Luka Doncic rejected comparisons to Larry Bird after leading the Dallas Mavericks to victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

Doncic tallied 27 points as the Mavericks beat a Nets team missing both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant 115-98, ending Brooklyn's eight-game winning streak in the process.

The win improved the Mavericks' record to 16-16, but the race for the playoffs still sees ninth-seeded Dallas on the outside looking in.

Doncic is averaging over 28 points for the second successive season and will need to continue scoring at that rate if the Mavericks are to reach the postseason.

His head coach Rick Carlisle is among those to have compared Doncic to Bird, the legendary three-time MVP for the Boston Celtics.

Speaking to ESPN, Doncic said of those comparisons: "You can't compare me to Larry Bird. The things he's done, [I've got], way ways to go, more games to go, a long time so you can't compare me to Larry Bird.

"I just want to keep hooping, having fun out there playing basketball."

The Slovenian is set to play in his second All-Star game next week, surpassing his expectations after being drafted in 2018 following three seasons with Real Madrid.

"Three years ago I was just hoping to get drafted, I didn't even know," Doncic added.

"On Sunday I can be on my second All-Star. It's just a dream come true, it's just unbelievable."

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash was left frustrated after injuries contributed to the end of the team's eight-game winning streak in the NBA.

The short-handed Nets had their streak snapped following Saturday's 115-98 defeat against the Dallas Mavericks.

Kyrie Irving (shoulder) joined fellow star Kevin Durant (hamstring) – who missed his seventh successive game – on the sidelines and former MVP James Harden was unable to lift the Nets in the duo's absence.

Harden posted 29 points for the Nets in Brooklyn, where he only managed four following half-time.

Afterwards, first-year coach Nash said: "I think everyone's frustrated that we just had a little, just shorter obviously options tonight.

"You're missing two All-Star starters, but even beyond that, Jeff [Green] went out, Tyler [Johnson] couldn't play. It just stretched everything and put us in territory where a lot of guys hadn't had a lot of minutes together.

"So, frustrating, but that's the nature of this season. I've said that time and time again. We're gonna have all sorts of nights where we're gonna mix and match, play different things, and tonight I think we weren't quite good enough, but Dallas played well and one or two too many factors that went against us."

"We usually take James out first, not first, but we take him out early so we can get him back in with the second unit," Nash added. "Obviously tonight we couldn't do that. We were just standing a little it and like I said, a bunch of guys who hadn't played a lot, hadn't played a lot together, and Dallas played well. It's a good team.

"We weren't maybe quite up to it tonight and needed to make more shots, turn the all over less, and it wasn't to be."

On playing short-handed against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks, Harden told reporters: "We fought in that first half. We were down double-digits, fought and cut it to four points at half-time.

"That second half, we just didn't have any legs on our entire team after losing a couple players. It was legs. Every time we made a run, they countered it and made a run. Credit to them. They played pretty well tonight. We just didn't have it.

"Throughout the course of a year, there's going to be games like that. We just chalk it up, prepare and get ready for San Antonio."

The Nets (22-13) are second in the Eastern Conference, half a game adrift of leaders the Philadelphia 76ers (22-12).

The Brooklyn Nets' eight-game winning streak ground to a halt at the hands of Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, who triumphed 115-98 in the NBA.

Nets star Kyrie Irving (right shoulder recovery) joined former MVP Kevin Durant (hamstring) on the sidelines for Saturday's clash.

Their absence proved too much for James Harden to carry, with the MVP candidate finishing the game on the bench in his casuals as the Mavericks won comfortably.

Harden scored 29 points, with seven rebounds and six assists for Brooklyn, who were jumped by the Mavs in a 38-26 opening quarter.

Despite the Nets closing to within four points at half-time, the Mavericks were never headed, led by Doncic – the All-Star posting 27 points, six rebounds and seven assists.

Doncic won special praise from Harden post-game, who said: "He never lets anyone speed him up, and he gets what he wants. We all know he has a very, very bright future. The Mavs got a special one."

The result leaves the Nets 22-13 in the Eastern Conference, while the Mavericks remain in playoffs contention with a 16-16 record in the west.

 

Sixers suffer rare home defeat, no stopping Jazz

Joel Embiid erupted for 42 points and 13 rebounds, but the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers were upstaged by the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-109 in overtime. It was just Philadelphia's third home defeat of the season in 17 games.

NBA leaders the Utah Jazz returned to winning ways with a 124-109 victory against the Orlando Magic. Donovan Mitchell fuelled the Jazz (27-7) with 31 points, including 25 in the second half, while Rudy Gobert contributed a double-double of 12 points and 16 rebounds. Nikola Vucevic had a game-high 34 points for the Magic in Orlando.

It was a memorable outing for Bradley Beal and head coach Scott Brooks in the Washington Wizards' 128-112 success at home to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves. Beal put up 34 points – his 20th performance of 30-plus points in 29 games played this season. Per NBA history, only Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony and Harden have managed that many 30-plus performances in the first 30 games of a season. Scott, meanwhile, celebrated his 500th win as a head coach. Wizards star Russell Westbrook (19 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists) finished with a triple-double.

Nikola Jokic (19 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists) had his eighth triple-double of the season as the Denver Nuggets crushed the Oklahoma City Thunder 126-96.

 

Curry crumbles

It was a forgettable game for Philadelphia's Seth Curry, who finished with four points in 39 minutes. Curry was just one-of-13 from the field, making one of seven from beyond the arc.

 

Ben… from beyond the arc

It is not often Ben Simmons attempts a three-pointer, let alone make one. But the 76ers All-Star hit his fourth career three on Saturday. Simmons finished with 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field, while he was 100 per cent from three-point range.

 

Saturday's results

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders will clash in a mouth-watering unification bout on May 8, promoter Eddie Hearn announced.

Canelo defended his WBC and WBA middleweight titles via a brutal TKO after just three rounds against Avni Yildirim in Miami on Saturday.

After being floored in the third round, Turkish challenger Yildirim managed to make it to the bell but his corner through in the towel before the start of the fourth at Hard Rock Stadium, where the gulf in class was evident from the outset.

Following the mismatch, a blockbuster showdown against unbeaten WBO holder and Englishman Saunders (30-0) was confirmed.

"It's Canelo against Saunders — May the 8th — venue announced shortly as he continues to move toward the undisputed championship at 168," Hearn said post-fight on DAZN.

Canelo said: "He's a very difficult fighter. He wants to unify. We want to go for it. We need to go for it.

"People talk whatever, but I'm a very mature fighter. I know how to control myself."

The 30-year-old Canelo is looking to become the first undisputed champion at super-middleweight, with IBF holder Caleb Plant next on the list if he gets past Saunders.

"It hasn't been done," Canelo said of being crowned undisputed champion "I want to make history.

"At 168, no one has done it in the world. I want to make my own history."

There was an electric crowd in attendance for the Canelo-Yildirim contest, with fan capacity capped at 15,000 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Canelo dominated and made his move in the third round – a combination of jabs sending Yildirim to the canvas, and while the latter survived the round, he did not emerge from his corner for the fourth.

"I wanted to have a great fight here," Canelo added. "I needed to knock [him] out, and that's what I did. That's what I had to do."

Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez dominated Avni Yildirim, successfully defending his super-middleweight titles via a brutal TKO after just three rounds.

Canelo put his WBC and WBA belts on the line in Miami, where the Mexican star was fighting for just the second time since November 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 30-year-old barely raised a sweat on Saturday – Yildirim's corner waving off the fight before the start of the fourth round after a combination of jabs floored the Turkish challenger in the third.

Canelo improved to 55-1-2 as he looks ahead to a unification bout against WBO holder Billy Joe Saunders on May 8.

Eyebrows were raised when Canelo opted to fight Yildirim (21-3), who last fought in February 2019, and the gulf in class was evident from the outset.

There were a couple of warning shots from Canelo in the opening round as he worked Yildirim's body in front of an electric crowd at Hard Rock Stadium.

Canelo, who stopped Callum Smith in December last year, continued to move well in the second round – light on his feet with a number of quick uppercuts setting the tone.

Yildirim was on the backfoot early in the third, sent to the canvas following a devastating one-two combo from Canelo.

Smelling blood, Canelo went in for the attack as he forced Yildirim against the ropes, but the latter managed to weather the storm as he survived the round.

But after his trainer was heard saying "I'll give you one more round or I'll stop you", Yildirim's fight came to an end before the bell could sound for the start of the fourth.

Grayson Murray and local hope Rafael Campos share a one-stroke lead after the third round at the Puerto Rico Open.

Murray produced the round of the day with a seven-under-par 65 at the PGA Tour event in Rio Grande on Saturday.

The American – searching for his first Tour victory since the 2017 Barbasol Championship – was flawless on the front nine with five birdies.

Murray finished with eight birdies in total and just one bogey to be level alongside Puerto Rican golfer Campos.

Campos used a third-round 67 to join Murray atop the leaderboard following a rain-hit day.

Australia's Cameron Percy (67) and South African Branden Grace (68) are tied for third and a stroke behind the duo heading into Sunday's final round.

The Brooklyn Nets will be without star Kyrie Irving against the Dallas Mavericks due to "right shoulder injury recovery".

Brooklyn announced the absence of Irving ahead of Saturday's NBA clash with the Mavericks.

Seven-time All-Star and 2016 NBA champion Irving underwent shoulder surgery in March last year.

Irving has been averaging 27.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game for the star-studded Nets this season.

The Nets are already without former MVP Kevin Durant through the All-Star break.

A left hamstring injury means Durant will not return until after the All-Star Game, which takes place in Atlanta on March 7.

Durant has missed the Nets' last six games, though Brooklyn are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak.

The Nets (22-12) are second behind the Philadelphia 76ers (22-11) in the Eastern Conference.

Collin Morikawa's hot putting saw him soar into a two-stroke lead following the third round of the WGC-Workday Championship.

Morikawa went on a birdie blitz, recording seven across an eight-hole stretch and eight in total to surge to the top of the leaderboard at The Concession Golf Club on Saturday.

Despite birdieing his penultimate hole, American golfer Morikawa leads the field at 15 under through 54 holes in Florida, where the star-studded World Golf Championships are taking place.

A three-time PGA Tour champion and winner of last year's U.S. PGA Championship, Morikawa leads by two shots after three for the second time on Tour – the 2019 3M Open.

Brooks Koepka and Billy Horschel (69) are Morikawa's nearest challengers heading into Sunday's final round.

Koepka carried a one-stroke advantage into the penultimate round, but the four-time major champion saw his lead evaporate following a two-under-par 70.

The American star bogeyed his opening two holes before recovering with four birdies, including a flawless back nine.

Webb Simpson (69) is 12 under, while four-time major winner Rory McIlroy catapulted himself into contention thanks to a six-under-par 66.

McIlroy improved eight positions, moving into a tie for fifth – four shots behind Morikawa – courtesy of an eagle and seven birdies, which outweighed his bogey and double bogey.

Defending champion Patrick Reed is also 11 under alongside McIlroy after his third-round 69.

Hideki Matsuyama (68) – tied for seventh at 10 under – has not recorded a three-putt through 54 holes at the tournament and he extended his tour-leading streak without a three-putt to 221 consecutive holes.

World number one and two-time champion Dustin Johnson recorded back-to-back 69s to move into a tie for 42nd – 16 strokes off the lead.

Eddie Jones and Owen Farrell refused to point the finger at referee Pascal Gauzere after clinical Wales beat England 40-24 to secure the Triple Crown.

The Red Rose's hopes of retaining the Six Nations title are all-but over after Wales scored four tries in a bonus-point victory at the Principality Stadium on Saturday.

England were made to pay for indiscipline as Wales moved two wins away from a Grand Slam in Cardiff, but the defending champions had every right to feel aggrieved by two controversial first-half tries.

Josh Adams touched down in the corner when he was picked out by a kick from Dan Biggar soon after Gauzere had called time out, having instructed captain Farrell to warn his team-mates about giving away too many penalties.

Farrell confronted Gauzere after he allowed that try to stand and both players were stunned when Liam Williams was awarded a score following a knock-on from Louis Rees-Zammit.

Jones said ahead the match that Gauzere would be under pressure to make the right decisions and the England head coach has previous with the French official, who he complained about to World Rugby in 2018.

The Australian would not say whether he would speak to the governing body again after tries from Anthony Watson and Ben Youngs, as well as 14 points for Farrell, were in vain.

Jones told BBC Sport: "It is what it is. We can't argue with the referee, the result is there in stone, we've got to accept it. Maybe they were tough calls but we weren't good enough to overcome that.

"I'm not going to make a comment on it, I accept the referee's decision. It could have been tough, but we've got to handle it. That’s the decision. It’s 40-24, let’s accept that we weren’t good enough on the day.

"We might have had some though calls. We’ve got to adapt to the game, adapt to the referee. If the referee is going to referee like that, we’ve got to deal with it."

Asked if he might make another complaint over Gauzere, he said: "That's not something to discuss today. Wales were worthy winners.

"I was pleased with how our players fought back, got ourselves back to 24-24 and probably the last play summed up our day.

"We did some lovely attacking work, get to the last pass, they intercepted and go down and score at the other end. That’s the difference of the game."

Skipper Farrell was also not prepared to blame Gauzere.

Asked about the referee's performance, he said: "That's not for us to talk about. We got our way back into it and didn't quite finish it off. There’s plenty that we can do better.

"I'd have to look back at it [the first Wales try]. I don’t know [if we could have been more alert]. There's no point in talking about it now, let everybody else talk about it. We’ll focus on what we can control. We’ll control what we can control."

Wayne Pivac shrugged off the suggestion Wales had luck on their side as they overcame England 40-24 to wrap up a Six Nations triple crown.

Wales have now beaten Ireland, Scotland and England across their opening three matches to take a five-point lead at the top of the standings, though second-placed France have a game in hand.

Saturday's victory was not without its contentious moments, however, as the calls of referee Pascal Gauzere took centre stage in the first half.

First, the French official allowed Josh Adams' opening try to stand, despite having given England little time to set themselves from a Wales penalty, with the referee having asked Owen Farrell to speak to his team.

Gauzere then made the on-field decision to award Liam Williams' try, with TMO unable to definitively prove that Louis Rees-Zammit had knocked on in the build-up.

Wales benefitted from a red card in their wins over Ireland and Scotland, but Pivac put the victory against England in Cardiff down to his team's application.

"Some people are going to say that, they'll say it's been on our side for the last three matches, but you've got to be in games to win them," Pivac told BBC Sport.

"England put a lot of pressure on us and came back, each time we hit them they came back again, so it was a hell of a game and a lot of resilience shown from our boys."

Asked if he had any sympathy for England, Pivac added: "I think when you give away that many penalties – one player giving away five penalties – I think you’re lucky not to concede a yellow card to be honest. I suppose you could argue either way."

Wales lost four of their five games in last season's Six Nations campaign, finishing fifth above winless Italy, yet now look on course for a Grand Slam.

"Time. A bit of time," was Pivac's explanation when asked how his team have turned their fortunes around.

"We've picked a squad to get results in this tournament and we had a good look at some players in the last tournament that we've well and truly documented, but certainly time together and I think you can see there's a good bond growing in this group.

"They enjoy winning things, as they did under Warren [Gatland]. Hopefully we can press on."

As ruthless Wales celebrated winning the Triple Crown, Eddie Jones might have been regretting saying the pressure would be on referee Pascal Gauzere in Cardiff.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac endured a difficult start to his reign after succeeding Warren Gatland, but his side are two victories from a Grand Slam after beating the defending champions 40-24.

England, on the other hand, saw the Six Nations title all-but slip through their fingers as they were left to rue poor discipline and two controversial first-half tries for Wales.

Red Rose boss Jones has previous with Gauzere and spoke to World Rugby about an incident involving the French official during Wales' win over Scotland in 2018.

The Australian was his usually outspoken self ahead of Saturday's clash at the Principality Stadium.

He said: "Unfortunately, there are no fans but the intensity of the clash I think over the last four or five years, the games I have been involved in, the points difference is six points. They always go down to the wire, so the pressure is going to be on the referee to make the right decisions."

So when Gauzere twice took centre stage in the first half by awarding tries for Josh Adams and Liam Williams, Jones may have been thinking he had made the wrong decision by putting the spotlight on the referee.

Jones should also be pointing the finger at his players, who he said had become more "street-smart" than they were when losing to Wales at the same stadium two years ago.

They were their own worst enemies, conceding 14 penalties as they lost for the second time in three matches, but Gauzere left them up against it and resurgent Wales took full advantage.

Owen Farrell has come in for criticism for having too much to say to referees, but he was understandably aggrieved when Adams was awarded an opening try 16 minutes in.

Gauzere had called time out after instructing the skipper to warn his team-mates about their indiscipline, only to give Dan Biggar the green light to pick out Adams with a pinpoint cross-field kick soon after with the majority of Red Rose caught out in a huddle.

Farrell exchanged words with Gauzere before reducing the deficit to 10-6 with his second penalty, yet the French official took centre stage once again when he raised his arm to signal a try for Williams with half an hour on the clock.

Louis Rees-Zammit was shaking his head in frustration after knocking the ball forward prior to Williams dotting down, but Gauzere opted against changing his decision after consulting the TMO as the ball struck the wing's leg prior to hitting the ground after he knocked it forward.

Rees-Zammit raised eyebrows over the verdict and England responded with a well-finished try from Anthony Watson before Farrell made it 17-14 just before the break.

Kieran Hardy caught England napping early in the second half with a sharp turn of foot to score a third Wales try but Farrell made it a seven-point game when he was on target with the boot again.

England were showing the sort of inventive play they were so badly lacking in the defeat to Scotland and the quick-thinking Ben Youngs nipped in for a superb try, which Farrell converted to level at 24-24 with 17 minutes to go.

The Red Rose continued to give away far too many penalties, though, and Callum Sheedy punished them on three occasion to put Pivac's men 33-24 up with six minutes remaining.

Cory Hill put the icing on the cake as it was Wales who proved to be more "street-smart”, with Pivac celebrating gleefully as his side took a big stride on the road towards another title.

England fell foul of some contentious refereeing decisions and indiscipline as Wales clinched a Six Nations triple crown with a 40-24 bonus-point win in Cardiff.

Eddie Jones' team felt hard done by in the first half with referee Pascal Gauzere at the centre of the discussion, allowing questionable tries from Josh Adams and Liam Williams to stand.

Anthony Watson's try handed England some momentum heading into the second half, though Kieran Hardy's effort seemed to have put Wales back in control.

Owen Farrell moved onto 1000 points in international rugby either side of Ben Youngs' score to level proceedings, yet a trio of composed penalties from Callum Sheedy and a late Cory Hill try settled a topsy-turvy contest.

Biggar kicked Wales ahead in the fifth minute, though Williams just denied Mario Itoje an opening try after a charge down at the other end.

Farrell restored parity after Ben Youngs' break resulted in an England penalty, but the visiting captain was soon left seething with referee Gauzere soon after.

England were given little time to set from a penalty restart, and Biggar's kick found Adams, who raced over in the corner.

Farrell channelled his frustration as he slotted a long-range penalty between the posts, though another contentious call then went against the Red Rose as Williams went over.

Louis Rees-Zammit's fumble in the build-up was adjudged to have gone backwards, and Biggar's conversion clipped the post on its way through.

England hit back when Watson forced himself through a crowd of defenders, and though Farrell missed the kick, he atoned with a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Hardy cruised through a gap to restore Wales' cushion, though Farrell's penalty pulled England to within seven points – the skipper then reached his milestone 1000 international points by converting Youngs' try.

But with the scores level, defensive errors cost England, and in the space of eight minutes, Sheedy had struck nine points.

It set the stage for Hill to add further gloss as he bundled over under the sticks to send Wales to the top of the standings in style.

Wales looking good in Wayne's world

It was a tough 2020 for Wayne Pivac, but the New Zealander now has his team playing with real confidence and belief.

England might point to the refereeing decisions going against them, but their own errors in the final stages ultimately proved decisive and Wales took full advantage. They now top the standings by two points, with France not playing this weekend due to a COVID-19 outbreak in their camp, and having wrapped up a triple crown, look well on course for a Grand Slam.

Farrell's landmark proves fruitless

It is now 1000 points from 91 caps for England captain Farrell, who appeared to be leading his side back into the contest until those costly defensive slip ups.

Farrell is just the second man to reach that tally for England after World Cup 2003 hero Jonny Wilkinson (1179).

What's next?

England face another huge test in the form of France in round four, while Wales travel to Rome to face lowly Italy.

David Goffin moved a step closer to ending his ATP Tour title drought by seeing off the challenge of Egor Gerasimov at the Open Sud de France. 

Having previously lost in two semi-final appearances at the tournament in Montpellier, Goffin made it third time lucky as he came out on top in a deciding set against his opponent from Belarus. 

The second seed claimed the crucial break in the seventh game, then quickly consolidated his lead with an impressive hold. Gerasimov forced him to serve out for the win and Goffin duly delivered under pressure, clinching on his second match point. 

The world number 15 – who won two of his four career titles in 2017, but none since - will next face Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated Peter Gojowczyk 7-5 6-1 after just one hour and 16 minutes on court.

At the Singapore Tennis Open, Alexei Popyrin caused an upset as he defeated Marin Cilic via a pair of tie-breaks in a hard-fought semi-final. 

Popyrin prevailed 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-2) to knock out Cilic, who had survived two match points before eventually beating Kwon Soon-woo in the previous round. 

Alexander Bublik is also through to the final, guaranteeing a first-time winner on the ATP Tour at the tournament. 

Bublik made the final of the Antalya Open earlier this year but had to retire due to an ankle injury. He will hope for better fortunes on Sunday, securing another opportunity for a maiden title after battling back from a set down to see off Radu Albot. 

Johnny Sexton says Ireland are "on a journey" and praised the team's character to bounce back from consecutive Six Nations defeats to hammer Italy in Rome.

Andy Farrell's side had started the tournament with defeats to Wales and France, the first by five points and the second by only two.

Ireland outclassed a poor Italy side on Saturday, though, with the Azzurri now having lost 30 straight Six Nations matches following the 48-10 reverse – the longest losing streak in the competition's history. 

The visitors ran in six tries while Sexton, returning to the side from a head injury, was eight from eight from the tee. That represents the most by any Ireland player while maintaining a 100 per cent success rate from the tee since Paddy Jackson kicked nine of nine against Italy in 2017.

With games against Scotland and England to come, Sexton is keen to ensure Ireland build on a promising display.

"We need to keep our performance levels like that against two very good sides," Sexton told ITV Sport after his 50th Six Nations appearance.

"Scotland have been very impressive in the first two rounds and if not for a red card would have been top of the table, probably. 

"This group is on a journey together, we're a year into it and we'd have liked to have had that performance earlier. 

"It's not for the want of trying, it's just little mix-ups along the way. Thankfully we put them right.

"We played very well, all of our forwards did – they've been very impressive over the first two rounds. 

"We've felt as a team that us backs have let them down at times. We improved on a lot of those areas today and thankfully got the victory we were desperate for. 

"We spoke about how close we were in the first two – both very different games but just very proud of the boys, the way we bounced back, it's a real sign of character when things have been going the way they have in the last few weeks, just to stick together and to show the work we've been doing behind the scenes."

Ireland have now won 21 of their 22 games against Italy in the Six Nations, while the 38-point margin of victory was their biggest in any Test match since beating the same opposition 63-10 in February 2017.

Ireland kick-started their Six Nations campaign as they beat Italy for an eighth successive time in the competition, claiming a 48-10 bonus-point victory in Rome.

Having gone down to Wales and France in their opening matches – the first time Ireland had lost their first two games of a Six Nations campaign – Andy Farrell's men got their first win of the 2021 campaign on Saturday.

The returning Johnny Sexton was typically influential, on point with his kicking and integral to slick attacks as Ireland made it 21 wins from their last 22 Six Nations meetings with Italy.

Garry Ringrose, Hugo Keenan and Will Connors propelled Ireland to a 27-point haul in the first half, Ireland's best first-half total in a Test since February 2018, with CJ Stander and Keith Earls also getting in on the act to seal a routine triumph.

Welcomed back into Ireland's line-up after missing the defeat to France due to a head injury, Sexton marked his 50th Six Nations appearance with a simple three-pointer five minutes in, moments after Paolo Garbisi nosed Italy ahead.

Sexton was adding two more points to his tally five minutes later, with Ringrose having picked a gap in Italy's defence to score the game's first try.

Another Sexton penalty edged Ireland further in front and despite some spirited Italy attacking, the visitors struck again as Ringrose turned provider for Keenan.

Ireland had a third try before half-time, Sexton combining with Jordan Larmour to feed Connors in the corner, though Italy managed to strike back through Johan Meyer.

Yet Italy's work was undone by sloppy defending immediately after the restart – Stander bundling his way over.

Italy's issues were compounded before the hour, substitute Giosue Zilocchi sent to the bin for an attempted ball steal.

Ireland appeared to have made their advantage count when Stander found the line again, only for the try to be disallowed for a knock-on.

Luca Bigi's booking handed Ireland a further boost, though, and Connors hauled himself over from a maul before Earls piled further misery on sorry Italy.

 

Perfect comeback for Sexton

Since his Six Nations debut, Sexton has missed just seven of a possible 57 matches in the championship, including Ireland's defeat to Italy in 2013.

Sexton successfully converted all eight of his kicks on Saturday, tallying up 18 points in total to give him a pristine record. The pace of the game was ideal for the 35-year-old, who also made eight tackles and 20 passes – the last of which played in Earls late on.

More misery for whipping boys Italy

Italy's losing run in the Six Nations now sits at 30 games, the longest of any side in the competition's history. Their last win at home was back in 2013, against Ireland (22-15).

They have now conceded a try-scoring bonus point in 18 of their 22 matches since such add-ons were introduced to the Six Nations in 2017.

What's next?

Italy welcome Wales to the Stadio Olimpico on March 13, with Ireland facing Scotland in Edinburgh a day later.

If Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez fails to defend his WBA and WBC super-middleweight titles against Avni Yildirim, it would amount to an upset of Tyson-Douglas proportions and probably beyond. 

The unheralded Yildirim is the WBC's mandatory challenger despite dropping a technical decision to Anthony Dirrell in his last bout two years ago. 

On his previous venture up to world level in 2017, the 29-year-old was demolished inside three rounds by Chris Eubank Jr. 

Nevertheless, becoming the undisputed champion at 168lbs is the dream for Canelo and, if WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders and IBF ruler Caleb Plant are to be brought to heel by the end of 2021, Yildirim must first be dispatched. 

Remarkably, Canelo would be the first fighter from Mexico to hold all four major belts in a division and this quest for legacy is one he shares with Eddy Reynoso, the trainer who has been by his side throughout a sparkling career. 

The relative lack of jeopardy in the fight means this week in Miami has served as something of a victory lap for Reynoso, the quiet sideman who might already have settled the argument for trainer of the year at this early stage. 

Reynoso, 44, has built a stable that is the envy of many in the sport – a story that can be traced back to the moment a youngster walked into his gym in Guadalajara and changed both their lives.

Fighting families ruling the world

Reynoso enjoyed a brief amateur career but decided against mixing it in the pros, having already been bitten by the training bug. 

He began working alongside his father Chepo when an alliance with another fighting family would prove life-changing. 

A young Canelo came down to the gym with one of his boxing brothers, Rigoberto. He and Reynoso instantly hit it off. 

"We are like family. Working with Eddy and Chepo has been a great experience," the boxer told Ring Magazine in 2016. "They've taught me discipline, hard work, respect and loyalty." 

That loyalty came through its defining test in the aftermath of Canelo finding himself on the receiving end of a Floyd Mayweather masterclass in 2013. 

The temptation might have been to ditch his little-known cornerman after being outclassed by Mayweather and seek out one of the sport's bigger names. For Canelo it was not even a consideration. 

In 13 fights since that sole career defeat, the 30-year-old has won titles at light-middleweight, middleweight, super-middleweight and light-heavyweight, counting Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Daniel Jacobs and Callum Smith among his victims. 

There was also the small matter of a pair of blockbusters against middleweight king Gennadiy Golovkin. The first of two instant classics was called a draw, with Canelo edging the second on the scorecards. 

A formidable blend of blistering body shots, slick combinations, miserly defence and impeccable head movement and counter-punching placed Canelo at the top of the boxing world, also making Reynoso a man in demand. 

Grooming Garcia for greatness

Despite racing to a record of 16-0 at only 20 years of age, Ryan Garcia decided he needed a change after an unconvincing win over Carlos Morales. 

Already identified as a future star of the sport by promoter Oscar de la Hoya and a huge hit with the Instagram crowd, Garcia needed a little substance to go with the obvious style. 

"I've had a few meetings with Ryan, and he comes off as very disciplined, very happy and dedicated," said Reynoso after his appointment to head up Team Garcia. 

"But he's a fighter who needs to work on how to go forward, how to go backward, his defence and counterpunching. He has some boxing bad habits we need to take away." 

Not much to go at then? 

Four victories followed in quick time, with Garcia's dynamite left hook – already something of a Reynoso stable trademark – flattening each of Romero Duno and Francisco Fonseca within a round. 

That set up an intriguing crossroads showdown with London 2012 gold medal winner and two-time world title challenger Luke Campbell on January 2. 

When the Briton caught Garcia flush on the jaw and decked him in round two, sceptics were ready to unload on a hype job and an Instagram fighter. 

Such verdicts had to be torn up, however, as the youngster raged against adversity to stop Campbell with a brutal body shot in the seventh.

It was a highlight reel knockout of technical precision as Garcia feinted his favourite shot upstairs before turning the left hook into Campbell's ribs. It was a stoppage that an elated Canelo was seen mimicking during dressing room celebrations afterwards. 

Operating in the white-hot lightweight division, 'King Ry' is riding the crest of a wave, with Gervonta Davis, Devin Haney and maybe even Teofimo Lopez in his sights.

Adding value to Valdez

Six months prior to Garcia's move, undefeated featherweight champion Oscar Valdez claimed a March 2018 victory that was also not altogether satisfactory, although in far more painful circumstances. 

A brutal battle with Scott Quigg, who failed to make weight, saw Valdez keep his WBO belt at the cost of a badly broken jaw. For his trouble, former super-bantamweight champ Quigg was bloodied by eye damage and a broken nose. 

There are only so many wars a fighter can realistically subject themselves to over the course of a career and, once on the mend, Valdez also decided to turn to Reynoso. 

A couple of low-key defences followed before he vacated the WBO belt and faced up to claims he was ducking rising star Shakur Stevenson. 

Valdez, 30, had seen his star dwindle to such an extent that he was an almost a 4-1 betting underdog last weekend when he faced WBC champion and compatriot Miguel Berchelt in Las Vegas. 

Oscar had a different screenplay in mind as he dropped Berchelt in both the fourth and ninth rounds, eventually closing the show with an explosive KO in the 10th. Of course, it was the left hook. 

"There's nothing better in life than proving people wrong," Valdez said. "I have a list of people who doubted me. My idols doubted me. Boxing analysts doubted me. 

"They said Berchelt was going to knock me out. I have a message to everybody: Don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do." 

Heavyweights on notice

Another man seeking to prove the doubters wrong with Reynoso's esteemed help is former unified heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. 

Ruiz has not fought since arriving in Saudi Arabia rotund and rudderless for his rematch against Anthony Joshua, who racked up a landslide December 2019 points win over the man who had left him dazed and confused in New York six months earlier. 

The eyes of the boxing world are on whether Joshua and Tyson Fury will meet in their anticipated undisputed clash this year, leaving Ruiz to plot a path back to the top away from the limelight. 

"He's lost about 20 pounds and he also has more muscle," Reynoso told Behind the Gloves this week. "He's not as fat as he was before. He can move his hips a lot better and that helps him move around in the ring. 

"I'd love to see him fight Joshua again. With good training I think he could beat him. He's already beaten him. It just takes a little bit of discipline and a good training camp." 

Proving the doubters wrong using the guidance of one of the sharpest minds in the sport today? Canelo, Garcia and Valdez can tell Ruiz plenty about that in the gym, all while under the watchful eye of Reynoso. 

Mackenzie Hansen crossed for a hat-trick as the Brumbies ran in nine tries to thrash the Waratahs 61-10 in a lopsided Super Rugby AU clash at GIO Stadium in Canberra. 

The hosts made it 17 wins in 18 games at home, scoring 35 points without reply in the second half of proceedings. 

Waratahs actually opened the scoring through a Will Harrison penalty, yet Rob Valetini, Hansen, Noah Lolesio and Connal McInerney all grabbed tries to make it 26-10 to the hosts at the interval. 

Harry Johnson-Holmes had gone over for a score after 30 minutes that Harrison also converted, yet the overwhelmed Waratahs were ripped apart after the break. 

Wing Hansen crossed again in the 56th minute before completing his treble with nine minutes remaining. There were also tries for Nic White, Lachlan Lonergan and Tom Banks, while Lolesio kicked five conversions to give the fly-half a personal haul of 15 points. 

Replacement Ryan Lonergan took over kicking duties to land three conversion attempts following his introduction, helping the Brumbies claim their biggest ever win over their domestic rivals. It is also their biggest margin of victory in a Super Rugby fixture over a fellow Australian team.

Iga Swiatek produced the game that took her to grand slam glory as the French Open champion crushed Belinda Bencic in the Adelaide International final. 

A 6-2 6-2 victory for Swiatek was the perfect way for the Polish 19-year-old to complete a successful week in which she did not drop a set in five matches, losing only 22 games. 

Swiatek achieved her shock Roland Garros triumph in the same way, sweeping through the Paris draw untroubled with a string of straight-sets wins. 

She appears set to climb into the world's top 10 before long, with this week's work enough for her to jump three places to number 15 in the WTA rankings. 

Leading the winners count 22-9 reflected Swiatek's dominance of a match that she closed out in one hour and six minutes. 

Swiatek reached the Australian Open fourth round earlier in February, with her run in Melbourne halted when Simona Halep avenged her French Open defeat to the teenager. 

After sinking Bencic's Adelaide title hopes, Swiatek expressed gratitude to tournament organisers and the Australian government for allowing tennis stars into the country, which has imposed tight restrictions on travel during the pandemic. 

Swiatek said in an on-court speech: "I want to thank everybody who made this whole swing possible. 

"It's been amazing playing here in Australia and I love to play here. Also, the government, thank you for letting us play and thank you for the opportunity."

LeBron James has vowed never to "just stick to sports" after footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he did not support the NBA star getting involved with politics. 

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James has been a powerful voice against racism and police brutality, among a host of social issues, in the United States. 

James is a friend of former United States president Barack Obama and his own foundation supports a school that is aimed at helping disadvantaged children. 

Milan striker Ibrahimovic told Discovery+ Sport in Sweden: "He's phenomenal what he's doing, but I don't like when people, when they have some kind of status and they do politics at the same time as what they're doing. 

"Do what you’re good at, do the category you do. I play football because I'm the best in playing football, I don't do politics. 

"If I would be a political politician, I would do politics. That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they come in a certain status. 

"Stay out of it, just do what you're best at, because it doesn't look good." 

That outburst was shot down by NBA star James, who said it was important to use his platform to shine a light on inequalities and injustice. 

"At the end of the day, I would never shut up about things," James said. 

"That's wrong. I appreciate about my people and I appreciate about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voting, voter suppression, things that go in our community, because I was a part of my community at one point and seeing things what's going on. 

"I see what's going on still because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that's going through the same thing and they need a voice and I'm their voice. 

"I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that may be going on, not only in my community but around this country and around the world. There's no way I will ever just stick to sports because I understand this platform and how powerful my voice is." 

James pointed to the time when Ibrahimovic complained of being racially discriminated against in his native Sweden three years ago, because he did not have a traditionally Swedish name.

At the time, Ibrahimovic spoke of "undercover racism" in the Swedish media.

James, therefore, expressed surprise at why Ibrahimovic would make his latest claims.

"I speak from a very educated mind," James said, "so I'm kind of the wrong guy to actually go at, because I do my homework."

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