Australia defeats All Blacks for Rugby Championship


Australia defeats All Blacks for Rugby Championship

SYDNEY (AP) — Australia won its first Rugby Championship in four years after a 27-19 victory over New Zealand at Sydney's Olympic Stadium on Saturday.

Nic White made a stunning contribution from the bench, scoring a late try and kicking a 47-meter penalty goal to lift the Wallabies to a morale-boosting victory against the world's top-ranked team less than six weeks before the start of the Rugby World Cup.

"The reality is that we've only won one game against New Zealand in a long time," Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said. "Consistency is key and we have to go out there and prepare each day to be competitive again with the No. 1 team in the world on their own patch. That's our target."

[Rugby is coming to Chicago: Australia faces the U.S. at Soldier Field on Sept. 5]

The teams meet again in Auckland next weekend — outside the Rugby Championship but for the Bledisloe Cup —in their last major match ahead of the World Cup.

Adam Ashley-Cooper and Sekope Kepu also scored for the Wallabies while Nehe Milner-Skudder scored two tries on debut.

Veteran All Black flyhalf Dan Carter kicked nine points to become the first player to pass 1,500 test points.

After New Zealand led 6-3 in a first-half punctuated with errors and a yellow card to Wallabies prop Kepu, the match burst to life in the second half with five tries and a further two yellow cards.

Kepu received a yellow card in only the 8th minute for being offside after scrumhalf Aaron Smith took a quick tap from a penalty close to the goal-line.

Carter kicked the resulting penalty for an early 3-0 lead to the All Blacks.

The Wallabies struggled for momentum during much of the first half, but found themselves in a good attacking position as it repeatedly dominated the scrum and led to Matt Giteau leveling the scores in the 27th minute.

"We've been working hard (at the scrum), it's just another step along the way," captain Stephen Moore said. "We've just got to keep practising more because, if we are not improving next week, it could go against us because that's how slim the margins are."

[Click Here: Get tickets now for U.S.A. Eagles vs. Quantas Wallabies at Soldier Field]

The All Blacks responded immediately with Carter scoring a long-range penalty after a Wallabies infringement from the restart to regain the lead, 6-3, which it held to halftime.

At the start of the second half, Smith caught Ashley-Cooper high on the neck to receive the second yellow card of the night.

The Wallabies took immediate advantage with Kepu shrugging off Kieran Read's poor attempted tackle to score under the posts. Giteau converted for a 10-6 lead.

Carter, playing his 105th test, became the first player to pass 1,500 test points when he successfully kicked a 51st-minute penalty to narrow the deficit to 10-9.

Nick Phipps gave the trailing All Blacks a boost when he blatantly pulled back Conrad Smith whilst in an offside position to earn the Wallabies' second yellow card of the game in the 54th.

The world champions wasted little time making the extra-man advantage count when Carter played Ben Smith into space and the fullback passed wide to Milner-Skudder for the winger to score on debut.

Replacement flyhalf Matt Toomua produced the best moment of the match when his perfectly weighted kick found Ashley-Cooper, who held off a strong tackle by fullback Ben Smith to score in the corner.

Giteau converted from the sideline as the Wallabies again led 17-14.

Milner-Skudder scored his second try after the television referee ruled that the winger had managed to ground the ball on the goal-line despite the attention of four Wallabies defenders, to give the visitors a 19-17 lead.

"He brought what he's brought to the Super (Rugby) competition to the test arena," New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said. "He's exciting, he's confident and he's impressed us with how quickly he's taken things on board."

White entered the match in the 65th minute and four minutes later kicked a penalty from 47 metres to regain the lead for the Wallabies at 20-19.

White's match-winning impact came three minutes later when he darted over from close range to the delight of the 73,824 crowd. The scrumhalf converted the try to give the Wallabies a 27-19 lead, which they closed out for its first tournament success since 2011.

"We've spoke about our finishers and Nic White was given more time tonight based on his performances in training and he wanted to take that opportunity," Cheika said. "He put his hand up to take a long-range penalty, he had good distribution, good service and also scored a try.

"And that's what I want, I want guys to put their hands up and say 'I want to be part of this.'"

The result spoiled New Zealand captain Richie McCaw's 141st test, tying the world record of Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll. 

Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg


Jimmy Butler's injury produced memories for Zach LaVine, Fred Hoiberg

MINNEAPOLIS — That feeling of having your knee buckle out of nowhere, Zach LaVine is all-too familiar with it.

That feeling of being on the sidelines and watching Jimmy Butler’s knee give out, Fred Hoiberg has been there, too.

Different perspectives, and different reactions but Butler’s knee injury produced a sick feeling to many who watched it Friday night. Butler turned to pivot in the Timberwolves’ game against the Houston Rockets and immediately collapsed on the floor, having to be carried off.

LaVine tore his ACL in Detroit over a year ago, while it was revealed Butler suffered a right meniscus injury. But it looked all the same and LaVine understood the uncertainty Butler must’ve been feeling before the MRI revealed it wasn’t an ACL injury.

“It’s scary,” LaVine said following morning shootaround at the Target Center Saturday afternoon. “I wish him the best. You don’t want to see that happen to anybody. Especially a player of his caliber and what he’s done for the team.”

When LaVine injured his ACL, he actually played a few more minutes before being removed and going to the locker room. The time between being evaluated by doctors and them coming back feels like a lifetime.

“It’s scary. You know you hurt yourself, you don’t know how bad,” LaVine said. “You think you’re good, you’re a tough minded person trying to get through it.”

“I saw him on the ground trying to get up, (Rockets guard) Chris Paul made him sit down. Jimmy’s a tough dude. Thoughts and prayers going out to him.”

Butler and LaVine were the centerpieces of the draft day trade involving the Bulls and Timberwolves. With Butler suffering the injury the night before playing his former team a second time, the timing produced a bunch of memories.

In Hoiberg’s first year with the Bulls, Butler went down in a somewhat similar manner in Denver, a non-contact injury. It looked just as bad, and Butler was taken off the floor in a wheelchair.

Thankfully it was a right knee strain that cost him several weeks but it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Considering the minutes he’s played over the last few years, Hoiberg was asked if Butler pushes himself too hard to be on the floor.

“Jimmy he wants to be out there,” Hoiberg said. “I remember the first year in Denver, he went down with what looked to be a serious injury. Thankfully he was back on the floor after 15-16 games.”

Actually, Butler missed 11 consecutive games before coming back for a nationally-televised game against the Rockets, playing 34 minutes in a Bulls win and missing the next three games for recovery.

“We really worried when he went down but it wasn’t something that ended his season,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy’s a worker. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve seen. It’s a huge reason for the type of player he is, that work ethic to make him one of the elite players in the league.”

With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury


With Bulls-Timberwolves looming, Jimmy Butler is diagnosed with meniscus injury

Jimmy Butler won't be facing the Bulls a second time this season.

Butler suffered a non-contact knee injury on Friday night in Houston. The initial X-ray only revealed he didn't have any broken bones, but the MRI had to wait until Saturday.

The Timberwolves announced that the MRI revealed a meniscus injury in Butler's right knee. There is not yet word on how long the All-Star guard will be out of action, but if it wasn't already assumed that he wouldn't play against the Bulls, it's now certain.

Avoiding the ACL tear means avoiding the worse case scenario, but this is likely still going to cause Butler to miss a significant amount of time with about a quarter of the regular season remaining.

The Bulls take on the Timberwolves on Saturday night. Butler dropped 38 points at the United Center in his return to Chicago exactly two weeks ago, but the Bulls won 114-113.

Butler posted on Instagram a reaction to the injury.

Saturday's game will be the returns of Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn to Minnesota after they went the other direction in the Butler trade on draft night last June.