Tas line-up not based on allegiance: Abetz

Veteran Liberal Eric Abetz denies it was a case of camp Abbott versus camp Turnbull when the party’s Tasmania executive settled on a Senate line-up demoting minister Richard Colbeck.

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A weekend preselection process put the minister for tourism and international education at number five on the party ticket and means he may only have an outside chance of keeping his Senate spot if there’s a double dissolution election in July.

Senator Abetz, a backer of former prime minister Tony Abbott, is in the top spot.

He’s followed by Senate president Stephen Parry, newcomer Jonathon Duniam and chief Senate whip David Bushby, before Senator Colbeck gets the nod with north Tasmanian farmer and local government councillor John Tucker taking the final spot.

Senator Colbeck is the only Tasmanian federal MP who didn’t show public support for Mr Abbott in September when he was challenged by Malcolm Turnbull.

But Senator Abetz insists Senator Colbeck is in an “eminently winnable” position, arguing the ticket line-up represents renewal.

“If we didn’t have renewal in the team, people would be criticising us for having a stale team,” the 22-year parliamentary veteran told ABC radio on Monday.

“Now that we do have renewal in the team, people are commenting on people being pushed down the ticket.”

The senator denied there was an Abbott-Turnbull divide.

“Everybody within the Liberal team supports the Liberal party and its leader, the prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, so let there be no suggestion otherwise,” Senator Abetz said.

After Saturday’s vote by 65 party preselectors, Tasmania state president Geoff Page confirmed the Liberal Senate line-up.

Senator Colbeck, who is in China on government business, issued a brief statement acknowledging the new-look ticket.

“We now need to move to the next step of ensuring the Tasmanian community understands the commitment of the Liberal team to the strong economy, jobs, well-being and prosperity of the state,” he said.

“My objective has always been to ensure the strongest representation for Tasmania in the Australian parliament – this will remain my focus.”

Telstra’s NBN work raises eyebrows

A $1.

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6 billion deal between Telstra and the company building the national broadband network has prompted concern within the competition regulator.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has raised several issues with the telecom giant and NBN Co, including that Telstra “may receive a competitive advantage if it has access to better information than other service providers”.

The ACCC is also worried Telstra will be able to use NBN infrastructure before it’s available to competitors, chairman Rod Sims said.

“We are looking at the parties’ proposals carefully to consider to what extent these proposals address our concerns,” Mr Sims said on Monday.

“It is important that Telstra doesn’t get a head-start selling retail services over the NBN just because its technical expertise is being used in the construction and maintenance of the NBN.”

Telstra on Monday announced it had secured a $1.6 billion deal to help build the national broadband network in five state capitals and the Gold Coast.

The so-called Hybrid Fibre-Coaxial deal – which follows a memorandum of understanding in December – covers planning, design, construction and construction management services within the telco giant’s existing network.

“Telstra has a long and proud history in network construction and we believe we will bring great expertise to this important part of the NBN network,” Telstra chief executive Andrew Penn said.

In late 2015, Telstra was awarded two contracts as one of the NBN service and assurance providers. The work has started.

Telstra is also working with NBN Co on a 1,000-node trial, including Fibre To The Node design and construction, as well as further design work under a planning and design services agreement.

The ACCC on Monday said it had had “extensive and productive discussions with NBN and Telstra”, aimed at addressing concerns that could arise because of the agreement.

NBN Co and Telstra recently provided a set of proposals aimed at addressing the ACCC’s concerns.

“We were very mindful of these perceived issues when we structured the deal and have also offered the ACCC additional measures around monitoring and reporting back to the ACCC,” a NBN spokesperson said.

The $1.6 billion HFC agreement – which covers Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and the Gold Coast, – isn’t subject to ACCC approval, according to the NBN spokesperson. The work is expected to continue through 2020.

At 1317 AEST, Telstra shares were down 2.00 cents, or 0.39 per cent, at $5.14 in a lower Australian market.

Clinic accused of alleged steroids scam

Elite Victorian police officers sought treatment at a Melbourne sports medicine and anti-ageing clinic accused of running an alleged testosterone and anabolic steroids trafficking racket.

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The Melbourne Magistrates Court heard on Monday two members of the Special Operations Group visited the Melbourne Sports Medicine and Anti-ageing clinic for treatment between 2012 and 2013.

The clinic owner, Robin James Taylor, his partner Georgina Matta, of South Morang, receptionist Amy Lee Gorgievski, of Pascoe Vale, and doctor Hoong Pan Sze-Tho, of Bulla, were in court for a committal mention.

They each face numerous charges including trafficking anabolic steroids and prescribing testosterone for other than medical treatment.

One of the officers, who cannot be named, told the court he was given two different peptides by Mr Taylor after seeing him about blood test results.

One of the drugs was Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide 6 (GHRP6)- commonly used by bodybuilders for weight loss, increased bone density and increased cellular repair.

The officer had gone there for a health check and was told blood tests would identify whether he needed treatment. He does not remember the results.

Dr Sze-Tho was in the consulting room at the time, but did not speak to the officer or provide him with a prescription for the drugs.

Mr Taylor is not a registered medical practitioner.

The court also heard police investigated the clinic after a pharmacist called them in 2013 with concerns over a hand written script.

The pharmacist, who asked not to be named, told Magistrate Johanna Metcalf the script from Dr Sze-Tho was for 30 vials of Sustanon 250, a drug commonly used by people with low levels of testosterone.

The script “rang alarm bells” because the doctor usually used computer-generated scripts, then when the pharmacist called the clinic listed on the document they informed her he had not worked there for 10 years.

Sze-Tho faces 240 charges including trafficking anabolic steroids and prescribing testosterone for other than medical treatment.

Taylor faces 72 charges including trafficking other anabolic steroids, importing prohibited goods and obtaining property by deception by purporting to be a licensed medical practitioner.

Matta is charged with 55 similar offences. Gorgievski also faces numerous charges.

Police allege all offences occurred between January 2012 and October 2013.

The hearing is expected to continue on Tuesday.

Raiders bt Eels, end three-game NRL slide

A ripping Jordan Rapana try close to fulltime helped Canberra to a scrappy 22-16 NRL win over Parramatta which ended a three-game slide for the Raiders.

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Scores were locked at 16-16 on Saturday night, before Rapana produced one of his trademark diving efforts in a 73rd-minute right-side shift.

The play ensured captain Jarrod Croker celebrated his 200th-game milestone with a win, coach Ricky Stuart later revealing he had sent out a late message of inspiration for the team.

“We sent a message on there after we scored that try with seven-eight minutes to go,” Stuart said. ‘If we can’t do this now for our captain, we’re a shallow bunch’. But I know they’re not, and I know that was the inspiration on the back end of that game.”

In front of an ANZ Stadium crowd of 10,074, the victory also ruined Mitchell Moses’ first appearance as an Eel after his storied mid-week move from the Wests Tigers.

Rushed immediately into halfback, Moses missed a game-high six tackles as he was given a torrid night by Josh Papalii, and came up with some poor decisions on last-tackle plays.

Papalii was arguably the Raiders’ best on his return from a club-imposed one-game ban for drink-driving, running 148 metres, busting five tackles and offloading three times.

Eels coach Brad Arthur said it was evident the team had had little preparation with Moses.

“Couple of wrong kick options but, other than that, he’s had two training sessions with us so it’s going to take a bit of time,” Arthur said.

The defeat for the clunky Eels’ outfit was compounded by injuries to Michael Jennings (quad) and Nathan Brown (ribs), who was taken to hospital as a precaution.

Level on two tries apiece at halftime, the Eels took the lead for the first time with Siosaia Vave’s 48th-minute try, although the Raiders responded quickly through Blake Austin.

The match seemed destined for golden point before Rapana’s aerial heroics, breathing life into a campaign that looked on shaky ground after their losing run.

In a mostly docile first half, the Raiders appeared set to stroll away with an easy win when Nick Cotric and Joey Leilua crossed from set pieces for a 10-0 lead by the 20th minute.

But back-to-back tries to Manu Ma’u and Jennings within five minutes meant the game was tied at the break.

Ma’u claimed a lucky ricochet off his own grubber to score his team’s first points of the night, before Jennings finished off a tackle-busting run by Semi Radradra for their second.

Ruthless Crows tear Lions to shreds in AFL

Adelaide have returned to form with a thumping 80-point AFL victory over the hapless Brisbane Lions on Saturday night.

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After shock back-to-back losses to North Melbourne and Melbourne ended their unbeaten start to the season, the Crows roared back to life at the Gabba with an emphatic 21.14 (140) to 7.18 (60) win to stay at the top of the ladder.

Dayne Zorko kicked the first two goals of the match for Brisbane, who were in the contest early but wasteful in front of goal.

As soon as the Crows switched on, however, they were completely blown away.

The Lions kicked just four goals after quarter-time to Adelaide’s 18, slumping to their eighth consecutive defeat in front of only 13,802 fans.

Former basketballer Hugh Greenwood kicked three majors on debut in the first half to help spark a run of nine goals in a row, before the Crows ruthlessly tore the hosts to shreds in a handy percentage-booster.

Greenwood, 25, played college basketball in the US and was on the cusp of an NBL deal with the Perth Wildcats when he quit the sport to pursue a career in the AFL instead, signing a rookie contract with the Crows two years ago.

Charlie Cameron booted four majors in the third quarter alone while Eddie Betts, who finished with three goals and four goal assists, produced a freakish goal-of-the-year contender in the second term.

Betts robbed Darcy Gardiner of possession but then, when the ball came loose, dribbled it along the ground with one foot like a soccer player before regathering and grubbering it home from a tight angle – all while under pressure and without much time or space to manoeuvre.

It arguably topped Tom Lynch’s spectacular first-quarter effort, splitting the posts with his right foot along the boundary from around 45m out.

Lynch kicked three in total, as did Adelaide captain Taylor Walker.

Skipper Dayne Beams was the leading possession-getter on the ground with 40 touches in his return from injury but he could not inspire his Lions teammates to reverse the tide.

Crows coach Don Pyke said it was a solid response after two lacklustre weeks.

“We lost a couple of games of footy, people were probably saying it was doom and gloom,” he said.

“Tonight was a good opportunity to come back and play the way we want to play, and there was some good signs there.”

Brisbane coach Chris Fagan said he was pleased with his side’s start but not with their second-half effort.

“I was really disappointed in the third quarter where we dropped away in contested possessions and clearances, and the whole thing dropped away,” he said.

Pall lifts over Buckley after big AFL win

Nathan Buckley knows exactly what would have come had Collingwood not turned around their appalling first quarter against Hawthorn.

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The Magpies coach spoke of the pall hanging over himself and the club after their amazing 13.12 (90) to 11.6 (72) AFL comeback win on Saturday night at the MCG.

Hawthorn mauled Collingwood with 6.1 to 0.1 in the first term – the Magpies’ worst opening quarter under Buckley.

“I was thinking about jumping in the car and driving home, about 20 minutes into the first quarter, but I reckon most of the Collingwood fans were thinking that as well,” Buckley said, only half-joking.

Collingwood trailed by 43 points early in the second term before kicking nine goals to one in the second half – their best comeback win under Buckley.

It is also the first time Buckley has beaten Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson, breaking a nine-game losing streak.

Had Collingwood gone down in a heap on Saturday night, it may well have proved the tipping point in the ongoing saga this season about Buckley’s coaching future.

“I don’t think we can ignore the fact that there’s a pall over the club at the moment and there’s a pall over me,” he said.

“I can go and meet people … I don’t think I’m carrying it with me, I’m not bringing it to the conversation, but it’s introduced.

“That’s a reality, because it’s a talking point.

“But if we perform better, we’ll be okay … (and) we will perform better.”

As Buckley noted, the comeback showed he and his players are still on the same page.

“The players are clearly still invested, so it’s belief,”‘ he said.

“The players are clearly not ready to throw the towel in – no-one at the club is.

“You might have questioned that 15 minutes into the first quarter.

“Clearly when the question was asked, they responded in the affirmative and enough of them did.”

Buckley praised his captain Scott Pendlebury, who led superbly and drove their fightback.

The coach also lauded the bravery of James Aish, who was taken to hospital with a suspected depressed fracture of the cheekbone after a heavy collision in the third term.

Buckley added he considered tagging Hawthorn onballer Tom Mitchell, who racked up 50 disposals – only the seventh AFL player to achieve the feat and the first at Hawthorn.

“If I said he wasn’t hurting us a lot, would that make sense?,” Buckley said of Mitchell.

That drew a pointed response from Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson.

“It’s a special effort for any player in the competition to get 50 touches,” Clarkson said.

“It’s pretty ballsy to say he wasn’t having an influence at that point (the first half), because I think he was.”

Exeter end Saracens’ hopes to set up final with Wasps

Earlier, three-time league winners Saracens, who beat Clermont Auvergne to retain their European Champions Cup title last week, appeared to have booked a place in the Twickenham final when Mike Ellery scored a 75th-minute try at Sandy Park.

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However, Simmonds settled the match at the death following a superb passage of play as Exeter avenged last season’s final defeat by Sarries and denied the champions the chance to repeat last year’s European-Premiership double.

“We had the game with 90 seconds to go but that’s the game isn’t it?” Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall told the club’s official website. “But we can unbelievably proud.

“If you’re going to lose, lose like that,” he added. “We’re naturally sad with the result but we fought for everything.”

London club Saracens showed no signs of fatigue after their continental exploits at the weekend and took a 6-0 lead after 15 minutes following two penalty goals by Owen Farrell.

However, the hosts responded before the break as two Gareth Steenson penalties levelled the scores following a spell of intense pressure from Chiefs.

Exeter, seeking a first title, picked up where they left off after halftime, with Jack Nowell scoring the first try of the match after picking up from a ruck, before Steenson converted to put them 13-6 ahead.

Saracens held their nerve to remain within touching distance despite the hosts’ dominance and reduced the deficit in the 56th minute when Chris Wyles scored in the corner, although Farrell missed the conversion.

During a tense final 10 minutes, Saracens’ characteristic composure deserted them as Chiefs remained resolute and looked set to see out victory until the visitors’ Ellery barrelled past Henry Slade after a magnificent pass from Schalk Brits.

A superb penalty kick to touch from Slade gave the hosts one final chance, and Simmonds drove over from five metres out after a trademark maul in the 79th minute as Exeter extended their unbeaten run in 2017 to 11 league games.

At the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, Wasps, who ended the regular season in top spot, established a 10-point lead inside the first 10 minutes with two Jimmy Gopperth kicks either side of Kurtley Beale’s try.

Tigers reduced the arrears with two fine penalty kicks from Freddie Burns and a Peter Betham try, but another Gopperth kick before the break stretched Wasps’ lead.

The visitors heaped the pressure on to break the hosts’ resolve in the 52nd minute when Telusa Veainu went over out wide and Burns converted before the dramatic finale which saw Bassett squeeze over in the corner two minutes from time.

(Reporting by Ed Dove; Editing by Ken Ferris and Ian Chadband)

Djokovic back on song to set up Zverev final in Rome

Earlier in Rome, Zverev won a battle of the giants to down unseeded American John Isner 6-4 6-7(5) 6-1, making the tall 20-year-old the youngest ATP Masters 1000 finalist since a 19-year-old Djokovic in Miami in 2007.

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Djokovic said that his mini masterpiece, carved out in just 59 minutes against Thiem who had ended Rafael Nadal’s 17-match winning streak so thrillingly on Friday, was “by far” his best performance of a difficult year.

The quick workout against Thiem was just what Djokovic needed as it was his second match of the day, having completed a 6-1 6-4 win over Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro in a rain-delayed quarter-final carried over from Friday.

“Best by far, obviously,” Djokovic said when asked on Sky Sports whether the win over world number seven Thiem, which saw him spray 14 winners and give up a mere six unforced errors, was his best in 2017.

“The closest I got to this level was the final against Andy (Murray) in Doha in the first week of the season (which Djokovic won). Otherwise, I’ve been struggling to find the right level and be consistent.”

Earlier this month, the Serb had parted company with his entire coaching team in a bid to regain the form that had made him an untouchable world number one a year ago.

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The move, which he described as “shock therapy”, appears to have already paid dividends as Djokovic, who lost his top ranking to Murray at the end of 2016, produced a devastating display against one of the game’s new luminaries.

“This game brought back some amazing feelings and memories on the court so I’m really glad,” said Djokovic, who feels he is running into form at the perfect time with the start of his defence of the French Open just over a week away.

“Yes, I was looking for that,” he said, when asked if everything was falling into place again.

“I was looking to have a nice balance between the right intensity and the fire and feeling satisfied and happy, calm again on the court and finding the joy of playing because, to be honest, I lost that in the last seven, eight months.

“There was fire but perhaps too much fire. Now I feel I’m on the right track and things are progressing well,” he added, looking forward to his first final since Doha.

Another of the young guns, Zverev, had looked like wrapping up his match with Isner in straight sets after romping through the opener in under half an hour, but the defiant American took the second set down to a tiebreak.

The German was 5-0 down in the tiebreak but battled back before Isner took the match to a third set with a forehand winner.

Isner, the first American to reach the semi-finals in Rome since Andy Roddick in 2008, had a chance to break with Zverev leading 3-1 in the final set but the German snuffed out the challenge.

Earlier, Djokovic had finished an emphatic job against Del Potro. The match had been halted by rain and lightning on Friday with the Serbian leading 6-1 1-2.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin and Ian Chadband; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)

Buddy bags four more in Swans AFL win

The Lance and Luke show has helped set up a 25-point victory for Sydney over GWS, with Giants coach Leon Cameron believing some AFL pundits might be re-evaluating their gloomy pre-season expectations of the Swans.

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Lance Franklin kicked four goals for the third straight round and midfield dynamo Luke Parker continued his hot start to the season by earning the Brett Kirk Medal for best on ground in 14.9 (93) to 10.8 (68) victory at the SCG on Saturday.

The Swans moved to 3-0 and top of the table after an eighth win in nine games over the Giants, who have lost all four SCG clashes they’ve contested.

GWS slashed a 31-point last quarter deficit to 12, but Sydney led for all the game bar a brief period in the second term.

On a day when Swans supporters paid tribute at halftime to club games record holder Adam Goodes and fellow premiership winner Mike Pyke, Sydney displayed a touch much polish and consistency.

Franklin tallied 18 disposals and six marks in a busy display and his haul included one booming set shot goal from just over 55 metres.

“His work rate has been really solid,” Swans coach John Longmire said of Franklin.

“He’s another one that has had a good pre-season so he’s banking on that, getting the benefit of that.

“But probably the good thing is that it’s been a young forward group we’ve had up there and at times we didn’t look as good as what we could have, but he was able to straighten things up.”

Parker notched 30 possessions, seven marks, six tackles and a goal in another typical all-action performance.

“There was a couple of big 50-50 balls in the centre of the ground at times that he went for that helped set the tone for our midfield group and the team,” Longmire said.

“What’s been consistent over the first three weeks has been our good players, our leaders, our senior blokes have been playing pretty well.

Most of the key statistical categories were pretty close, with the exception of Sydney’s 67-47 advantage in inside 50s.

“They were just a little bit too good for us for most of the game,” Giants coach Leon Cameron said.

“They set standards they live by every time they play and that’s why clearly they are a top four side again.

“Those people who probably wrote them off at the start of the year are probably thinking twice. Midfielders Dylan Shiel and Lachie Whitfield each tallied 28 touches for GWS.

Cameron was pleased with the way his back seven performed but disappointed with his forwards.

Matai brace as Manly beat Warriors in NRL

Manly, with veteran centre Steve Matai grabbing a double, have maintained their status as a bogey team for the Warriors with a 34-18 NRL win in Auckland.

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It was the Sea Eagles’ fourth victory in a row over the Warriors and their 10th in the past 11 meetings between the sides.

The result on Saturday night takes them to 3-3 for the season and above the Warriors on the table.

Coach Trent Barrett said he was aware of the Sea Eagles’ record over the Auckland club, but ultimately it didn’t mean a lot to him or the players.

“We had a big job to do against a side that had won two in a row,” he said.

“I thought to a man we didn’t have a bad player today.”

Barrett said his team laid the groundwork with the way they began the match, including producing some solid defence.

“We just showed a lot of intent in everything we did,” he said.

“Our aim was to start well and we built our way into the game. We had a pretty simple plan and every one of them did a terrific job.”

The Warriors were also seeking their third win of the year and coach Andrew McFadden said conceding 30-plus points at home wasn’t good enough.

But he also gave credit to Manly, who he said were physical and showed plenty of enthusiasm.

“It wasn’t the worst performance,” he said.

“We got beaten by a very good side who had lots of energy. They played a pretty tight game and we fell over at the end.”

Manly dominated possession in the first 25 minutes, when they built a 12-0 lead through tries to back-rower Martin Taupau and prop Josh Starling.

The Warriors hit back before halftime through centre Blake Ayshford.

Matai grabbed his first try early in the second spell after a contentious decision.

Warriors centre Solomone Kata had appeared to make it out of the in-goal, only for referee Gavin Reynolds to rule a line dropout.

“It was a big call,” McFadden said.

“I thought he got it wrong but we have to live with that.”

Skipper Ryan Hoffman, asked if the bunker had been involved in the decision, said he had gone up and queried who had made the call.

“He said they all made it,” Hoffman said.

“I find it hard that five people can get that decision wrong.”

Issac Luke gave the Warriors hope when he barged over from dummy half, before Matai completed his brace with nine minutes to go.

There was time for Kata to grab his seventh try of the season, but the Sea Eagles had the last say when winger Tom Trbojevic crossed in the final minute.

Two players were put on report, Manly five-eighth Dylan Walker for an intended trip and Warriors prop Jacob Lillyman for a high tackle.

Freo coach Lyon cops blame on the chin

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon has accepted blame for the club’s winless start to the AFL season, but is not giving up on reaching the finals just yet.

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The Dockers are in a world of trouble after their 33-point derby loss to West Coast on Saturday left them with a 0-3 record heading into next weekend’s clash with North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium.

Ruckman Aaron Sandilands is set for an extended period on the sidelines after suffering a punctured lung and suspected rib damage in a marking contest with Nic Naitanui.

And skipper David Mundy is set to miss several more weeks after injuring his calf at training on Friday.

But the biggest concern for Lyon right now is his team’s inability to execute the new attacking game plan implemented during the off-season.

Sloppy skills under pressure have hurt Fremantle significantly this year, with their inability to rebound cleanly from inside their defence proving particularly damaging.

“There’s some player decision making in that and some player responsibility to execute, but as always I start with myself, our coaching panel, and our football program,” Lyon said.

Lyon hasn’t lost faith in his side’s work ethic or commitment to the cause.

But until he sees them execute better under pressure, he won’t be banking on them to get the job done.

Lyon also hinted he would wield the axe in a bid to find more skilful players.

And if things continue to go pear shaped, 2016 could turn into a rebuilding year for the Dockers.

“I think the aim is to win enough games and play finals,” he said.

“I’ll sort the chaff from the wheat. There’s got to be some players that aren’t performing to a high level.”

West Coast coach Adam Simpson was happy with how his side rebounded from their heavy loss to Hawthorn in round two.

But he is well aware their wayward goalkicking almost cost them dearly in the derby, with the Dockers closing to within five points late in the match before West Coast finished with a bang.

“We are still not where we want to be … but to play like that (against the Dockers) … that was really pleasing,” Simpson said.

Cowboy Coote tops old team with field goal

A 74th minute field goal by North Queensland fullback Lachlan Coote has helped his side claim a 23-18 win over his former team Penrith on Saturday night.

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The loss for the Panthers, in front of a crowd of 13,725 at Pepper Stadium, continues a topsy-turvy trend where each of their games in 2016 has been decided in the final ten minutes.

For the Cowboys, it is the first time the reigning premiers have registered consecutive wins this year.

Penrith halfback Jamie Soward spurned an opportunity to level the game in the 77th minute, feigning a field goal and went left, only for Josh Mansour to be pushed out.

Soward also just missed a 45-metre attempt in the 79th minute, before Kyle Feldt sealed the win with a try on the buzzer.

Two tries to Panthers winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, including one in a 90-metre movement, gave the home side a 10-0 lead after just 15 minutes.

But the Cowboys responded through Javid Bowen and Justin O’Neill to take a 12-10 advantage at the break.

The Panthers regained the lead through Trent Merrin in the 54th minute, however the Cowboys pulled all the right stops in the closing stages to tally their fourth win of the season.

Cowboys co-captain Matt Scott was put on report for a crusher tackle on Merrin in the second half.

Cowboys coach Paul Green was proud of his team for twice overcoming leads, particularly in the second half.

“We showed a lot of character to come back from where we were and win the game at the end,” he said.

“They had all the field position, particularly in that first part in the second half. We were camped on our own tryline for the majority of that half.

“(But) we defended really well and showed composure to get ourselves back in the game and get the win.”

Both Panthers coach Anthony Griffin and captain Matt Moylan were frustrated with their inability to close out games when holding a late lead, but were otherwise encouraged by going toe to toe with the premiers.

Griffin pointed out that they were close to defeating both last year’s grand finalists in the past month, having pipped Brisbane by one three weeks ago.

“I thought we played with a real purpose and energy and they’re a really strong group together now,” he said.

“We went within ten minutes of beating the two grand final teams last year in the last month. In the short term, the results aren’t coming, but I thought it was a very strong performance.”

Sanders wins in Wyoming

Bernie Sanders has extended a string of victories by winning the US presidential Democratic nominating contest in Wyoming, besting rival Hillary Clinton as they gear up for a crucial match-up in New York.

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Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, is trying to chip away at Clinton’s sizeable lead in the number of delegates needed to secure the party’s nomination.

Wyoming’s 14 Democratic delegates – fewer than any other state – will be awarded proportionally and will do little to help Sanders close the gap.

Going into Wyoming, Clinton had more than half of the 2383 delegates needed to win the nomination. Sanders trailed her by 250 pledged delegates, those awarded proportionate to the popular vote in the state nominating contests.

Clinton’s lead widens when superdelegates, Democratic leaders who can decide whom to support at the party’s July convention, are included in the tallies.

Clinton and Sanders both spent Saturday campaigning in New York, which holds its contest on April 19 and where a total of 291 delegates are up for grabs.

Clinton, a former secretary of state, considers New York her home turf.

She represented the state as a US senator and has headquartered her campaign in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

Sanders has reminded voters he was born and raised in Brooklyn. Recent polls have shown Clinton more than 10 points ahead in the state.

In Wyoming’s Republican contest last month, US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas beat New York billionaire Donald Trump, the party’s frontrunner. Cruz is trying to block Trump from receiving enough delegates to win the nomination outright, which would lead to a contested convention in July.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that a third of Trump’s Republican supporters could consider abandoning the party’s candidate if Trump is denied the nomination at a contested convention.