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View from Oz: Tommy Walsh makes assured AFL debut

Neil Sherwin sends his first weekly round-up from a land down under. He’s not the only Irishman taking care of business in Oz.

AFL

Former Kerry star Tommy Walsh was in action for the St Kilda on Friday night in the AFL’s preseason NAB Cup competition. Walsh collected 11 possessions across two 40-minute games against the Brisbane Lions and the Essendon Bombers as last year’s losing Premiership finalists emerged with a win and a draw from their round robin group.

With two new expansion sides (Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney Giants) in action for the first time, the opening round was broken into six groups of three teams with each playing each other once. The winners of each group plus the two best runners up advanced to the quarter finals.

The Suns and Giants enter the main competition in 2011 and 2012 respectively so there was much interest in their games with each other and the Sydney Swans. The Suns emerged with two wins to join the Saints, Geelong, West Coast, Collingwood, Sydney, Essendon and Melbourne in the straight knockout stage.

Super Rugby

The Super Rugby season got underway at the weekend with the code’s 15th side, the Melbourne Rebels, making their bow against the New South Wales Waratahs. It was a debut to forget for the Rebels however as they went down 43-0. Australian internationals Drew Mitchell and Kurtley Beale scored two tries each, with Tatafu Polota-Nau, Robert Horne and Phil Waugh also on the scoresheet.

The Bulls, who are the competition’s reigning champions, almost let a 24-5 lead slip away against last year’s bottom side the Lions. Two tries along with the pinpoint kicking of Morne Steyn had them in a commanding the position before the Lions fought back to leave the final score 25-20.

Having been 18-0 up against the Chiefs, the Brumbies were given a scare before running out 28-20 winners. The visiting Chiefs got to within three points at 18-15 but a Matt Giteau penalty and a converted try from Salesi Ma’afu put paid to any hopes of an unlikely comeback.

The Westen Force travelled to Queensland to take on the Reds and led 12-6 at the interval as James O’Conner and Quade Cooper traded penalties. O’Connor also scored a try in the second half to set his side up for an unlikely win but a 75th minute touchdown from James Hanson and subsequent conversion by Cooper got the Reds home 21-20.

In the other first round matches, tries from Jacques Botes and Bismarck du Plessis set the Sharks on their way to a 24-9 win over the Cheetahs in rain soaked Durban, while the Highlanders caused a shock by defeating the Hurricanes 14-9 as All Blacks star Ma’a Nonu was sent off for two yellow cards. The Blues also enjoyed a win, coming from behind the beat the Crusaders 24-22 thanks to a Keven Mealamu try nine minutes from time.

A-League

The Hyundai A-League moved into its finals series on Friday night and it was an action packed weekend of football. The finals are one of the most confusing concepts in the game with six teams out of an 11-team league taking part.

The top two sides from the regular season, Brisbane Roar and Central Coast Mariners, are locked in two legged battle with the winner guaranteed a home game in the Grand Final which takes place on Saturday, 12 March 2011. Goals from Kostas Barbarouses and Matt McKay gave the Roar a 2-0 first leg win on Saturday.

Meanwhile the remaining four sides played in a straight knockout semi-final of sorts with the two winners facing off to take on the loser of the Mariners/Roar clash for the other spot in the Grand Final. Adelaide United beat Wellington Phoenix while Gold Coast United saw off Melbourne Victory as both games ended 1-0.

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About the author:

Neil Sherwin

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