Vol. VIII No. 27 - Tuesday
July 7 - July 13, 2009



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


SPORTS
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Lions salvage pride in final test

Noppawan wins girls’ title at Wimbledon

Battle for the Ashes starts this week

Lions salvage pride in final test

Robert Millward
Johannesburg (AP) - The British and Irish Lions won the final test but South Africa captain John Smit held the trophy that said his team had won the series.
The Lions scored more tries and outscored the Springboks 74 points to 63 over the three-test series, yet world champion South Africa won the first two tests that mattered.
Whatever the outcome, the disputes over foul play, rule interpretations and whether Lions head coach Ian McGeechan congratulated South Africa coach Peter de Villiers after the second test in Pretoria, one thing remained certain.

British Lions’s Shane Williams (left) evades South Africa’s Jaque Fourie (right) to score a try in the first half of the third test at Ellis Park stadium in Johannesburg, Saturday July 4. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Lions tours are here to stay and remain, outside of the World Cup, the biggest events in rugby - ahead of the Tri Nations or the Six Nations championships.
“It’s the biggest jersey that any one of us can put on,” Lions captain Paul O’Connell said after his team’s 28-9 victory in Saturday’s final test. He has just come off Ireland’s first Grand Slam triumph since 1948 and first championship since the 1985 Six Nations.
He also led the Lions to a win that tied his team’s biggest ever victory on South African turf - 28-9 in Pretoria in 1974, and ended a run of seven test losses in a row. The Lions still haven’t won a series, however, since their last visit to South Africa 12 years ago.
“They are tough tours but they are fabulous. Like today will be a moment to remember for a lot of guys’ careers for a lot of years to come,” O’Connell said. “It would have been tough to look some of those ’74 and ’97 guys in the eye if it had been no win, so today is a good day for a lot of them.”
Even though the pro game has delivered big salaries, and club competitions have grown in stature, players from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia still savor the arrival of the top stars of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland in the famous red shirts and with up to 25,000 fans with them.
Springboks captain John Smit, who has led the team to a World Cup triumph and has led them 54 times in 84 tests, scored a try in his first Lions game in the opening test at Durban.
“It was an amazing experience from start to finish, from the day the Lions arrived,” Smit said. “It is still one of the most prized things rugby has to offer. The toughness of game, the competitiveness of the series, how close it was. If anything should be kept, the Lions should be kept.”
O’Connell said that the previous two results - 26-21 in Durban and 28-25 in Pretoria - could have gone either way and was thankful at least one victory was achieved.
“For a lot of us this week was one of the toughest in our careers,” O’Connell said. “It could have been one of the most exciting in our careers. But it could have been a long summer if we hadn’t won today.”
The first test at Kings Park saw the South Africans threaten a record victory when they led 26-7 early in the second half, only for the Lions to take advantage of premature Springbok substitutions to get within five points.
The second at Loftus Versfeld saw the Lions lead 19-8 only for two second half tries and a match winning 53-meter kick by Morne Steyn to win the match and the series for the Boks.
Both teams made big changes for the final game at Ellis Park but for different reasons.
Boks coach Peter de Villiers, criticized by the Lions for apparently condoning what was perceived to be eye gouging by flanker Schalk Burger on Ireland winger Luke Fitzgerald, started only five of the team that won in Pretoria. That was partly to give back-up players an outing, and partly because Burger was starting an eight-week suspension and Botha, whose challenge dislocated Adam Jones’ shoulder, was out for two, despite an appeal.
The Lions were forced into seven changes by injuries to stars such as centers Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts and props Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones.
But the Lions proved better than the backup Boks with Shane Williams - overlooked as a starter for the first two tests even though he was voted IRB player of the year for 2008 - scoring two tries and Ugo Monye an opportunist one from an interception in the Lion’s 22.
Stephen Jones followed up his 20 points at Pretoria with 13 more at Ellis Park and South Africa’s points came from three penalties by Morne Steyn.
“A very pleasant victory,” said McGeechan, who has been on seven Lions tours as player or coach but says he won’t do it again. “This victory lasts for four years.”


Noppawan wins girls’ title at Wimbledon

Wimbledon (AP) - Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand won the girls’ title at Wimbledon on Saturday, using a steady serve to beat top seeded Kristina Mladenovic of France 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 and become the first Thai tennis player to win a singles event at a Grand Slam tournament.

Noppawan Lertcheewakarn kisses the winners trophy after defeating Kristina Mladenovic of France in the Wimbledon girls’ singles final. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

The 17-year-old Noppawan, a native of Chiang Mai, landed 69 percent of her first serves against Mladenovic on Court No. 1, far better than her opponent’s 40 percent. Although Noppawan had only nine winners in the match, she was helped by Mladenovic’s 39 unforced errors.
After losing the first set 3-6, Noppawan reversed the scoreline in the second set and stormed through the final set 6-1 as more and more errors began to creep into her opponent’s game.
Noppawan lost in the Wimbledon girls final last year, but then won the girls’ doubles title at the U.S. Open with Sandra Roma. In December, she was named girls’ ITF World Champion. She also won the girls’ doubles title with Elena Bogdan of Romania at the French Open this year, and at press time was also still alive in the doubles competition at the All England Club. She was due to partner Sally Peers of Australia in the final on Sunday against the second seeds Kristina Mladenovic and Silvia Njiric.


Battle for the Ashes starts this week

One of the most eagerly anticipated and oldest rivalries in sport gets underway this week when England’s cricket team take on the ‘auld enemy’ Australia in a five match test series with the famous Ashes urn up for grabs. The first test begins at Cardiff on Wednesday, July 8 with the concluding match being held at the Oval cricket ground in London from August 20-24. In between time there will be three Test Matches at Lords (Jul 16-20), Edgbaston (Jul 30–Aug 3) and Headingly (Aug 7-11). The Chiang Mai Mail will keep you updated on all the action from the Ashes series as it progresses. (AP Photo/ Tom Hevezi)



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