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Tevez gives Juve another 1-0 victory, Roma win

Juve’s third straight victory by the same scoreline put them on 67 points as they remain 14 points clear of second-placed AS Roma, who also won 1-0 at lowly Cesena, with 10 games left.

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Despite the size of their lead, Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri remained cautious, telling Sky Sport Italia: “We haven’t won anything yet. We’ll celebrate when the time comes.”

Tevez scored when he collected a pass from Claudio Marchisio on the edge of the area in the 25th minute and ran past Andrea Bertolacci and Sebastien De Maio before rifling a shot past Mattia Perin from an acute angle that went in off the bar.

The Argentine, the league’s top scorer with 16 goals, then missed a penalty just past the hour mark when Genoa’s substitute keeper Eugenio Lamanna, who had replaced the injured Perin nine minutes earlier, made a terrific save.

Daniele De Rossi’s first-half strike from close range gave struggling Roma their first win in five games at Cesena.

“Today there was a battle to be won. We have ten (games) left awaiting us,” Roma midfielder Radja Nainggolan told reporters.

De Rossi, filling in as captain for the injured Francesco Totti, took advantage of Jose Holebas’s low cross in the 41st minute to score his second goal of the season.

LAZIO WIN

Lazio remain one point behind Roma after a 2-0 win at home to Verona. A Felipe Anderson header and a powerful Antonio Candreva free kick handed Lazio a sixth straight victory.

Sampdoria stayed in the hunt for a spot in next season’s Europa League after defeating visitors Inter Milan 1-0 with a ferocious free kick by Eder that went in off the post.

Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side are fourth on 48 points, one above Napoli who scored a last-gasp goal to salvage a 1-1 draw at home to relegation-threatened Atalanta, who had Alejandro Gomez sent off after he received a second yellow card.

The home side, despite playing for 35 minutes with an extra man, fell behind in the 72nd when Mauricio Pinilla took advantage of an Henrique blunder. Napoli substitute Duvan Zapata headed in the equaliser one minute from time.

Sixth-placed Fiorentina drew 2-2 with Udinese thanks to Mario Gomez’s second-half double and they now have 46 points.

Bottom side Parma, declared bankrupt last week, went down 2-0 at home to Torino with their 20th defeat in 26 games after captain Alessandro Lucarelli was sent off in the 36th minute.

Empoli’s Riccardo Saponara struck a second-half double as they defeated Sassuolo 3-1 in a mid-table clash.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Remodelling Pies dare to aim high

“It’s never too early and it’s never too late.

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With those words, spoken at Collingwood’s season launch, president Eddie McGuire put a premiership on the agenda for his club in 2015.

Even the most ardent supporter probably found that lofty goal a touch optimistic, while the majority of neutral observers labelled it downright fanciful.

Coach Nathan Buckley, however, has no problem having the bar set high for his team.

“Without that ‘aim high’ mentality, without the courage to say that you’re capable of something that other people don’t think you’re capable of, you’re never going to find your best,” Buckley told AAP.

“We certainly won’t be aiming low.

“In 22 games this year we expect to improve and we can improve drastically, so (as a player) if the president tells you that he’s happy to aim high, the coach says there’s no limits and we’re not going to put a cap on what we’re capable of, then I reckon that mentality is really important.”

After waving goodbye to a host of household names in the past three years, the Pies are widely thought to have a playing list in transition – one more likely to finish outside the eight than to play finals this year, let alone win the flag.

Buckley concedes Collingwood have “lost thousands of games of experience” over the past three years, but he doesn’t buy into the philosophy that the cyclical nature of the competition makes it necessary for clubs and their fans to be content with seasons spent consolidating their playing stocks rather than contesting finals.

“Everyone wants to put a label on playing lists in some shape or form, whether it be contending, rebuilding or whatever,” he said.

“But I think the cycles in the game now turn quicker than they ever have.

“We’ve got blokes between 10 and 35 games and that can be a millstone, but it can also be an opportunity if enough of those blokes stand up.”

The Pies have slipped from fourth to eighth to 11th in Buckley’s three seasons in charge.

There will inevitably be a price to pay when any club attempts to re-position for another period of success as Buckley has done after recognising that the 2010 premiership group didn’t have another flag in it.

Buckley’s task hasn’t been made any easier by a wretched run of injuries over the past two seasons that rarely allowed him to field his best 22.

Ben Reid, Brent Macaffer, Nathan Brown, Dayne Beams, Lachie Keeffe, Dale Thomas and Clinton Young headlined the list of long-term casualties as the Pies slipped down the ladder.

Of course, Thomas and Beams are no longer part of the mix, but Buckley has been buoyed by the number of players he’s had at his disposal during a positive pre-season, which he believes will translate well into the home-and-away campaign.

Reid, in particular, will be a welcome addition in the back half after a season ruined by soft-tissue injuries.

Despite the remodelling of the past three years Buckley still has 10 members of the 2010 outfit at his disposal.

But it’s the gap between those players and the unproven part of Collingwood’s list that is the concern outside the club.

“I know there’s not a lot of expectation externally,” Buckley said.

“We haven’t set ourselves a certain number of wins – what we’ve set ourselves to do is to play our best footy as often as we possibly can and to improve as the season progresses.

“We think we’ll be better in ’16 than we were in ’15 and better in ’17 than we were in ’16 – there’s a lot of natural growth and evolution that we’re capable of taking.

“Potential is a dangerous word, but we’re no different from any other club in that we’re trying to maximise that potential as early as we possibly can, so our expectations are high.”

COLLINGWOOD

Coach: Nathan Buckley

Captain: Scott Pendlebury

Last five years: 1-2-4-8-11

Premierships: 15 (1902-03, 1910, 1917, 1919, 1927-30, 1935-36, 1953, 1958, 1990, 2010)

Key five: Scott Pendlebury, Dane Swan, Travis Cloke, Ben Reid, Steele Sidebottom.

One to watch: Ben Reid: The talented tall was restricted to just four games last year by calf, quadriceps and hamstring injuries. The Pies sent Reid to Germany to consult with a world-renowned soft-tissue expert and are confident they’re on top his issues. A fit and firing Reid will make a huge difference this season.

Ins: Jack Crisp (Brisbane Lions), Jordan De Goey (Oakleigh U18), Matthew Goodyear (Calder U18), Levi Greenwood (North Melbourne), Brayden Maynard (Sandringham U18), Darcy Moore (Oakleigh U18), Travis Varcoe (Geelong).

Outs: Luke Ball (retired), Dayne Beams (Brisbane Lions), Martin Clarke (retired), Ben Hudson (retired), Heritier Lumumba (Melbourne), Quinten Lynch (retired), Nick Maxwell (retired).

Best line-up:

B: Tom Langdon, Nathan Brown, Alan Toovey

HB: Marley Williams, Ben Reid, Lachie Keeffe

C: Brent Macaffer, Scott Pendlebury, Travis Varcoe

HF: Jarryd Blair, Jesse White, Steele Sidebottom

F: Tyson Goldsack, Travis Cloke, Jamie Elliott

R: Jarrod Witts, Dane Swan, Levi Greenwood

I: Taylor Adams, Jack Frost, Paul Seedsman, Clinton Young

Predicted finish: 12th

Betting (William Hill)

To win the flag: $31

To make the top eight: $3

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Jones third as Every wins on US PGA Tour

Australian Matt Jones produced a late birdie burst to claim third place as American Matt Every won the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the second straight year.

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Every made an 18-foot birdie putt on the last hole at Bay Hill to win by one stroke from Swedish star Henrik Stenson.

Last year Every rallied from a four-shot deficit for his first career victory.

This time he came from three shots behind on Sunday with a six-under 66 to win at 19-under 269, earning a return to the Masters next month.

Jones, who will defend his first US PGA title in two weeks at the Houston Open, made three straight birdies from the 15th hole as he fired a 68 to finish outright third, two strokes clear of fourth-placed American Morgan Hoffman.

World No.3 Stenson, on solid form after sharing fourth the past two weeks at Doral and Copperhead, was the US tour’s ninth 54-hole leader in a row to lose.

Stenson, who closed with a 70, held a one-shot lead until a three-putt bogey on the 15th hole and a three-putt par from the fringe on the par-5 16th. He missed a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have forced a playoff.

Every, 31, grew up nearby and attended the tournament as a youth.

Now he has matched 14-time major champion Tiger Woods and fellow American Loren Roberts as only the third player to win back-to-back Bay Hill titles, a feat Woods accomplished five times.

“I know how to win,” Every said.

“I was driving it really good this week and my irons were spot on.

“The accuracy was great. I kind of had a feeling. I was shaking over some of those putts late but that one at 18 was straight downhill.”

World number one Rory McIlroy, who can win his third major in a row and complete a career grand slam by winning next month’s Masters, had four birdies and two bogeys in firing a 70 to finish on 277 for a share of 11th.

“I got quite a lot out of this week,” McIlroy said. “It gave me what I needed going into the next couple of weeks before the Masters.

“I definitely feel like I’ve taken some strides in the right direction. There are still some things I need to tidy up and work on before the Masters. The things I was working on this week, I feel like I’ve made progress.”

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GWS Giants expecting big things

The slogan splashed across the front page of the GWS Giants’ 2015 yearbook sums up the air of optimism surrounding the AFL’s youngest club – expect big things.

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A strong end to last season combined with some excellent trading and a raft of crucial off-season contract extensions have the Giants in a bullish mood heading into their fourth campaign.

Chairman Tony Shepherd said he’d be disappointed if the club didn’t make the finals in the next two years and he expected them to be premiership contenders by 2018.

“There’s pressure from the outside of the club, in the media, for us to perform, but we actually put more pressure on ourselves to perform,” said star forward Jeremy Cameron, one of several key players to have signed recent contract extensions.

No Giant is spruiking talk of a finals tilt this year, but everyone is adamant their days as easybeats are over.

“My expectations have lifted for our playing group, our playing group’s expectations have lifted of each other, because if they don’t we’re not improving,” Giants’ coach Leon Cameron told AAP.

“Yes, we improved last last year with six wins, but we expect to win more games.

“We expect to be competitive for longer. We expect to be taking it up to some of the really good sides this year.

“We’re not here to make up the numbers. These players are building to hopefully put themselves in a position to win a premiership.”

A squad containing a heap of emerging stars with three seasons under their belt, has been supplemented by a couple of major recruits in former Western Bulldogs captain Ryan Griffen and dual Brisbane best and fairest winner Joel Patfull.

The Giants improved significantly in most defensive categories last year, despite key backs Phil Davis, Nick Haynes and Tim Mohr each missing a stack of games, along with smaller defender Curtly Hampton.

Add the experience of Patfull and Heath Shaw and the reliability of the younger Adam Kennedy and some better luck with injuries and the Giants should continue trending down in the points conceded category.

Last year they conceded 30 points a game less than in 2013 and went from having 19 and 20 100-point scores kicked against them in their first two years, to 11 in 2014.

“We know there’s a lot more improvement in there,” Leon Cameron said.

With Jonathon Patton out until mid-season following a second knee reconstruction and Tom Boyd sacrificed in the trade that brought Griffen to the club, young sharpshooters James Stewart and Cameron McCarthy will vie for the other key forward position alongside Jeremy Cameron.

With Devon Smith, Will Hoskin-Elliott, Jed Lamb and Rhys Palmer also capable of sniffing out goals, the Giants won’t be short of options up forward.

Griffen joins another former Bulldog in Callan Ward and Tom Scully in leading a dazzling array of younger midfielders including Lachie Whitfield, Josh Kelly, Dylan Shiel, Stephen Coniglio, Toby Greene, Tomas Bugg and Adam Treloar.

“It bodes really well to know that there’s probably 10 midfielders trying to jump in and take five or six spots,” Leon Cameron said.

Reigning best and fairest winner Shane Mumford will again lead the ruck division, with Andrew Phillips, Tom Downie and Rory Lobb as back-up options.

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY

Coach: Leon Cameron

Captains: Callan Ward, Phil Davis

Last three years: 18-18-16

Premierships: Nil

Key five: Callan Ward, Jeremy Cameron, Ryan Griffen, Phil Davis, Shane Mumford

One to watch: Ryan Griffen. The former Bulldogs skipper cited a need to rekindle his love of the game as the reason behind his shock move at the end of last season – hopefully he can recapture that passion because there are few more exciting players in full flight.

Ins: Paul Ahern (Calder U18), Jeremy Finlayson (GWS academy), Ryan Griffen (Western Bulldogs), Caleb Marchbank (Murray U18), Pat McKenna (Gisborne Vic), Joel Patfull (Brisbane Lions), Jarrod Pickett (South Fremantle WAFL), Jack Steele (GWS academy).

Outs: Tom Boyd (Western Bulldogs), Sam Frost (Melbourne), Jonathan Giles (Essendon), Stephen Gilham (retired), Josh Hunt (retired), Kristian Jaksch (Carlton), Jonathan O’Rourke (Hawthorn), Mark Whiley (Carlton).

Best line-up:

B: Curtly Hampton, Phil Davis, Joel Patfull

HB: Adam Kennedy, Nick Haynes, Heath Shaw

C: Toby Greene, Callan Ward, Lachie Whitfield

HF: Devon Smith, Jonathon Patton, Tom Scully

F: Will Hoskin-Elliott, Jeremy Cameron, Adam Tomlinson

R: Shane Mumford, Ryan Griffen, Stephen Coniglio

I: Adam Treloar, Dylan Shiel, Josh Kelly, Tomas Bugg

Predicted finish: 13th

Betting: (William Hill)

To win the flag: $101

To make the top eight: $7

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Pocock accuses Waratahs players of homophobic slurs

Accusations of homophobic slurs have overshadowed the NSW Waratahs’ commanding Super Rugby triumph over the Brumbies at Allianz Stadium.

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NSW’s 28-13 victory reignited their title defence and bumped the Brumbies off the top of the competition ladder, but David Pocock’s sensational allegation to referee Craig Joubert late in the spicy derby marred the Waratahs’ celebrations.

A vocal advocate of same-sex marriages, Pocock approached Joubert twice in the final 15 minutes, upset at what the referee deemed to be “pretty aggressive comments” from the Waratahs.

Joubert asked NSW vice-captain Michael Hooper, deputising for skipper Dave Dennis – who’d been replaced – to have a word with the Waratahs.

Pocock, though, was not satisfied and Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham later said the ACT franchise would investigate the matter.

“Obviously it’s going to come out in the next couple of days,” Larkham said.

“We haven’t had a chance to chat to everyone about everything that happened out there but we will investigate it further.”

Larkham suspected the allegation was made against one player.

“But I didn’t hear it and I wasn’t on the field … and I certainly didn’t hear it,” Larkham said.

“It was reported as that. We’ll have to talk to individuals and see what the process is.”

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said he was reluctant to comment until he had all the facts in front of him.

“The way I see it is like this: if there’s an issue, it will come to light,” Cheika said.

“When it comes to light, I’ll make my position clear on it.

“I know that it’s a big thing about speculation; it’s something that fills a newspaper, but I’m about seeing what really happened and then making a comment.”

Allegations of slurs aside, Brumbies skipper Stephen Moore said he didn’t consider any of the “banter” to be out of the ordinary in the niggly encounter.

“It’s always like that,” Moore said.

“I think off the field there’s a lot of guys out there that are quite good mates.

“You know, Michael Hooper and ‘Whitey’ (Brumbies halfback) Nic White used to live together for a couple of years so they know each other pretty well and there was a bit of banter out there.

“But I think it was all in the spirit of the game, and that’s the way it goes out there and I didn’t see it as an issue.”

The accusations overshadowed the importance of the Waratahs’ win.

Had they lost, the titleholders would have fallen 14 points adrift of the Brumbies in the Australian conference.

The Brumbies, who dropped to second behind the unbeaten Hurricanes, and Waratahs are the only Australian sides in touch with the leaders after the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force suffered gutwrenching defeats in round six.

The Rebels squandered a golden opportunity to score successive wins for the first time since 2013, conceding a 78th-minute try in a 20-16 loss to the Lions at AAMI Park on Friday night.

After opening the season with a shock win over the Waratahs in Sydney, the Force have now lost five straight after being sunk by a last-minute penalty in a 25-24 defeat to the Bulls in Pretoria.

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