian Kateryna Kozlova, who came through 7-5 6-3. Williams, 37, is set to compete in the doubles with sister Serena in Paris later in the tournament. At 19 years old, the then unseeded Ostapenko pulled off a massive shock to beat current world No.1 Simona Halep to take the title last year. But this time around, the Latvian was beaten in 94 minutes on Philippe Chatrier by the world No.66, who had never triumphed over a top-30 player. British No.1 Johanna Konta also lost in the first round for the fourth successive year, going down 6-4 6-3 to 22nd seed Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva. In the Lyon Open, world No.8 Dominic Thiem completed his preparations for the French Open with victory in the final. The Austrian, who is the seventh seed at Roland Garros, beat France's Gilles Simon 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-1. The win was Thiem's 200th career victory and gives him his 10th ATP title. The 24-year-old will face qualifier Ilya Ivashka of Belarus in the opening round in Paris. "I'm super happy. I fought really hard for this title," said Thiem, who ended Rafael Nadal's 21-match unbeaten run on clay when he beat the Spaniard in the Madrid Open quarter-finals earlier this month. In the WTA Strasbourg Open, Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova came through a marathon encounter with Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova to win the final. The world No.31 needed three hours and 35 minutes before winning 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (8-6). Pavlyuchenkova came into the tournament having won only four matches on the WTA Tour all year. She saved two match points at the end of the third set to force a tiebreak and get the better of her rival.

Molinari wins PGA Championship at Wentworth

Italy's Francesco Molinari won the PGA Championship at Wentworth on Sunday by two shots from fellow overnight leader Rory McIlroy. Last year's runner-up Molinari finished on 17 under after a final-day 68. Northern Ireland's McIlroy, winner in 2014, carded a two-under-par 70 on Sunday to finish second at the European Tour's flagship event. Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard and defending champion Alex Noren from Sweden tied third, a shot further back. Molinari, who only hit two bogeys in his four rounds this week, was barely tested by McIlroy during the final round. McIlroy, the world No.8, had led by three shots at the halfway stage but was pegged back by a 71 on Saturday. It was a procession for world No.32 Molinari as he went through the front nine in three under par. McIlroy stayed at level par after nine, struggling to attack the leader. He missed fairways and greens, and failed to set up birdie chances.

Occitanie hosts 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship 

The 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship, being played in Occitanie, starts on 30 May with six matches in Perpignan, Narbonne and Beziers. The other four match days will take place on 3 June, 7 June, 12 June and 17 June with the tournament featuring three pools of four teams, with the pool winners and the best runner-up progressing to the semifinals. Both the 2017 holders New Zealand and runners-up England open their campaigns in Narbonne on 30 May (see Calendar Keynotes below). New Zealand will face Australia, Wales and Japan in Pool A, while England, Argentina, South Africa and Italy make up Pool B and Pool C comprises South Africa, France, Ireland and Georgia. Pool matches will be played at Stade Aimé Giral in Perpignan, Stade de la Méditerranée in Béziers and the Stade d’Honneur du Parc des Sports et de l'Amitié in Narbonne. “The World Rugby U20 Championship is a proven finishing school for aspiring international players, with some of the biggest names in the game having graduated amongst a group of more than 550 internationals, including double World Rugby men’s 15s Player of the Year Beauden Barrett," said World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont.

For full reports on all the weekend sporting events go to:,,,,,

Calendar Keynotes: 28 May - 3 June

Monday, 28 May

Football: English League Two – Coventry City v Exeter City play-off final

Tennis: French Open, Roland Garros, Paris (till 10 June)

Ice Hockey: Stanley Cup final 1st match – The Vegas Golden Knights v Washington Capitals, Las Vegas. 

Tuesday, 29 May

Tennis: French Open, Roland Garros, Paris (till 10 June). 

Wednesday,30 May

Tennis: French Open, Roland Garros, Paris (till 10 June).

Cycling: UCI Europe Tour – Skoda-Tour de Luxembourg (till 3 June).

Rugby Union: World Rugby U20 Championship – Perpignan: South Africa v Georgia, France v Ireland, Narbonne: England v Argentina, New Zealand v Japan, Beziers: Scotland v Italy, Australia v Wales.

Ice Hockey: Stanley Cup final 2nd match – The Vegas Golden Knights v Washington Capitals, Las Vegas.

Thursday, 31 May

Rugby League: Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final – Huddersfield Giants v Catalans Dragons.

Tennis: French Open, Roland Garros, Paris (till 10 June).

Golf: USPGA Tour, Memorial Tournament, Muirfield Village GC, Dublin, Ohio, US (till 3 June), PGA European Tour – Italian Open, Gardagolf Country Club, Brescia (till 3 June).

Cycling: UCI Europe Tour – Skoda-Tour de Luxembourg (till 3 June).

Athletics: IAAF Diamond League, Rome, Italy.

Friday, 1 June

Football: International friendlies – France v Italy, Czech Republic v Australia.

Cricket: England v Pakistan, 2nd Test (till 5 June).

Rugby League: Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final – Leeds Rhinos v Leigh Centurionas, Super League – Hull KR – Castleford Tigers.

Tennis: French Open, Roland Garros, Paris (till 10 June).

Cricket: England v Pakistan, 2nd Test (till 5 June).

Golf: USPGA Tour, Memorial Tournament, Muirfield Village GC, Dublin, Ohio, US (till 3 June), PGA European Tour – Italian Open, Gardagolf Country Club, Brescia (till 3 June).

Cycling: UCI Europe Tour – Skoda-Tour de Luxembourg (till 3 June).

Motorcycling: MotoGP rd 6 = Italian Grand Prix, Mugello, Italy (till 3 June) 

Saturday, 2 June

Football: International friendlies – Austria v Germany, England v Nigeria, Sweden v Denmark, Belgium v Portugal, Iceland v Norway.

Rugby Union: French Top 14 final – Montpellier Herault v Castres, Stade de France, Saint-Denis, South Africa v Wales, RFK Memorial Stadium, Washington DC, US.

Tennis: French Open, Roland Garros, Paris (till 10 June).

Rugby League: Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final – Warrington Wolves v Wigan Warriors.

Cricket: England v Pakistan, 2nd Test (till 5 June).

Golf: USPGA Tour, Memorial Tournament, Muirfield Village GC, Dublin, Ohio, US (till 3 June), PGA European Tour – Italian Open, Gardagolf Country Club, Brescia (till 3 June).

Cycling: UCI Europe Tour – Skoda-Tour de Luxembourg (till 3 June).

Motorcycling: MotoGP rd 6 - Italian Grand Prix, Mugello, Italy (till 3 June)

Ice Hockey: Stanley Cup final 3rd match – The Vegas Golden Knights v Washington Capitals, Washington. 

Sunday, 3 June

Football: International friendlies – Mexico v Scotland, Brazil v Croatia, Costa Rica v Northern Ireland, Saudi Arabia v Peru, Spain v Switzerland.

Tennis: French Open, Roland Garros, Paris (till 10 June).

Rugby Union: World Rugby U20 Championship – Perpignan: Scotland v Argentina, England v Italy, Narbonne: Australia v Japan, South Africa v Ireland, Beziers: France v Georgia, New Zealand v Wales.

Rugby League: Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final – St Helens v Hull FC.

Cricket: England v Pakistan, 2nd Test (till 5 June), Mansle CC v Midi CC, France South-West Regional League, Mansle (40 overs).

Golf: USPGA Tour, Memorial Tournament, Muirfield Village GC, Dublin, Ohio, US (final day), PGA European Tour – Italian Open, Gardagolf Country Club, Brescia (final day).

Cycling: UCI World Tour Criterium du Dauphine, France (till 10 June).

UCI Europe Tour – Skoda-Tour de Luxembourg (final day).

Motorcycling: MotoGP rd 6 - Italian Grand Prix, Mugello, Italy (race day). 

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