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The Star Online: Sports


Blues beat Highlanders 15-10 in Super 15

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 05:48 AM PDT

DUNEDIN, New Zealand (AP): Flyhalf Luke McAlister kicked five penalties to guide the Auckland Blues to a 15-10 win over the Otago Highlanders and send the Blues to the top the Super 15 championship at the start of the 11th round.

Robbie Robinson, who started at fullback and finished at flyhalf for the Highlanders, scored and converted the only try of the match and also landed a penalty to provide all of Otago's points.

McAlister landed five goals from six attempts on Friday to clinch Auckland's eighth win from 10 matches this season.

He kicked the visitors into a 9-0 lead at halftime and secured the win with two further penalties after Otago had closed to 9-7 with Robinson's try.

Although he plays at inside center for the Blues, the 27-year-old McAlister has emerged as a leading candidate in a depleted field to understudy star flyhalf Dan Carter for New Zealand at this year's World Cup.

His 75 percent kicking success rate this season has boosted his chances of a recall to the All Blacks for the first time since 2009 but he suffered a setback Friday when he limped off the field four minutes from full-time with a possible ankle injury.

McAlister's kicking gave Auckland the edge in an otherwise evenly contested against Otago. Territory was shared 50-50 in the first half, though Auckland benefited from a lopsided penalty count.

Referee Chris Pollock awarded nine first-half penalties against Otago - compared to four against Auckland - and reduced the Highlanders to 14 men twice during the match, sinbinning lock Jarrad Hoeata just before halftime and replacement Aaron Smith close to full-time.

"I think the ref tends to favor the attacking team and we just got the ball and turned it over and did a lot of defending," Highlanders captain Jamie Mackintosh said.

"A couple of sinbins doesn't help. You need to have all your men on the park to defend against a team like Auckland, who are great ball carriers."

Auckland's players dedicated the win to teammate Kurtis Haiu, who was diagnosed this week with a lesion in one of his ribs.

Haiu underwent a scan for what was thought to be a routine rib injury but was found to have a bone tumor.

"I'll tell you what, we were playing for a special man today - and Kurtis, that one's for you mate," Blues captain Keven Mealamu said.

McAlister landed penalties in the eighth, 32nd and 41st minutes to give Auckland a 9-0 lead but Otago hit back while down to 14 men with Robinson's try in the third minute of the second half.

The Highlanders had a series of penalties near Auckland's line and Robinson drove across from first receiver.

McAlister and Robinson exchanged penalties in the 47th and 49th minutes before McAlister's final penalty with 15 minutes to play completed the scoring.

Auckland 15 (Luke McAlister 5 penalties), Otago 10 (Robbie Robinson try; Robbie Robinson 1 conversion, 1 penalty). HT: 9-0.

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Westwood recovers, Rumford leads in South Korea

Posted: 29 Apr 2011 05:44 AM PDT

SEOUL, South Korea (AP): Lee Westwood bounced back from a disappointing first round to post a 4-under 68 at the Ballantine's Championship on Friday, but the world's top-ranked player remains six strokes off the lead.

Brett Rumford is out in front on 10 under after shooting a second-round 63. The Australian is three strokes clear of Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain and Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark.

In contrast to the first day, when a final-hole double bogey sent Westwood tumbling down the leaderboard at the Blackstone Golf Club at Icheon, just south of Seoul, the Englishman ended a solid round with a birdie for a total of 140.

Despite the cloudy conditions, it could have been better still as Westwood, who returned to No. 1 last weekend after winning the Indonesian Masters, collected three bogeys.

Rumford started the day 1 under but nine birdies put him ahead at the halfway stage "I struck a little bit of magic out there today and it's great to have these shots up your sleeve going into the weekend," said Rumford, who finished runner-up at the tournament in 2010. "I had seven weeks off before playing in Malaysia and China the past two weeks, so I'm happy about today."

With rain forecast for the weekend, Rumford was hoping that he can hold on to his lead. "The more shots up your sleeve the better going into the weekend - if the forecast is bad it's going to play very, very tricky," he said.

Kjeldsen carded a 66 to move to a 7-under total of 137, while Jimenez added a 67 to his first-round 70. Welshman Rhys Davies, James Morrison of England and first-round leader Damien McGrane of Ireland were a shot back on 6 under.

Three-time major winner Ernie Els is in danger of missing the cut after a second-round 73 left him at 2 over.

The $2.8 million tournament is co-sanctioned by the Asian tour, the European tour and the Korea PGA.

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