Rebels hand finals destiny to Force as Brumbies win thriller


The Melbourne Rebels have handed their finals destiny to the Western Force after they fell agonisingly short against the Brumbies at AAMI Park.

The Force’s dramatic win against the Waratahs on Saturday night saw them leapfrog the Rebels into third place on the Super Rugby AU ladder and left Melbourne with a simple equation.

Rob Valetini of the Brumbies tackles Matt To’omua of the Rebels during the round nine Super RugbyAU match between the ACT Brumbies and the Melbourne Rebels.Credit:Getty

Beat the Brumbies and they could control their own finals destiny against the Waratahs in the final round of Super Rugby AU at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday night.

Lose and that destiny would be handed to the Force, who face the Reds at HBF Park on Friday night.

The pressure told. Melbourne could not emulate the Force’s post-siren heroics against the Waratahs on Saturday night, and heading into the final round, the Force (14 points) sit above the Rebels (12) in third place. The top three sides progress to the finals.

The Rebels had their chance to win at the death when, trailing 26-20, the home side had a lineout deep inside the Brumbies’ 22, and one last chance to complete a comeback after they took a 19-7 deficit into the half-time break.

Reesjan Pasitoa of the Brumbies runs with the ball.

Reesjan Pasitoa of the Brumbies runs with the ball.Credit:Getty

But a knock on from Joe Powell, who was one of Melbourne’s bes, sparked jubilation for the Brumbies (29 points), who have the bye next week and can’t overtake Queensland (32). The Brumbies will host either the Force or Rebels in a preliminary final.

“The scoreline probably didn’t reflect how we felt at half time. They probably had every right to be 20 up, considering the territory,” Melbourne captain Matt To’omua said post match.

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Western Force to go after Ben Donaldson but NSW Waratahs back rookie No.10 to shine


The Western Force have declared their intention to go after rookie Waratahs No.10 Ben Donaldson but NSW co-coach Jason Gilmore is adamant the 22-year-old will handle the traffic and come through with the goods after having his position in the team questioned this week.

Force coach Tim Sampson praised the new Waratahs playmaker, who will make his first start at Super Rugby level in the must-win match in their penultimate round of Super Rugby AU’s regular season, and said he would come in for special attention.

Ben Donaldson playing for Randwick.

Ben Donaldson playing for Randwick.Credit:Karen Watson

“He’s quite a skilful young fella and has a nice passing game,” Sampson said. “He’ll be a handful but we’re going to put a lot of pressure through that area of the field with our defence. We’ll try and take away his space.”

Force captain Kyle Godwin added: “We’d be wanting to put pressure on him.”

Gilmore hit back, saying Donaldson’s calm character would help him overcome any Force barrage and reiterated Chris Whitaker’s promise that he was ready for a maiden Super Rugby start, having come off the bench a number of times last season.

“Every No.10 gets pressure put on them. It’s no different for [Force five-eighth Domingo] Miotti with us. We want to make him as uncomfortable as we can,” Gilmore said. “Donno is a pretty laid-back style of guy. He takes everything in his stride, so he’s a pretty composed player. He’s coming back from injury, played pretty well for Randwick [on Saturday], so he’s coming into this game feeling pretty good about himself. Tane [Edmed] is just behind him. We’re pretty confident with those two.”

The selection of Donaldson over Edmed has prompted debate in NSW rugby circles following Eastwood coach Ben Batger’s insistence that Edmed should have been picked.

Batger said it was “crazy” to pick Donaldson and slammed the logic of going with a player with next to no football under his belt this year.

“I definitely think people have forgotten about him,” said Gilmore of Donaldson, who he coached in the 2019 Junior Wallabies team. “Last year he played a lot of Shute Shield, came off the bench behind [Will Harrison], got some really good minutes against the Reds at the SCG and played really well.

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Russian prison threatens to force feed hunger-striking Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny: allies


FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny attends a court hearing in Moscow
FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia February 20, 2021. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

April 12, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Staff at the Russian prison holding hunger-striking Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny are threatening to force feed him, his allies said on Monday, warning he had lost 15 kg since he arrived at the facility last month.

Navalny, 44, a prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, announced a hunger strike at the end of March in protest at what he said was the refusal of prison authorities to treat him properly for acute back and leg pain.

They say they have offered him proper treatment, but that he has refused it, insisting that he wants to be treated by a doctor of his choice from outside the facility, a request they have declined.

Navalny, whom the West says has been wrongly jailed and should be freed, was moved to a prison clinic earlier this month after complaining of a high temperature and a bad cough.

On Monday, his Twitter account, which his allies use to provide updates based on information from his lawyers who regularly visit him, said he had been discharged from the prison’s medical facility.

“Given the severity of the hunger strike, the (prison)administration is threatening on a daily basis to start force-feeding,” the account said.

There was no immediate comment from the state prison service. The regional prison service did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Navalny’s weight has fallen to 77 kg, a drop of 15 kg since he arrived at the prison facility 100 kilometres (62 miles) east of Moscow, his allies said.

Navalny had already lost 8 kg in the facility before beginning his hunger strike, his allies said on April 1, something they blamed on guards deliberately depriving him of sleep.

Prison authorities deny depriving him of sleep and have said previously that Navalny’s condition was satisfactory and that he has been provided with all necessary treatment.

Navalny’s allies want an outside doctor of his choice to be able to check his condition.

His Twitter account said on Monday that a doctor had still not been allowed in to see him. It said his pulse was averaging 106 beats per minute, a reading that is higher than normal. His blood pressure was at 94/76, it said.

Navalny returned to Russia in January after recovering from what German doctors say was a nerve agent poisoning. He was jailed in February on charges he said were trumped up for two and a half years. Russia has said it has yet to see evidence he was poisoned

(Reporting by Anton Zverev and Vladimir Soldatkin; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn)

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Syrian air force may have dropped chlorine bomb on town in rebel area in 2018: chemical arms watchdog


FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is pictured in The Hague, Netherlands
FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is pictured in The Hague, Netherlands, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

April 12, 2021

By Anthony Deutsch

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The global chemical weapons watchdog has “reasonable grounds to believe” that Syria’s air force dropped a chlorine bomb on a residential neighbourhood in the rebel-controlled Idlib region in February 2018, a report released on Monday said.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government. Syria and its military ally Russia have consistently denied using chemical weapons during President Bashar al-Assad’s decade-old conflict with rebel forces, saying any such attacks were staged by opponents to make Damascus look like the culprit.

The new report by the OPCW chemical weapons watchdog’s investigative arm said no one was killed when the cylinder of chlorine gas, delivered in a barrel bomb, hit the Al Talil neighbourhood in the city of Saraqib in February 2018.

However, on the night of Feb. 4, a dozen people were treated for symptoms consistent with chemical poisoning, including nausea, eye irritation, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing, it said.

Chlorine is not an internationally banned toxin, but the use of any chemical substance in armed conflict is banned under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, the implementation of which is overseen by the OPCW watchdog based in The Hague.

A crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators by Assad in 2011 mushroomed into civil war, with Russia and Iran supporting his government and the United States, Turkey and some Arab adversaries of Damascus backing some of the many rebel groups.

In April 2020, the OPCW’s Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) concluded that Syrian warplanes and a helicopter had dropped bombs containing chlorine and sarin nerve gas on a village in Syria’s Hama region in March 2017.

TOXIC GAS RELEASED

The latest report by the IIT also implicated Syrian government forces. It concluded that “there were reasonable grounds to believe” a chlorine cylinder was dropped from a helicopter.

“During ongoing attacks against Saraqib, a military helicopter of the Syrian Arab Air Force code named Alpha-253”, under the control of the Tiger Forces, hit eastern Saraqib by dropping at least one cylinder. The cylinder ruptured and released a toxic gas, chlorine, which dispersed over a large area, affecting 12 named individuals,” the report said.

The Tiger Forces are an elite Syrian military unit generally used in offensive operations in the war, which has largely subsided with Assad having wrested back most territory with crucial Russian and Iranian support.

“All elements indicated the presence of Tiger Forces in the vicinity of Saraqib. They found that a helicopter was just flying above the bombed area at the moment of the gas release,” a summary of the OPCW report said.

It said that samples collected from the scene were examined and other possible means of chlorine contamination considered, but the OPCW team said nothing was found to indicate that the incident was staged by Assad’s adversaries.

The team identified individuals believed to be involved in the alleged attack but did not release their names.

Between 2015 and 2017, a joint United Nations-OPCW team known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) found that Syrian government troops had used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine barrel bombs on several occasions, while Islamic State militants were found to have used mustard gas.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Mark Heinrich, William Maclean)

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Rebels vs Western Force Tips, Odds and Betting – Super Rugby Australia 2021


AAMI Park will play host to Friday”s
Round 8 Super Rugby game between Rebels and
Western Force. The game kicks off at 7:45 pm with Rebels heading into the game as favourites with the bookmakers. Continue reading for our in-depth preview of the Rebels vs.
Western Force
game and give you our free tips and bets.

When: Friday April 9, 2021 at 7:45 pm

Where: AAMI Park

Bet 💰: Bet On This Match
HERE

Rebels vs Western Force Odds

Rebels vs Western Force Preview

The first meeting between the Rebels and Force was not exactly memorable for anything that happened on the field, but for the light towers going out in the closing stages of the game.

It’s fair to say this season has not been overly profitable for the Western Force with just the one victory over the Waratahs so far.

Since their readmission to the competition last year the Rebels have won all three head to head meetings between the two sides and I can’t see any scenario where they do not make it four from four here.

Every single meeting has been decided by five points or less and the Force have shown enough of a spark to keep this game competitive.

The 9.5 point line seems far too high and I’ll back the visitors to keep it close and cover that.

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Rebels vs Western Force Tip

We’re tipping Rebels to win at $1.25 odds.





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Super Rugby AU: Queensland Reds vs Brumbies, teams, wallabies, Rebels vs Force


They dominated Wallabies selection, now Australia’s top two will go at it on Saturday with a Super Rugby AU final at stake – and gold jerseys too.

It’s been a decade since Ewen McKenzie’s Reds hosted the Crusaders and won their maiden Super title.

A record crowd filled Suncorp Stadium to watch James Horwill’s men lift the Super Rugby trophy as Brad Thorn’s Crusaders returned to New Zealand empty-handed for a change.

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Not a single member of the class of 2011 remains, but halfback Tate McDermott was one of those in the crowd watching the Reds that winter’s Saturday night and for he and his teammates they are desperate to give their long-suffering Reds faithful another chance to see them lift their first-piece of major silverware since.

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Brumbies flog Force to keep pressure on ladder leading Reds


Kuridrani’s opposite number, Len Ikitau, nabbed two of the four first-half tries.

His first five-pointer was the result of slick hands from Noah Lolesio and Mack Hansen.

Jono Lance put the ensuing kick off out on the full. Moments later, Jack McGregor produced an incredible try-saving tackle on Pete Samu. It should have been the momentum swing the visitors needed.

But the Brumbies were relentless.

Five minutes after Samu was denied a try, the home side forced a scrum penalty, set up camp once more inside the Force’s 22 and Ikitau crashed over for his second.

Kuridrani returned with his side trailing 14-0 but the damage was done. The Brumbies were on a roll.

Cadeyrn Neville was the next beneficiary of some fast Brumbies hands.

It was Muirhead’s turn next. He made amends for an earlier blunder when the try line beckoned after Hansen found him with a cutout pass which turned an overlap into the Brumbies’ fourth five pointer.

Muirhead grabbed a second try along with Lachlan Lonergan in the second half but they were offset by tries to Force centre Henry Taefu and reserve halfback Ian Prior.

Several Brumbies impressed in their last match before the first Wallabies squad of the season is named.

James Slipper’s return – at tighthead prop rather than his normal position at loosehead – was powerful. Rob Valetini provided the physical presence the Wallabies lacked last year. Lolesio continues to develop at five-eighth and the centre pairing – Irae Simone and Ikitau – were smooth in almost every exchange.

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But the player who has arguably developed more than any other this season is Hansen.

For a winger, his playmaking ability is near unparalleled in Australian rugby. He may be stuck behind Marika Koroibete, Tom Wright, Suliasi Vunivalu and a handful of others but his form would justify selection in Rennie’s first 40-man squad of the year.

Provided the Brumbies take care of business against the winless Waratahs at the SCG on Saturday, the stage will be set for a blockbuster return fixture against the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.

The heavy Force loss will also give Waratahs fans hope the wooden spoon is not inevitable.

Through five rounds of Super Rugby AU, the Force and Waratahs are clearly a level below the other three Australian sides.

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Hoon drivers force closure of Northern Rivers beach



Hoon drivers have forced the closure of South Ballina Beach to vehicle access from end of this month.

The beach will close on March 31 due to ongoing concerns about public safety and impacts to the environment and Aboriginal heritage values.

The closure of South Ballina Beach to vehicles follows ongoing concerns about dangers to other beachgoers, including families and the elderly, from large numbers of four-wheel drives on the beach and instances of reckless driving.

Also, there have been ongoing environmental concerns about the impacts of four-wheel drives on the marine environment, endangered shorebird nesting sites, dune erosion and vegetation damage, and cultural impacts to significant Aboriginal sites including middens and traditional burial grounds.

The closure follows consultations between Ballina Shire Council; Richmond Valley Council; the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – Crown Lands; the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS); NSW Police; Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council; and Bandjalang Aboriginal Corporation.

Secured vehicle access points using lock and key will be maintained for emergency services, commercial fishers, Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council and Bandjalang Aboriginal Corporation at Richmond River Nature Reserve (NPWS), Patchs Beach (Ballina Shire Council) and Boundary Creek (Richmond Valley Shire Council).

Pedestrian access to the beach will remain unrestricted.

Recreational four-wheel driving below the high tide mark will still be allowed on regulated beaches north of the Richmond River at Ballina. Four-wheel drives can access Seven Mile Beach at Lennox Head via Camp Drewe Road where Ballina Shire Council operates a permit system.

Recreational four-wheel drivers can also access a 4.6 km stretch of Air Force Beach below the high tide mark north to the coffee rocks which is monitored by Richmond Valley Council.

For further information visit www.industry.nsw.gov.au/lands/news/south-ballina-beach-closed-to-vehicle-access



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Sydney floods, rain as Warragamba Dam spills; Mid North Coast floods force Port Macquarie SES evacuations


The federal government’s plan to ramp up the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines from Monday has been delayed by the extreme weather conditions in NSW.

Phase 1b of the vaccine roll is designed to inoculate 6.1 million Australians including health care workers who did not receive the jab in phase 1a, Australians over 70, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 55 and over, younger adults with a qualifying underlying medical condition or disability and disability carers, and critical and high-risk workers, including those in defence, police, fire, emergency services and meat processing.

The vaccine roll-out was due to ramp up on Monday, but wild weather has knocked the schedule out.Credit:AP

But wild weather in New South Wales means the already-delayed roll out will be knocked further off schedule by several days.

A federal government spokesman said on Saturday afternoon that the overseas-sourced vaccines would be delivered across the country and in place in most locations by the end of the weekend.

However, “due to extreme weather conditions and flooding in many parts of NSW, vaccine delivery is being affected in Sydney and across multiple regional NSW locations”.

“The Department of Health is working directly with GPs on these issues and we ask for the public’s patience and understanding with these unforeseen supply delays.”

The Department of Health is working with doctors and logistics companies to establish where delivery trucks, for example, will not be able send vaccines because of floods and heavy rain.

A more detailed update will be provided on Sunday about which areas will be affected, and whether there will be a knock-on effect in neighbouring regions.

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Reds vs Western Force Tips, Odds and Betting – Super Rugby Australia 2021


Suncorp Stadium will play host to Saturday”s
Round 5 Super Rugby game between Reds and
Western Force. The game kicks off at 7:45 pm with Reds heading into the game as favourites with the bookmakers. Continue reading for our in-depth preview of the Reds vs.
Western Force
game and give you our free tips and bets.

When: Saturday March 20, 2021 at 7:45 pm

Where: Suncorp Stadium

Bet 💰: Bet On This Match
HERE

Reds vs Western Force Odds

Reds vs Western Force Preview

The last two games for the Reds have been phenomenal to watch from a neutral perspective with both games going right down to the wire.

Queensland’s first win in Canberra since 2014 thrust them into Super Rugby AU favouritism and with good reason.

They are a clear step ahead of a Force side that is probably where the Reds were in the early days of the Brad Thorn era.

While there may be quite a few “honourable defeats” for the Force, I just can’t see them keeping pace with the Reds for the full 80 minutes.

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Reds vs Western Force Tip

We’re tipping Reds to win at $1.19 odds.





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