Leinster edge closer to Champions Cup progress

Dave Kearney scored Leinster's first try

Dave Kearney scored Leinster’s first try

Leinster remain on course to qualify from European Champions Cup Pool Two following a 50-8 bonus point thrashing of Castres at the RDS.

Matt O'Connor's men had chalked up four tries by half-time, with Dave Kearney's second-minute opener followed by further converted efforts from Martin Moore, Eoin Reddan and Sean Cronin.

Moore and Reddan scored their tries while Castres flanker Ibrahim Diarra was in the sin-bin, as the Irish province threw off the shackles having only scored four tries in the previous four rounds.

They added to their 31-3 interval lead with a maiden European try for replacement prop Tadhg Furlong and Darragh Fanning came off the bench to bag his third in this season's tournament.

Castres' only consolation was an unconverted try from Romain Martial, before Luke McGrath made it seven tries on the night for Leinster, whose qualification battle with Harlequins and Wasps is likely to go right down to the wire next week.

Get a full report on Leinster's victory in this weekend's Sunday World newspaper.

Leinster edge closer to Champions Cup progress

Dave Kearney scored Leinster's first try

Dave Kearney scored Leinster’s first try

Leinster remain on course to qualify from European Champions Cup Pool Two following a 50-8 bonus point thrashing of Castres at the RDS.

Matt O'Connor's men had chalked up four tries by half-time, with Dave Kearney's second-minute opener followed by further converted efforts from Martin Moore, Eoin Reddan and Sean Cronin.

Moore and Reddan scored their tries while Castres flanker Ibrahim Diarra was in the sin-bin, as the Irish province threw off the shackles having only scored four tries in the previous four rounds.

They added to their 31-3 interval lead with a maiden European try for replacement prop Tadhg Furlong and Darragh Fanning came off the bench to bag his third in this season's tournament.

Castres' only consolation was an unconverted try from Romain Martial, before Luke McGrath made it seven tries on the night for Leinster, whose qualification battle with Harlequins and Wasps is likely to go right down to the wire next week.

Get a full report on Leinster's victory in this weekend's Sunday World newspaper.

Munster floored by Saracens in Champions Cup

Chris Ashton scored a try for Saracens

Chris Ashton scored a try for Saracens

Saracens took a giant stride towards the European Champions Cup quarter-finals by flooring Irish heavyweights Munster at Allianz Park.

Last year's European runners-up moved top of Pool One by delivering arguably their most complete performance of the season, cruising home 33-10.

Wings Chris Wyles and Chris Ashton scored first-half tries, before Ashton added a second touchdown after the break, while Owen Farrell reminded England head coach Stuart Lancaster of his quality prior to next week's RBS 6 Nations squad announcement by kicking four penalties and three conversions for an 18-point haul.

French giants Clermont Auvergne remain favourites to win the group – they host Saracens on Sunday week – but it is probable that one of three best runners-up spots in terms of last-eight qualification will be filled by either club.

Twice European champions Munster, though, are staring at pool-stage elimination – barring a mathematical miracle – for only a second time in the last 17 seasons, even if they defeat Thomond Park visitors Sale Sharks in bonus-point fashion next weekend.

Centre Denis Hurley's late try, plus an Ian Keatley conversion and penalty, could not mask Munster deficiencies, as Saracens overpowered them up front and won an overwhelming majority of midfield collisions.

And while Munster's European fate looks sealed, Saracens appear well equipped to make another assault on silverware, even if they did not collect a bonus point their dominance deserved.

Get all the best rugby coverage in this weekend's Sunday World newspaper.

Munster floored by Saracens in Champions Cup

Chris Ashton scored a try for Saracens

Chris Ashton scored a try for Saracens

Saracens took a giant stride towards the European Champions Cup quarter-finals by flooring Irish heavyweights Munster at Allianz Park.

Last year's European runners-up moved top of Pool One by delivering arguably their most complete performance of the season, cruising home 33-10.

Wings Chris Wyles and Chris Ashton scored first-half tries, before Ashton added a second touchdown after the break, while Owen Farrell reminded England head coach Stuart Lancaster of his quality prior to next week's RBS 6 Nations squad announcement by kicking four penalties and three conversions for an 18-point haul.

French giants Clermont Auvergne remain favourites to win the group – they host Saracens on Sunday week – but it is probable that one of three best runners-up spots in terms of last-eight qualification will be filled by either club.

Twice European champions Munster, though, are staring at pool-stage elimination – barring a mathematical miracle – for only a second time in the last 17 seasons, even if they defeat Thomond Park visitors Sale Sharks in bonus-point fashion next weekend.

Centre Denis Hurley's late try, plus an Ian Keatley conversion and penalty, could not mask Munster deficiencies, as Saracens overpowered them up front and won an overwhelming majority of midfield collisions.

And while Munster's European fate looks sealed, Saracens appear well equipped to make another assault on silverware, even if they did not collect a bonus point their dominance deserved.

Get all the best rugby coverage in this weekend's Sunday World newspaper.

Rory McIlroy starts 2015 with a bang

McIlroy on fire in Abu Dhabi

McIlroy on fire in Abu Dhabi

Rory McIlroy and close rival Rickie Fowler are neck and neck after an entertaining opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

The duo's careers are becoming increasingly intertwined, with Fowler finishing in the top five of all four majors last year but McIlroy winning two of them and coming out on top in their singles match at the Ryder Cup.

And although the world number one began his year with a birdie on his opening hole, the 10th, he dropped back to level par just before the turn as Fowler moved into the ascendancy.

The American was at one stage in a share of the lead on six under but by then McIlroy, spurred on by his playing partner, was on the charge and five birdies on his final seven holes put him in a decent position.

Fowler then made his only bogey on the last to drop back to five under, alongside McIlroy, and two shots behind morning leader Thomas Pieters of Belgium.

McIlroy, standing alongside Fowler afterwards, admitted his game was raised by the 26-year-old.

"I was just trying to keep up with this guy," he said in quotes from the European Tour's official website.

"He was kicking me on, for sure. I didn't want to let him get too far ahead of me. I just wanted to try to stay as close to him as possible and thankfully I was able to do that."

The 25-year-old appeared in trouble on the third after his tee shot left him on the lip of a bunker, but he superbly managed to get his approach shot onto the green before holing for birdie.

That proved the catalyst for his round as he picked up shots on his next two holes before a nerveless 15ft putt on the seventh was followed by another birdie to lift him to 67 for his round.

"It's definitely a boost," he said. "It's not a shot I would practice too much, that's for sure. But from looking like you're going to make a bogey to making a birdie, that gives you a little bit of momentum and you can go on from there and luckily I was able to make a few birdies after that.

"The result was good, 67 was pleasing. How I got there in the end wasn't quite as pleasing. There's a couple of things that I need to work on if I want to have a chance to win."

Anderson beats Taylor to be crowned darts world champ

Anderson wins his first world title

Anderson wins his first world title

AP McCoy was on hand to present the PDC World darts title to the 2015 champion in London – and just for one it was not Phil Taylor who came out on top as Gary Anderson won a thrilling match in a final set shoot-out.

Anderson collected his first PDC World Championship title after holding his nerve to win the final set 3-0 on a night of high drama in front of a packed crowd at London's Alexandra Palace.

The 'Flying Scotsman' showed tremendous mental strength to shrug off losing nine of 10 legs after going 3-1 up, a no score and shouts from the crowd at 4-4 to collect dart's richest prize.

Taylor eased past old foe Raymond van Barneveld in the last four and was favourite in what was his 20th world final, but he struggled to hit his doubles and Anderson cashed in to claim the £250,000 first prize.

"There was a set where I played well and went 6-4 up and then after the break Phil took the next two sets and I felt it was gone," Anderson told Sky Sports afterwards.

"Phil is the best and always will be the best so that makes it more special."

Taylor was left to rue his finishing for his failure to win a 17th world title.

"Doubles cost me a couple of sets and he took advantage," he said. "My double eight and 16 were awful but Gary put me under pressure.

"At 6-6 I felt I had him and my energy levels were good. but he did a job on me and he beat me up in the last set."

Anderson showed few signs of nerves early on with a double 20 rounding off a 120 finish. The two traded legs, but the Scot had the last laugh in the opening set, hitting the bull to go one up.

Anderson raced to a two-leg lead in a second but Taylor, who eased to victory over Raymond van Barneveld in the last four, fought back to take the second set, although he needed three throws at the double 10 to level the match.

Anderson won the first leg of the third, and although Taylor pulled out a 127 checkout in the second game, he missed three goes at the double eight as Anderson took the set, before extending his lead to 3-1.

Taylor, who won his first world crown back in 1990, was struggling to find his doubles in the bottom left of the board, but stormed back winning six straight legs to level the match.

Anderson broke the run with a double one 'mad house' to take the opening game of the seventh, but Taylor was in no mood to let his grip slip as he took the lead.

Anderson was desperate to halt Taylor's run and a vital 180 in the fifth game put him in prime position to take the set against the throw, but a miss on the bull let Taylor back in.

The Power missed three throws on double 12 as Anderson hit double eight, Taylor's worst double to date, to make it 4-4.

Anderson inexplicably knocked out his opening two trebles of the set with his third to register a no score (watch below) before he grew frustrated with a spectator who he felt was shouting out of turn.

Two legs down Anderson, however, showed great heart to take the set. The 40-year-old threw his 60th 180 of the tournament before going 6-4 ahead and one set away from victory.

Taylor was one arrow away from a nine-darter at the start of the 11th before going on to win the set 3-0.

At two each Anderson had a chance to see out the match, but he could not finish as Taylor levelled again to make it six sets each.

Anderson took the opening game of the decider, before Taylor again missed three double 16 before the Scot hit double 18.

Anderson hit a 180 to start the third leg before missing bull for victory. Left with with 25, he hit one then double 12 to see out the match and complete a remarkable victory.