The sports wrap 18th March 2019

Wales celebrate victory over Ireland

Wales crush Ireland to claim Six Nations Grand Slam

Wales crushed Ireland 25-7 in Cardiff to secure the Six Nations Grand Slam while England finished in second place after an astonishing 38-38 draw at Twickenham. France meanwhile climbed above Scotland to finish fourth on the ladder with a 25-14 win in Rome.

At the Prinicipality Stadium, Wales hammered Ireland 25-7 to claim a first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2012, with Gareth Anscombe bagging 20 points in an unexpectedly one-sided clash against last season’s champions. The hotly anticipated match between the pre-tournament favourites Ireland and form team Wales never looked close, as man of the match Anscombe punished a stream of Irish infringements with his goal kicking in the swirling rain. Welsh centre Hadleigh Parkes scored his side’s only try after barely 80 seconds had been played, collecting a deft Anscombe chip, while Ireland’s Jordan Larmour left it until the final minute to bag an opening score that would have been scant consolation. Between those two tries Wales dominated throughout, leaving the jubilant home crowd chanting the name of their triple Grand Slam-winning New Zealander coach Warren Gatland in his final Six Nations game with the side.

At Twickenham, the 82,000-capacity crowd were treated to a bizarre 11-try thriller in a match of two distinct halves. England, whose title hopes ended with the Welsh victory, came off at the break with a commanding 31-7 lead only to see a revitalized Scotland fight back with a blitz of tries to draw level at 31-31. Sam Johnson scored a seemingly decisive try late on, only for England’s George Ford to make it 38-38 at the death. Despite retaining the Calcutta Cup, Scotland had to come to terms with being denied the greatest comeback in top-level international history – and an end to a 36-year Twickenham hoodoo – in the final play of the game.

At the Olympic Stadium, France beat Italy 25-14 to finish a disappointing Six Nations campaign with a second win, condemning the hosts to a 22nd straight defeat in the tournament. Three tries from Antoine Dupont, Maxime Medard and Damian Penaud and 10 points from youngster Romain Ntamack sealed victory in the Giuseppe Garibaldi Trophy between the two nations. Tito Tebaldi replied with a try for Italy on 53 minutes with Tommaso Allan accounting for the remainder of Italy’s points as the Azzurri earned a fourth straight wooden spoon for five losses and no points. Before Saturday’s victory, Les Bleus registered one win against Scotland, losing to Wales, England and Ireland.

No dream start in Australia for champion Hamilton

Valtteri Bottas took advantage of a late pitstop to upset his world champion team-mateLewis Hamilton and clinch the season-opening Australian Grand Prix for Mercedes in Melbourne on Sunday. Starting second behind pole-sitter Hamilton, the Finnish driver got the jump on the Briton during a typically messy start at Albert Park and ended up cruising to his fourth win by some 20.80 seconds after delaying a tyre-change. Runner-up Hamilton, who switched to the medium compound tyres seven laps earlier  than Bottas, had to battle to hold off third-placed Max Verstappen and was fortunate the Red Bull driver took a late skid in the grass to lose vital seconds.

Valtteri Bottas celebrates with F1 victory trophy

Bottas claimed his first race win since Abu Dhabi in 2017 and added icing to the cake by securing a bonus point for the fastest lap at the lakeside circuit in one minute 25.580 seconds. “I don’t know what just happened. The start was really good, it was definitely my best race ever,” said the overwhelmed Finn. It was a sobering day for Ferrrari who were expected to be more competitive against Mercedes. Fourth-placed Sebastien Vettel and fifth-placed new boy Charles Leclerc were reduced to fighting each other for a minor position. The second GP in this year’s 21-race F1 campaign is in Bahrain on 31 March.

Colombian Bernal holds on for victory in Paris-Nice

Team Sky’s Egan Bernal held on by 39 seconds to take overall victory in the Paris-Nice 2019, clawing back Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who had gone on a long-range attack.  Spain’s Ion Izagirre (Astana) won the stage after attacking out of a breakaway group on the final climb.  Quintana, who started the day third overall, attacked with 47km to go with Bernal, led by his Team Sky team-mates, for some time sitting over 50 seconds back on his Colombian compatriot and out of the race lead.

Egan Bernal holds on for Paris-Nice victory

But fatigue  set in for Quintana and eventually Bernal was able to cross the line just four seconds behind the Quintana group thanks to the help of former race leader Michał Kwiatkowski. Izagirre, who attacked with 12.7km to go on the final climb of the Col des Quartre Chemins, finished 18 seconds up on the breakaway group behind, who failed to respond to his move. Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) took second in a sprint ahead of Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb). In the Tirreno Adriatico, Briton Adam Yates stretched his lead as Jakob Fuglsang won the fifth stage on Sunday. Mitchelton-Scott’s Yates finished 40 seconds behind Astana rider Fuglsang on the 180km hilly stage to Recanati. But the 26-year-old added 18 seconds to his overall lead and now holds a 25-second advantage over Slovenian Primoz Roglic, who finished third. Last year’s Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas withdrew during Saturday’s fourth stage with “stomach issues”.

Manchester City face Brighton in FA Cup semi-final

Manchester City kept their quadruple chances alive with a last-gasp 3-2 defeat of Swansea in the FA Cup quarter-finals and will now face Brighton & Hove Albion in the semi-finals while Watford, who beat Crystal Palace 2-1, will play Wolverhampton Wanderers. Brighton, like City, came from 2-0 down in their quarter final tie, squeezing past Millwall on penalties. Wolves defeated Manchester United 2-1 at home to seal their place in the last four for the first time in 21 years. The semi-final ties will take place at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, 6 April and Sunday, 7 April.

The Liberty Stadium was the scene for the most dramatic of the four last-eight matches where Manchester City, who have won the League Cup and are chasing the Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup trophies, came back from what looked like a cup exit to go through to the last four with a Sergio Aguero controversial late winner.  Substitute Aguero beat Swansea keeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt with a diving header off Bernardo Silva’s low cross at the end of a superb move in the 88th minute but replays showed the Argentina striker was marginally offside. The video assistant review (VAR) system was not in use. City had levelled in contentious circumstances too when Cameron Carter-Vickers was judged to have tripped replacement Raheem Sterling in the area and Aguero’s penalty hit the post before rebounding in off Nordfeldt for an own goal. Defeat was harsh on the Championship hosts, who led 2-0 inside 30 minutes through Matt Grimes’ penalty and Bersant Celina’s spectacular second.

At Molineux, Manchester United suffered their second straight defeat under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer with defeat at Wolves, United goalkeeper Sergio Romero, in for David de Gea, had kept United level with brilliant saves from Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez either side of the interval, before the Mexican striker swivelled in the area to finally give Wolves the reward their domination merited with 20 minutes remaining. Wolves were rampant and it was no surprise when the dangerous Jota doubled their lead six minutes later, shrugging off United’s Luke Shaw on the break before shooting low past the exposed Romero. United are still chasing a Champions League berth and are in the quarter-finals of this year’s competition after their dramatic defeat of Paris Saint Germain in Paris.

At Craven Cottage, Liverpool moved two points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League with a 2-1 defeat of relegation-threatened Fulham but needed James Milner’s penalty for a late win. Leading through Sadio Mane’s 11th goal in as many games in all competitions, the visitors failed to put a limited Fulham side away, allowing the hosts back into the game. A dire defensive mix-up between defender Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson gifted Ryan Babel an equaliser against his former club on 74 minutes. But Fulham keeper Sergio Rico then made an equally poor blunder, dropping Mohammed Salah’s curling shot and fouling Mane to give away the penalty. City have a game in hand over Liverpool.

PSG beat Marseille 3-1 to go 20 points clear of Lille

Paris Saint Germain beat Marseille 3-1 with two goals from Angel Di Maria and one from mercurial young striker Kylian Mbappe to go 20 points clear at the top of French Ligue 1. Trailing behind in second place are Lille who surprisingly went down 1-0 at home to Monaco who have battled their way out of the relegation zone over the last month. PSG’s task was made easier with the sending off of goalkeeper Steve Mandanda in the 62nd minute. It was a strong response from Thomas Tuchel’s men in their first real test since being dumped out of the Champions League by Manchester United.. With the Ligue 1 title effectively secured, the only competition left for PSG to play for this season is the French Cup, in which they face Nantes in the semi-finals next month.

In the Spanish La Liga,  Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick as Barcelona beat Real Betis 4-1 to move 10 points clear at the top of the table after Atletico Madrid were surprisingly beaten 2-0 away to Athletic Bilbao. The loss meant that city rivals Real Madrid  moved within two points in third place. It was the first win under returning coach Zinedine Zidane. Gareth Bale and Isco both scored against Celta Vigo to give him a winning start.. Isco, out of favour under previous coach Santiago Solari, made it 1-0 when he tapped in striker Karim Benzema’s low cross from close range. And 13 minutes from time, Wales forward Bale scored Real’s second when his low shot went in off the post.

In the Italian Serie A,. Juventus, without Champions League hero Cristiano Ronaldo, fell to their first league defeat of the season as they suffered a shock 2-0 loss at Genoa. Former Juve player Stefano Sturaro curled in the opener in the 72nd minute before Goran Pandev made sure of the win for the mid-table side with a powerful finish nine minutes from time. Juve had last lost in the top flight on 22 April 2018 and this season had dropped points on only three occasions prior to Sunday’s game. However, Juventus still lead the table by 15 points despite second-placed Napoli’s easy 4-2 home win over Udinese. Inter Milan are third after a 3-2 away win over city rivals AC Milan, who are fourth, two points behind.

In the German Bundesliga, James Rodriguez scored a hat-trick as Bayern Munich brushed off their midweek Champions League exit with a thumping 6-0 win over Mainz to regain top spot.Bayern are level on points with Borussia Dortmund but have the better goal difference by seven. Robert Lewandowski flicked home the opener before Rodriguez scored his first and Kingsley Coman made it 3-0.Rodriguez fired in twice more before Alphonso Davies slotted in the sixth. RB Leipzig defeated Schalke 1-0 on Saturday to remain third, 11 points behind the top two, while Marco Reus’ stoppage-time strike helped Borussia Dortmund come from 2-1 down to beat Hertha Berlin 3-2.

Toulouse thrash Lyon to go 7 points clear in Top 14

In-form Toulouse thrashed fifth-placed Lyon 53-21 to go seven points clear at the summit of the Top 14, ahead of second-placed Clermont Auvergne who beat lowly Pau 27-14. Last season’s champions Castres are a further 11 points behind after hammering bottom-placed Perpignan 36-17 at home. Toulouse were without a number of internationals on Six Nations duty but were still far too strong for Lyon, and shaken by two early tries, went on a five-try blitz before the break to give them an unassailable 46-14 half-time lead.  Australian Zack Holmes contributed with six conversions and two penalties.  Montpellier are in ninth place on the ladder after a tight 21-18 away win over rivals Toulon.

At Franklin Gardens, Northampton Saints won the inaugural Premiership Rugby Cup with a battling 23-9 victory over a youthful Saracens side. The competition, which replaced the Anglo-Welsh Cup, has given teams the chance to use academy players. But it was tries from three of Saints’ familiar names, Teimana Harrison, Tom Wood, and Ahsee Tuala, which gave Northampton a half-time lead. Two second-half penalties made it 23-9 and Saints closed the game out for a first trophy since 2014.

Beziers beat Massy to cement 5th Pro D2 place

Beziers beat Massy 27-24 to cement their fifth place on the Pro D2 ladder and keep alive their hopes of a place in the qualifying finals for a place in the Top 14. The Biterrois were totally dominated in the first half of the match but came out firing in the second half. Bottom-placed Massy scored three tries before the interval and a frustrated and ill-disciplined Beziers earned a yellow card through captain Jonathan Best in the 33rd minute. But it all changed after the break with Jean-Baptiste Barrere scoring a try in the

Beziers on the attack on road to victory

52nd minute followed by two penalties from full-back Jerome Porical. Ten minutes from the end Marco Pinto scored a try, converted by Portical to make the score 27-17. There were some tense moments when Massy scored a converted try a minute from the end to make the score 27-24 but Beziers held on. At the top of the table, Oyannax moved to first spot with 73 points after thumping Aurillac 46-6. They are three points ahead of Nevers and Bayonne.

Dragons breathe fire again with win over Hull KR  

Catalans Dragons fought back late for a 18-16 victory away from home to condemn Hull KR to a third loss in four Super League games. Hull KR led 12-2 and then 16-12, but Lewis Tierney’s try and Sam Tomkins’ conversion settled the match as the Dragons bounced back from their 46-0 thrashing in Perpignan last weekend at the hands of the Salford Red Devils.  Weller Hauraki, Joel Tomkins and Craig Hall had earlier all crossed for Rovers, with Brayden Wiliame and Lucas Albert’s scores keeping Dragons in it. And Tierney went over six minutes from time as Catalans avoided a third loss from their three away games this term. In a low-key first half, Hall and Sam Tomkins traded kicks to see the sides level at 2-2 at the break. The Dragons’ third win in six games puts them in eighth place on the ladder which is led by St Helens who kept up their 100 per cent record for the season with a 40-12 away win over bottom-placed Huddersfield Giants.

Austrian Thiem beats Federer at Indian Wells

Dominic Thiem ended Roger Federer’s bid for a record sixth Indian Wells title with a battling three-set victory in the final in California. The Austrian seventh seed fought back to beat the Swiss legend 3-6 6-3 7-5. Federer, a 24-time Grand Slam champion, converted just two of 11 break points and made 32 unforced errors to Thiem’s 25. Thiem collapsed on to his back in delight as he secured his first title at a Masters 1000 event. Thiem will rise to fourth in the world rankings on Monday after winning his first event since September 2018. In the women’s singles, Bianca Andreescu’s remarkable Indian Wells run culminated with the wildcard beating three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber to secure the title. The 18-year-old Canadian, ranked outside the top 150 at the start of the year, beat the German 6-4 3-6 6-4. Kerber saved three match points on the Andreescu serve and broke back for 5-4 in the third set. However, Andreescu produced a remarkable return game to win the biggest title of her young career.

Rory McIlroy wins Players Championship by one shot

Rory McIlroy celebrated St Patrick’s Day on Sunday in style by winning the Players Championship, beating 48-year-old Jim Furyk by one shot after a thrilling final round at Sawgrass. The Northern Irishman’s two-under-par 70 gave him victory on 16 under. It is his first win in a year and sets him up for an attempt at the career Grand Slam at the Masters next month. “I feel like I’m playing some of the best golf of my life right now and I just need to keep doing the same things,” he told Sky Sports. “If I hadn’t won today, I’d have said I didn’t need one going into Augusta but it’s nice to win on a course that will play similar to Augusta in a few weeks.” McIlroy, 29, won the US Open in 2011, US PGA Championship in 2012 and 2014 and The Open in 2014 but is yet to win the Masters, which starts on 11 April and is live across the BBC.

“I feel like I’m playing some of the best golf of my life right now and I just need to keep doing the same things,”

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

Calendar Keynotes: 18-24 March

Monday, 18 March

Tennis:  ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 31 March).

Cycling: UCI World Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, Italy (till 19 March).

Tuesday, 19 March

Tennis: ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 31 March).

Cycling: UCI World Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico, Italy (final day).

Cricket: South Africa v Sri Lanka, Twenty20, Cape Town.

Wednesday, 20 March

Football: International friendlies – Germany v Serbia, Wales v Trinidad and Tobago.

Tennis: ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 31 March).

Thursday, 21 March

Football: European Championship qualifying – Netherlands v Belarus, Northern Ireland v Estonia, Croatia v Azerbaijan, Slovakia v Hungary, Austria v Poland, Israel v Slovenia, FYR Macedonia v Latvia, Kazakhstan v Scotland, Cyprus v San Marino, Belgium v Russia.

Rugby League: Super League –  Wakefield Trinity v Warrington Wolves.

Tennis: ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 31 March).

Golf: USPGA Tour, Valspar Championship, Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida, US (till 24 March), European PGA Tour, Maybank Championship, Saujana Golf & CC, Shah Alam, Malaysia (till 24 March).

Friday, 22 March

Football: European Championship qualifying – Bulgaria v Montenegro, England v Czech Republic, Luxembourg v Lithuania, Portugal v Ukraine, Albania v Turkey, Andorra v Iceland, Moldova v France.

Rugby Union: Gallagher English Premiership – Leicester Tigers v Northampton Saints, French Pro D2 – Beziers v Biarritz.

Rugby League: Super League – Castleford Tigers v St Helens, Huddersfield Giants v Hull KR.

Cricket: Pakistan v Australia, ODI, Sharjah, South Africa v Sri Lanka, Twenty20, Centurion.

Tennis:  ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 31 March).

Golf: USPGA Tour, Valspar Championship, Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida, US (till 24 March), European PGA Tour, Maybank Championship, Saujana Golf & CC, Shah Alam, Malaysia (till 24 March).

Saturday, 23 March

Football: European Champonship qualifying – Bosnia-Herzegovina v Armenia, Italy v Finland, Liechtenstein v Greece, Georgia v Switzerland, Gibraltar v Republic of Ireland, Malta v Faroe Islands, Sweden v Romania, Spain v Norway.

Rugby Union: Gallagher English Premiership – Bristol v Worcester Warriors, Gloucester v Wasps, Saracens v Harlequins, Newcastle Falcons v Sale, French Top 14 – Lyon v Toulon, Stade Francais v Castres, Pau v Montpellier, Perpignan v Grenoble, Agen v Clermont Auvergne.

Rugby League: Super League – Catalans Dragons v Leeds Rhinos.

Tennis: ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 31 March).

Golf: USPGA Tour, Valspar Championship, Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida, US (till 24 March), European PGA Tour, Maybank Championship, Saujana Golf & CC, Shah Alam, Malaysia (till 24 March).

Cycling: UCI World Tour – Milano-San Remo, Italy.

Sunday, 24 March

Football:, European Championship qualifying – Netherlands v Germany, Northern Ireland v Belarus, Wales v Slovakia, Hungary v Croatia, Israel v Austria, Poland v Latvia, Slovenia v FYR Macedonia, Kazakhstan v Russia, San Marino v Scotland, Cyprus v Scotland.

Rugby Union: Gallagher English Premiership – Exeter Chiefs v Bath, French Top 14 – Racing 92 v Bordeaux Begles, La Rochelle v Toulouse.

Rugby League: Super League – Salford Red Devils v Wigan Warriors, London Broncos v Hull FC.

Tennis: ATP & WTA Miami Open, Florida, US (till 31 March).

Golf: USPGA Tour, Valspar Championship, Innisbrook Resort, Palm Harbor, Florida, US (final day), European PGA Tour, Maybank Championship, Saujana Golf & CC, Shah Alam, Malaysia (final day).