Ben Simmons said he does not care who the Philadelphia 76ers meet in the opening round of the NBA playoffs after clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The 76ers claimed the best record in the east for the first time since 2000-01 thanks to Friday's 122-97 rout of the lowly Orlando Magic.

Seth Curry posted 20 points, while Joel Embiid had 13 points and 11 rebounds as the 76ers earned home-court advantage for the playoffs.

The 76ers will begin their quest for a first NBA championship since 1983 on May 22, starting against the eighth seed from the play-in tournament.

But All-Star Simmons, who put up 13 points, nine assists and four rebounds, said: "I don't care who we play.

"That's the point of being the number one seed, you feel like you can beat anybody.

"If we were scared, we shouldn't be in this position.

"We want to get ready for the playoffs. We put ourselves in a good position, but we want to win a championship."

The last time the 76ers topped the Eastern Conference ahead of the postseason, Philadelphia – led by MVP Allen Iverson – went on to reach the NBA Finals, though they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 4-1.

Philadelphia have not advanced to the NBA Finals since, with the 76ers failing to make it beyond the conference semi-finals in 2003, 2012, 2018 and 2019, while they were swept in the first round by the Boston Celtics last season.

MVP hopeful Embiid insisted: "I'm happy about what we accomplished, but we have a long way to go. Now's the time to lock in and go get the whole thing."

"Home-court advantage helps a lot," Embiid said. "We've been dominant at home; we barely lose here. It means a lot to have the number one seed."

Embiid – who has flourished under head coach Doc Rivers, who replaced Brett Brown at the start of the season – added: "We did it as a group, felt like everybody contributed. Great coaching staff, great front office, the group we've had this year has been exceptional.

"As good as we were in the regular season, I think we're going to be even better in the playoffs."

Former MLB star Alex Rodriguez is poised to join the ownership ranks, though not in the sport that made him famous as he prepares to take over NBA franchise the Minnesota Timberwolves.

MLB great Rodriguez and former Walmart executive Marc Lore have reached an agreement to buy the Timberwolves from long-time owner Glen Taylor pending league approval, the team said on Friday. 

Multiple news outlets reported the pair will pay $1.5billion for the Timberwolves, the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, the G League's Iowa Wolves and the eSports franchise T-Wolves Gaming. 

The 80-year-old Taylor bought the Timberwolves in 1994 for $88million. 

Rodriguez and Lore entered into a 30-day exclusive negotiating window with Taylor on April 10, but it took a few additional days after that window closed to finalise the deal. 

When word that Rodriguez could purchase the team broke last month, the Timberwolves' top young player, Anthony Edwards, made headlines by saying he had no idea who the 14-time MLB All-Star and World Series champion was. 

By now, Edwards – number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft – is well aware of Rodriguez and his background. 

Rodriguez – a three-time American League (AL) MVP – hit .295 with 696 home runs across a 22-year career with the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees before retiring in 2016. 

But the latter stages of his career were dogged by rumours of performance-enhancing drug use, and he was suspended for the entire 2014 season after violating MLB's drug policy. 

He has since served as a television analyst for ESPN and Fox Sports but reportedly had been looking to buy a team in recent years. 

Rodriguez, Lore and Rodriguez's then-fiancee –actress and singer Jennifer Lopez – put in a bid for the New York Mets last year but lost out to Steve Cohen. 

 

 

Shohei Ohtani's next start for the Los Angeles Angels has been pushed back due to fatigue, according to manager Joe Maddon.

Ohtani was scheduled to start on the mound against the Cleveland Indians in MLB action on Tuesday but those plans have changed.

Maddon said the Angels are being cautious with the two-way star, who remained in the line-up as a designated hitter against the Boston Red Sox on Friday.

"We're going to move him back, but we don't know to when," Maddon said prior Friday's clash with the Red Sox.

"But there's no blisters. Nothing. Just being proactive. It's in his best interest, too.

"To me, the day after he pitched the other day, he looked a little bit fatigued at the plate. It set off a little bit of an alarm for me."

Japanese sensation Ohtani has been red-hot for the Angels this season.

On the mound, Ohtani boasts a 2.10 ERA through five starts, with 40 strikeouts while allowing just 11 hits, six earned runs and two homers after giving up just one run across seven innings against the Houston Astros on Tuesday.

Ohtani, meanwhile, has 11 home runs as a hitter this season, plus 37 hits, 27 runs and 27 RBI. He boasts a .266 batting average, .311 OBP, .604 SLG and .915 OPS.

Maddon added: "We're just giving him time to recover. I'm just concerned about when he's going so well offensively and maybe if he's a little fatigued, he'll want to keep going back out there again.

"If you're feeling good, you might wanna fight that fatigue. But I think the conversations, as we get deeper into the season, will be a little bit more involved.

"I expected that from the beginning and we're not there yet, but you want to avoid any fatigue that can compromise him in any way."

Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving are set to play together against the Chicago Bulls, according to Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash.

The Nets built a 'Big Three' in 2020-21 after Harden arrived from the Houston Rockets in a blockbuster trade in January, but the trio have only played seven games together this season.

Injuries have hampered the star-studded Nets, with former MVP Harden only returning from a hamstring strain on Wednesday following an 18-game absence.

Not since February have Durant, Harden and Irving shared the court together but that is expected to change on Saturday.

"If everything stays the same," Nash told reporters following Friday's practice, with Brooklyn (46-24) preparing for the final two regular-season games of the season ahead of the playoffs. "Those three will play tomorrow."

Durant, Harden and Irving won five of the seven games they played together between January 20 and February 13.

The Nets – looking to lock up the second seed in the Eastern Conference in pursuit of a maiden NBA championship – have outscored their opponents by 39 points in the trio's 186 minutes together.

"I just expect them to play hard, play together, and experience some moments together on the floor," said Nash. "It's been few and far between.

"I don't necessarily have any expectations other than it gives us an opportunity to jell and play together and feel what it's like to be out there again."

Durant is averaging 27.5 points – his highest number since 2015-16 – 7.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game this season, while he boasts career highs in field-goal percentage (54.2) and three-point percentage (45.9).

Harden is averaging 25.1 points, 10.9 assists and a career-high 8.0 rebounds, while Irving has been averaging 27.2 points, 6.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 2020-21.

Nets team-mate Jeff Green added: "I'm just happy they are on the floor. We're getting to finally try to create a rhythm with all guys healthy. We'll see what happens from there.

"We have a long week to prepare for whomever we play. For those guys, it will be good. For us, it will be good to get a look and see where we are at when everybody is healthy."

The Green Bay Packers continue to make it clear they want star Aaron Rodgers to remain as their quarterback, despite reports the reigning NFL MVP is unhappy. 

Rumours have swirled around Rodgers since reports on the first day of the NFL Draft claimed the QB wanted out of Green Bay after 16 seasons with the Packers.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has already said the team would not trade Rodgers and president and chief executive Mark Murphy reiterated Green Bay's commitment to Rodgers.

Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur echoed those sentiments as the Packers opened their rookie mini-camp on Friday.

"I've got nothing new to update, and we still obviously feel the same way," LaFleur said of Rodgers' future.

"We want him back in the worst way. I know he knows that, and we'll continue to work at it each and every day."

Last season, Rodgers amassed 48 touchdowns, five interceptions and a completion rate of 70.7 per cent for the Packers – who lost to eventual Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game.

Rodgers' quarterback rating of 121.5 puts him second on the all-time list among qualifiers, behind only his 2011 campaign (122.5).

In total, Rodgers completed 372 of 526 attempts for 4,299 yards as the Packers topped the NFC North with a 13-3 record to clinch home-field advantage and the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Rodgers is level with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown with three MVP honours – only Peyton Manning (five) has more in NFL history.

The Packers begin organised team activities on May 24 and Rodgers is not expected to be present, pending a resolution in the meantime. 

That leaves LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to work with the quarterbacks on hand: Rodgers' heir apparent Jordan Love and new signing Blake Bortles. 

Bortles, who signed with the team on Thursday, previously worked with Hackett on the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2015-18. 

"This is a guy that's started a lot of games and had a lot of success -- shoot, he led his team to the AFC Championship Game [in 2017], and they were close to knocking off the Patriots in New England," LaFleur said.

"He's got a lot of experience, and that's something you can never take for granted."

Love was the Packers' first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft but did not play last season. 

LaFleur deflected a question about whether he would use the off-season to prepare Love for a starting role in case Rodgers does not return, saying he expects every player on the team to have that mind-set.

The Packers will open their season at the New Orleans Saints on September 12.

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said "there's a chance" superstar LeBron James will return to face the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

James returned from a six-week absence due to a right ankle sprain only to re-aggravate the injury after just two appearances for injury-hit NBA champions the Lakers.

There had been hopes that James would make his comeback against the New York Knicks on Tuesday or the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, but the four-time MVP missed both games.

The Lakers – who are seventh in the Western Conference and currently occupy a play-in position ahead of the playoffs – only have two regular-season matchups remaining and James is listed as questionable for the clash with the Pacers.

"We want to see how he feels in response to today's work, like always," Vogel told reporters on Friday. "But there's a chance that he plays if things go well."

James has been averaging 25.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game for the Lakers this season.

Through 43 games in 2020-21, James boasts a field-goal percentage of 51.3 – his best since 2017-18 and it is the same story regarding his three-point percentage of 36.6, which is his highest since that season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"Anytime you've had guys that have been out for extended absences and they're returning to play, it's always going to be a little bit imperfect," Vogel said.

"So the more minutes you can get those guys, the better off it's going to be for us, in terms of the readjustment period. So if we're able to do that, that would be great."

The Lakers could also be boosted by the return of fellow star Anthony Davis for the Pacers showdown.

Davis, who did not practice on Friday, sat out the 124-122 win over the lowly Rockets midweek due to groin tightness.

"I feel fine. I feel great," Davis said. "Went through some things during practice, not everything, but got some work going on, got some work in on the side. So felt great, felt great today."

Eddie Pepperell holed a long-range birdie at the last hole to take a one-shot lead into Saturday's final round of the British Masters at The Belfry.

The 30-year-old was a shot back from overnight leaders Calum Hill, Robert MacIntyre and Richard Bland at the start of play on Friday, but a second successive 68 moved him into the lead.

Pepperell, who won the tournament in 2018, finished strongly with three birdies in his last seven holes - including an impressive 40-foot putt on the 18th.

That moved the world number 210 to 10 under for the tournament, with six players - including erstwhile leaders Hill and MacIntyre - in a tie for second.

Edoardo Molinari, Adrian Meronk, Dean Burmester and Guido Migliozzi were all also a stroke off the pace in a congested pack that saw the leading 26 players separated by five shots at the 54-hole stage.

"I remember the game feeling easier when I was playing better a few years ago. That's what I'm trying to get back to," Pepperell told Sky Sports.

"There were times out there today I didn't get it and times when I did - that seems to be the way it is.

"I've still got things going on in the swing that I can feel aren't where they once were and can cause me aggro, so the game still feels difficult."

Pre-tournament favourite MacIntyre dropped his only shot of the day on the par-four 10th hole as he failed to recover from a wayward tee shot.

"The way I play golf is aggressive and the course suits me perfectly," MacIntyre said. "When I'm in the fairway, a right-hand side pin is in danger, I just can't leave it alone.

"I didn't drive it my best today but I hit my irons beautifully - they were all over the pin but the putter was cold. It was on fire the day before so hopefully it turns up tomorrow."

Three birdies in his last four holes ensured that MacIntyre's fellow Scotsman Hill also remained firmly in the mix, while Molinari revived his own hopes by posting a 64, the lowest score of the day.

Novak Djokovic's Internazionali BNL d'Italia quarter-final with Stefanos Tsitsipas was halted by persistent rain on Friday with the world number one a set and a game down.

Reigning champion Djokovic, who is seeking a sixth triumph in Rome, struggled to get going against Tsitsipas and trails 6-4 2-1 ahead of the scheduled resumption of play on Saturday.

The top seed lost serve in the first game and continued to make some uncharacteristic errors that saw him trail 4-1 at one point.

While Djokovic did earn a first break in the sixth game, Tsitsipas stood firm to take the opening set and was in total control when again breaking his opponent early in the next set.

However, soon after the Greek had opened up a 2-1 advantage, the worsening conditions led to a pause in proceedings and organisers were eventually forced to bring the day's play to an end.

Djokovic, who converted just one of his six break point opportunities, will return to the court on Saturday and will need to improve if he is to join Rafael Nadal in the final four.

Nadal exacted some revenge on Alexander Zverev earlier on Friday to reach the semi-finals for a 12th time.

The Spaniard lost to Zverev at the same stage of the Madrid Open seven days ago but responded to questions over his form by easing through this latest encounter.

Nadal, who saved two match points before beating Denis Shapovalov on Thursday, raced 4-0 ahead in the first set against Zverev and had little trouble seeing the job through.

Aiming for a record-extending 10th title in the Italian capital, Nadal saved all eight break points he faced in the second set to advance 6-3 6-4 in two hours.

"I played more solid than Madrid. Conditions are different," he said in his post-match interview. "Here the conditions are a little more normal. I was able to control a little bit more."

"I'm happy. I played a very solid match with not many mistakes, playing the way that I have to. It's an important victory for me against a great player."

Nadal will face Reilly Opelka for a place in the final, the American beating qualifier Federico Delbonis 7-5 7-6 (7-2) to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.

Opelka entered the tournament on a six-game losing streak, but he kept his good run going in Rome by earning the only break of the opening set in the 12th game.

Both players held throughout the second set and it was big-serving Opelka who prevailed 7-2 in the tie-break.

The day's other quarter-final between Lorenzo Sonego and Andrey Rublev also fell victim to the bad weather and will get under way on Saturday.

There is much hope that the development of Jamaica’s junior gymnastics will spring to another level with the inaugural Mayberry Gymnastics Strength & Skill Testing Series.

More than 100 youngsters, aged five years and older, are participating in the first event in the series, which is scheduled to begin today (Friday, May 14) at 5:00 p.m. and run through to Sunday, May 16, at the National Gymnastics Training Centre, at 1 Slipe Road in Kingston.

The series will take place quarterly for the next four years, courtesy of a joint effort by Mayberry Investments, which have invested one million dollars, the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and the National Gymnastics Federation of Jamaica.

“This event is the first in a series to aid in the national junior development process and will continuously test the readiness of our athletes, as part of a four-year cycle, for the Olympic programme. In other words, this series is critical to the success and growth of our budding gymnasts,” remarked Gary Peart, CEO, Mayberry Investments.

“Mayberry wants to witness the honing of this sort of talent on the local stage so that we can make a big impact on the world stage. Jamaicans are known for being ‘likkle but tallawah’ and this is just another shining example that we are a force to be reckoned with.”

As the main feature, all participants in the training event will be awarded a medal.

“Mayberry is particularly happy that all the athletes involved will be awarded medals at the end of the testing series, because we believe that all efforts are valid, from the smallest to biggest,” Peart said.

Ryan Foster, Secretary General/CEO of the JOA, expressed his delight at the partnership that will bring yet another sport to the forefront of Jamaican athletics.

“The JOA is pleased to have brokered this deal under our JOA/Mayberry partnership that was established in 2019. The sport of gymnastics will be one of the sport that will be representing Jamaica at this summer’s Olympics and we are pleased with the trendsetting work done by President Grant-Brown and her team.

“The synergies between Mayberry and the Jamaica Gymnastics Federation was seamless and one built on developing the next generation of athletes. The JOA is extremely proud of one of our key partners, Mayberry, who has truly bought into our vision of building now for the future,” Foster shared. “They have demonstrated that they are good corporate citizens whose philanthropy has no bounds. We will continue to find avenues for our athletes and members to develop."

All told there will be five sessions, which includes the first that ended at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, followed by a 30-minute awards ceremony. Sessions two, three and four are slated for 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m, 12:15 p.m.-2:30 p.m. and 3:00-5:30 p.m., respectively, on Saturday; while Session five will run from 9:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Sunday. The final half-hour in each session is reserved for awards presentations. 

Former national hockey president and now President of Gymnastics Nicole Grant-Brown praised the effort of their partners and noted the impact of their support.

“Mayberry Investments is shining a light on us that is certainly helping us to have hope. Jamaica Gymnastics is in its growth stage and like any child, we need help to grow and with a good support system we can grow big and strong,” she said.

“We are happy and elated that the vision of the Jamaica Olympic Association is wide enough to recognize that gymnastics, which is seen in Jamaica as a minor sport, requires partnerships of this nature to make it major and will one day be placed in its rightful position as one of Jamaica’s most consistent Olympic sport and most participated by our youth in this country.

“Already we have made two consecutive Olympic Games, 2016 and 2021, and the sport has not yet reached its maturity stage.”

She also noted the strategies involved in carving out this series, which marks the beginning of Jamaica’s junior Olympic programme.

“The skills and strength testing is two to three times per year, which is the base for their development. This program compares to that of the United States’ USA TOPS program, which they use to draft gymnasts as young as six years old in their National Gymnastics program. If we want to be the best, we have to adopt what works from the best while developing our own strategies based on our unique culture and natural athletics abilities,” she said.

Ten-year-old gymnast, Rihanna Williams, endorsed the series, saying: “We are the future of gymnastics. We train 5-6 hours, five days per week and it’s very hard. We do this because we love gymnastics and at the end of the day, we want to make Jamaica proud.

“We hope you will not leave us but stay with us and help us grow as we will be Olympians in the future. Thank you again Mayberry Investments, we will make you proud to be part of our family.”

Ash Barty dramatically abandoned her Internazionali d'Italia quarter-final against Coco Gauff on Friday due to a right arm injury.

The world number one was leading 6-4 2-1 in Rome when, with her left thigh also heavily strapped, she pulled out of the match following talks with a trainer.

Barty's decision was precautionary as she will begin her French Open campaign in a little over two weeks' time, bidding to regain the title she won two years ago.

The scare came just hours after world number three Simona Halep announced she tore a calf muscle this week, putting the Romanian's Roland Garros prospects in some doubt.

Providing an update after the match with Gauff, which was interrupted by a rain delay, Australian Barty said: "The pain was becoming too severe so it was important to listen to my body and do the right thing knowing we have a slam."

Gauff, who had hit 12 winners to 15 unforced errors prior to her opponent's withdrawal, will now compete in her first career WTA 1000 semi-final.

Karolina Pliskova remained on course for a second Rome triumph in three years, after saving three match points to edge out Jelena Ostapenko.

The 2019 champion, who also finished runner-up last year, was 5-4 down in the final set when digging deep to hold off her 49th-ranked opponent.

The thrilling match went to a tie-break and Pliskova reeled off seven straight points after losing the opener to advance 4-6 7-5 7-6 (7-1).

"I'm just proud of how I fought," Pliskova said at her post-match news conference. "I'm happy that I stayed in there and fought until the end.

"We played last month, so I knew what was going to be happening. You can never get ready for some of the balls which she's playing."

Petra Martic stands between Pliskova and a place in the final for the third year running after the Croatian defeated Jessica Pegula 7-5 6-4.

Pegula eliminated Naomi Osaka earlier in the week but was second best against Martic, who progressed in one hour and 40 minutes.

Martic trailed 2-0 in the opening set before twice breaking Pegula to move 3-2 in front, but her opponent hit back to make it 5-5 in a tight contest.

However, Martic managed to break in the 11th game and served out the set, before showing her steeliness in the second to remain on course for a maiden WTA 1000 crown.  

Caleb Ewan sprinted to his second victory of this year's Giro d'Italia and moved into the points jersey after his stage seven triumph.

The Lotto Soudal rider beat Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-up Nation) and Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) in a sprint finish at the end of a 181km stage from Notaresco to Termoli.

Australian Ewan, who also triumphed on stage five, now has five career stage wins at the Giro and 11 victories to his name across the three grand tours.

Towards the end of a quiet stage, Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) - who ultimately finished sixth - made the first move but was unable to make it stick, with Ewan winning comfortably.

Attila Valter of Groupama-FDJ remains in the leader's pink jersey after finishing safely in the peloton. He is 11 seconds clear of Remco Evenepoel.

"It was a question of being smart and a lot of teamwork," stage winner Ewan said as he described the finish over some tight and twisty roads.

"There were a few points in the last 10km where we needed to be in the front so we didn't have to brake and we got a really good ride in. They did a really good job.

"My legs were burning at the end, it was basically sprinting for the last 450 metres with a slight uphill so it was a tough one.

"When Gavaria goes you know he has the strength and the speed to hold it. I had a bit of a run and really accelerated."
 

STAGE RESULT  

1. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) 4:42:12
2. Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-up Nation) same time
3. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) "
4. Matteo Moschetti (Trek-Segafredo) "
5. Andrea Pasqualon (Intermarche - Wanty - Gobert Materiaux) "

CLASSIFICATION STANDINGS

General Classification

1. Attila Valter (Groupama-FDJ) 26:59:18
2. Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick Step) +0.11
3. Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) +0.16

Points Classification         

1. Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) 106
2. Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) 83
3. Giacomo Nizzolo (Team Qhubeka Assos) 76

King of the Mountains

1. Gino Mader (Bahrain Victorious) 26
2. Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroen Team) 18
3. Vincenzo Albanese (Eolo-Kometa) 16

Simona Halep revealed her Rome withdrawal this week was caused by a torn calf muscle, a blow that casts doubt on her prospects of playing the French Open.

Former world number one Halep had to be helped off court by coach Darren Cahill after she was injured while leading Angelique Kerber 6-1 3-3 in the second round of the Internazionali d'Italia on Wednesday.

The two-time grand slam champion on Friday announced the extent of her injury. Her misfortune comes with just over two weeks remaining until the clay-court grand slam at Roland Garros gets under way on May 30.

Wimbledon is the next major on the calendar after the Paris slam, with the All England Club tournament scheduled to start on June 28 in London.

"After an MRI here in Rome I can confirm that I have small tear high up in the left calf," Romanian Halep posted on her social media accounts.

"I will fly home today and begin recovery in the pool and gym on Monday.

"I'm staying positive and will do everything i can to speed up my return."

Halep, now 29 years old, won her first major title in Paris three years ago and went on to be crowned Wimbledon champion in 2019.

The Turkish Grand Prix has been withdrawn from the Formula One calendar for June and replaced by a second race in Austria.

Istanbul was was added to the schedule two weeks ago as a replacement for the Canadian Grand Prix, which was called off due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

However, that June 13 event has now been dropped for the same reason, with Turkey added to the travel 'red list' for many countries.

The weekend of June 11-13 will now be left clear, while the French GP has been brought forward by a week to June 18-20.

There will then be consecutive weekends of action at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, with the Styrian GP followed by the Austrian GP.

A record 23 races therefore still remain scheduled for the 2021 season, which continues with the Monaco GP next week.

F1 president Stefano Domenicali said: "We were all looking forward to racing in Turkey but the travel restrictions in place have meant we are not able to be there in June.

"F1 has shown again that it is able to react quickly to developments and find solutions and we are delighted that we will have a double-header in Austria, meaning our season remains at 23 races.

"I want to thank the promoter and authorities in Turkey for all of their efforts in recent weeks and want to thank the promoters in France and Austria for their speed, flexibility and enthusiasm in accommodating this solution.

"We have had very good conversations with all the other promoters since the start of the year and continue to work closely with them during this period."

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton prevailed at the Spanish Grand Prix last time out and leads the drivers' standings after the first four rounds of the 2021 season.

The Hurricanes beat the Waratahs 64-48 in a 17-try thriller and the Highlanders hammered the Reds as Super Rugby Trans-Tasman got under way on Friday.

Julian Savea and Billy Proctor claimed doubles as the impressive Hurricanes scored 10 tries in a pulsating contest, which saw the two sides rack up over a century of points at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Savea opened the scoring with an early try to help his side go in at half-time with a 33-24 advantage, Proctor dotting down twice either side of scores from Jordie Barrett and Dane Coles.

Alex Newsome, Angus Bell and Jake Gordon crossed for the Australian team in the first half as defensive frailties were exploited at both ends of the pitch.

Savea finished again early in the second half in a try-fest before Brayden Iose, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Pepesana Patafilo and Asafo Aumua got in on the act, while Barrett was on target with seven of his conversion attempts.

Harry Johnson-Holmes scored two of the beaten Waratahs' four second-half tries during what was an incredible contest.

Super Rugby Trans Tasman | Waratahs v Hurricanes - Rd 1 Highlights

The @Hurricanesrugby needed 10 tries to see off the @NSWWaratahs on Friday night, as Super Rugby Trans Tasman served up a 17-try shootout in Sydney.#SuperRugbyTT #WARvHUR pic.twitter.com/LulSssUJrv

— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) May 14, 2021

The Highlanders' victory completed a double for the New Zealand franchises after the Reds were beaten 40-19 in the other fixture.

Ash Dixon scored a try in each half at Forsyth Barr Stadium following an early score from Scott Gregory. Sio Tomkinson, Liam Coltman and Ngatungane Punivai also went over.

Suliasi Vunivalu claimed a brace of tries but the new Super Rugby AU champions came back down to earth with a bump following their title triumph.

The British and Irish Lions have confirmed a revised schedule for this year's tour of South Africa.

All eight matches will be played in either Gauteng or Cape Town to reduce the risk of disruption potentially caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Warren Gatland's side start the trip with a fixture against the Lions in Johannesburg on July 3, rather than facing an SA Invitational team which would have been chosen from players across the country.

The tourists will play three games against provincial opposition in Gauteng before heading to Cape Town, where they will play another two warm-up games ahead of the first Test.

The Lions, who will be captained by Alun Wyn Jones, will then take on the Springboks twice at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg to complete the series.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has caused considerable disruption to the global sporting calendar, but after discussions with our partners at SA Rugby, we are very pleased to be able to give confirmation of the revised tour schedule," said Lions managing director Ben Calveley.

"While things will undoubtedly look different to a typical Lions tour, together with SA Rugby we are determined to deliver an uninterrupted Series for the players who will take the field, as well as the many millions of people watching at home.

"We would like to thank all Lions supporters for their patience and understanding as we continue to navigate our way through the impact of the pandemic, and also extend our enormous gratitude to our commercial partners for their incredible ongoing support."

 

British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa schedule:

July 3: Lions (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)
July 7: Sharks (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)
July 10: Bulls (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
July 14: South Africa A (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town)
July 17: Stormers (Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town)
July 21: South Africa (First Test, Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town)
July 31: South Africa (Second Test, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg)
August 7: South Africa (Third Test, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg)

New Zealand legend Owen Franks is returning to his homeland to join the Hurricanes on a two-year deal.

The two-time Rugby World Cup winner moved to England in 2019 for a spell with Northampton Saints.

Former Crusaders prop Franks is on the move again after deciding to resume his Super Rugby career.

"I'm excited to be getting back into Super Rugby next year with the Hurricanes after time in the UK," he said.

"My family and I are looking forward to a new challenge and being back in New Zealand and closer to friends and family is also important.

"I am very motivated to play at the highest level again and I am looking forward to working with the Hurricanes players and coaching teams and pushing for success in 2022 and 2023."

Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland said of Franks: "His record speaks for itself and what he has been able to achieve is a measure of his quality and professionalism.

"Owen's experience will be invaluable, not just for the younger players in our squad but our group as a whole."

Franks played 108 times for New Zealand in a stellar Test career.

The sight of Giannis Antetokounmpo flexing his muscles has become all too familiar for the Milwaukee Bucks' opponents but the two-time NBA MVP has toned down his celebrations.

Antetokounmpo produced yet another outstanding performance for the Bucks on Thursday in a 142-133 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

The Greek forward scored 40 points, with 15 rebounds and six assists as the Bucks closed in on the second-placed Brooklyn Nets (46-24), improving their record to 45-25.

He became the first player to finish with at least 40 points, 15 rebounds and shoot at higher than 75 per cent since the great Charles Barkley back in November 1988.

Antetokounmpo revealed he has had to cut back on tensing his muscles after slam dunks in order to save his energy.

When asked about turning into "superhero" after a dunk, he said: "I just feel so much adrenaline, I've got to let it out.

"But what I've felt is after I scream or flex, then I'm tired! I flex for two or three seconds, then I'm running down the court thinking damn, I shouldn't have done that. This year after a dunk I usually just walk back. I'm trying to save as much energy as I can."

Next up for the Bucks is the visit of the Miami Heat on Saturday but Antetokounmpo is not studying the schedule.

"I don't know who we play next. After the game I have to ask the guys 'what do we play next?' Miami at home, okay great, then I get ready for it." he added.

"I don't like to think we have Miami, Chicago and all that. I just take it day by day."

Corbin Burnes broke all sorts of records although it was not enough to lift the Milwaukee Brewers who lost 2-0 to the St Louis Cardinals in MLB on Thursday.

The Brewers pitcher had nine strikeouts across five innings to reach the most strikeouts before issuing a walk to start a season, going past Kenley Jansen's record of 51 from 2017. The next best was Adam Wainwright's 2013 mark of 35.

Burnes was not done there, though, also surpassing New York Yankees' pitcher Gerrit Cole's active record (56) for most consecutive strikeouts without a walk.

The right-hander reached 58 straight before his run eventually ended, walking Tommy Edman with two out in the fifth.

Cardinals pair Jake Flaherty and Alex Reyes played a pivotal role, restricting the Brewers to no runs in a crucial win for two sides who have started the 2021 season well.

St Louis scored in the first and the ninth to secure the win which moves them to 23-15.

 

Yankees woes worsen, 41-year-old Hill rises

The New York Yankees are experiencing COVID issues with the eighth case among their squad this week, despite being fully vaccinated although Gleyber Torres is the only player currently impacted.

Amid that the Yankees were given a lesson by the Tampa Bay Rays who won 9-1, after being held to only four runs in their opening two games of their series.

Veteran left-hander Rich Hill had nine strikeouts for the Rays. The 41-year-old is the oldest active player in the majors.

Austin Meadows hit his eighth home run of the season while Randy Arozarena hit a three-run homer off Michael King at the bottom of the sixth to seal an emphatic win.

The Houston Astros enjoyed a dramatic 4-3 walk-off victory over the Texas Rangers with Myles Straw crossing for the decisive run.

Chas McCormick thought he had won it for the Astros in the 10th when he dived for home base but Joey Gallo's rocket arm saw him tagged short of the plate.

But in the bottom of the 11th, with McCormick up and bases loaded, Straw swooped on an error by the catcher to get the Astros home.

The Chicago White Sox won 4-2 over the Minnesota Twins to move to 22-13 while the San Francisco Giants improved to 23-14 with a 3-1 victory at the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

Manaea's Fenway Park curse

Athletics pitcher Sean Manaea had a tough day at the office conceding seven runs in the first two innings of the Boston Red Sox's 8-1 win over Oakland. Manaea has a poor record at Fenway Park, with an ERA of 15.7, the highest at the venue since ERA became official in 1913.

 

Dozen Acuna home runs

Ronald Acuna Jr got the ball rolling and moved back to the outright lead for most home runs this season with his 12th homer in the Atlanta Braves' 8-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. The homer was Acuna Jr's 21st lead-off home-run since 2018. Sadly he went off injured later on.

 

Thursday's results

Toronto Blue Jays 8-4 Atlanta Braves
Washington Nationals 5-1 Philadelphia Phillies
Detroit Tigers 4-3 Kansas City Royals
St Louis Cardinals 2-0 Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago White Sox 4-2 Minnesota Twins
San Francisco Giants 3-1 Pittsburgh Pirates
Boston Red Sox 8-1 Oakland Athletics
Tampa Bay Rays 9-1 New York Yankees
Houston Astros 4-3 Texas Rangers
Colorado Rockies 13-8 Cincinnati Reds
Miami Marlins 5-1 Arizona Diamondbacks
Cleveland Indians 4-2 Seattle Mariners

 

Angels at Red Sox

The highly-flying Boston Red Sox (23-16) play host to Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani's under-performing Los Angeles Angels who are 16-20.

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