By Lachlan Harper and Emily Patterson

The Kangaroos have outperformed Toa Samoa 38-12 in the opening match of the men’s Pacific Championships in Townsville.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow scored a double on debut as Australia emulated last year’s Rugby League World Cup final victory over Samoa.

In a moment of madness, Canterbury football boss Phil Gould was left gobsmacked after Samoa young gun and Storm winger Sualauvi Fa’alogo was denied a stunning try in the 50th minute.

AS IT HAPPENED: Pacific Championships 2023

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Fa’alogo chipped over the top of James Tedesco to score as Samoa trailed.

However, the Bunker soon took a second look before judging that forward Keenan Palasia knocked the ball on in the lead-up to the try.

Before the Bunker intervened Gould was in awe: “That is special”.

Thus, he was not happy seeing the try scratched off.

“Have a night off … it’s disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful,” he told Nine’s coverage. 

Payne Haas opened the scoring following some crafty work from Ben Hunt downfield.

Hunt shifted through the middle before finding Isaah Yeo who put Haas through a hole to score.

Moments later, the Kangaroos were in again through Hunt.

Off the back of a scrum, Hunt found Cameron Munster who put James Tedesco on the outside of Izack Tago, easing the skipper over.

Hunt continued to have a hand in tries as the hooker maneuvered the ball to the line to put Tino Fa’asuamaleaui in front of multiple defenders. Fa’asuamaleaui then crashed over.

Cameron Murray added to Australia’s commanding lead before Samoa finally responded through Murray Taulagi in the 18th minute.

A short side play late in the set found Luciano Leilua in the centres who grubbered close to the line, setting up Taulagi to ground the ball.

On the brink of half-time, Tabuai-Fidow bagged his first as a short drop-off from Daly Cherry-Evans was first batted towards Harry Grant before hitting the Dolphins’ speed machine.

Tabuai-Fidow beat several defenders to get clear inside his own 50 metre line. From there, it was all over as he sprinted away and secured a 26-6 lead at the main break. 

Watch the Kangaroos in the 2023 Pacific Championships on Nine and 9Now.

Fa’alogo tried to lift his side with a try but was denied before Tabuai-Fidow scored his second.

Grant kept Samoa’s defence guessing before an exchange of hands allowed the centre to go over.

Despite being off the pace, Samoa scored a thrilling try through Leilua in the 72nd minute.

A quick sequence down the left-hand side found Taulagi with enough space to beat several defenders before dishing off to Leilua inside.

Leilua then muscled his way past Hunt to score. 

Fitting in one last try before the hooter, Kotoni Staggs added a try to his performance on debut.

A crafty kick from Cherry-Evans in behind Samoa’s defence set Staggs up seconds before full-time.

Staggs finished the match with 14 points, including five conversions from seven attempts.

The debate surrounding the so-called spirit of cricket has made it all the way to 10 Downing Street, with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak weighing in on the latest Ashes debacle.

Jonny Bairstow’s dismissal – described by former captain Alastair Cook as ‘dopey’ – at the hands of Alex Carey’s quick thinking has lit a fuse under England.

Incumbent England captain Ben Stokes and his teammates have lashed the move, despite being well within the laws of the game.

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Laws, it seems, should be forgotten in the interest of the “spirit” of cricket, in the eyes of England’s cricket team.

That’s a sentiment echoed by the prime minister, who parroted Stokes’ claims that he wouldn’t have done the same, nor would he have wanted to win in that fashion.

“The Prime Minister agrees with Ben Stokes,” a spokesman for the prime minister said.

Every ball of the Ashes will be live, free and exclusive on 9Now, and if you miss any of the action you can find full highlights and exclusive replays after every day’s play here

“He said he simply wouldn’t want to win a game in the manner Australia did.

“The game did provide an opportunity to see Ben Stokes at his best and it was an incredible Test match and he has confidence England will bounce back at Headingley.”

Albeit not in direct response to Sunak, Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese took to Twitter on Tuesday to laud the efforts of the national sides, men and women.

“I’m proud of our men’s and women’s cricket teams, who have both won their opening two Ashes matches against England, he wrote.

“Same old Aussies – always winning!

Australia is right behind Alysa Healy, Pat Cummins and their teams and look forward to welcoming them home victorious 👏.”

The third Test between Australia and England takes place at Headingley on Thursday.

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Holger Rune‘s failure to call a double-bounce on himself in his fourth round Roland-Garros clash against Argentinian Francisco Cerundolo wasn’t cheating, but was “unsportsmanlike”, according to Aussie tennis legend Wally Masur.

With the match tied at a set apiece, on-serve and at deuce in the fourth game of the third set, Cerundolo played a skidding forehand that bounced for a second time a split second before Rune got his racquet to it. 

Cerundolo apologised to Rune for the skidding ball. The umpire – having clearly not seen the second bounce, subsequently called for hindrance for talking in a point, handing the point to Rune.

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Speaking on Stan Sports’ Grand Slam Daily, Masur said players usually follow an unwritten rule in those kind of situations.

“It’s the umpire’s call … (but) there’s an unwritten rule that if the ball clips you, clips your racquet or a double-bounce, you call it on yourself – a bit like a batsman who snicks and walks,” he said.

The decision gave Rune the advantage, and he broke Cerundolo with the next point.

“I wouldn’t call it cheating, but it’s not great sportsmanship and it obviously got under the skin of Cerundolo.”

Watch Roland-Garros 2023 live and free on 9now.

Following the match, Rune claimed he didn’t realise the ball had bounced a second time until replays were shown on the big screen.

“When I was hitting the ball, I didn’t know – I just ran for it,” he said.

Double bounce call causes controversy

“I saw it after the next point on the TV … but the point already happened and (the umpire) called the score.”

Usually once a chair umpire calls the score, the decision is final and the game must move on.

Watch Roland-Garros 2023, every match ad free and on demand. Centre court coverage in 4K UHD on Stan Sport

“I feel sorry for him … This is tennis. This is sports. Some umpires make mistakes. Some for me, some for him. That’s life,” Rune added.

Rune went on to win the match 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (10-7), and will play Casper Ruud in the quarter-finals on Wednesday night (AEST).

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AFL great Jimmy Bartel has pointed to the tribunal’s updated guidelines as one of the reasons behind players’ confusion over what constitutes a dangerous tackle.

Players all over the competition have been left second-guessing their tackling techniques after a number of suspensions in the first five rounds of the season.

Prior to the start of the season, the AFL amended its tribunal guidelines allowing the match review officer to consider the potential for a player to be injured in an act in deciding a suspension, even if the player was not actually injured during the incident in question.

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Essendon vice-captain Andrew McGrath urged the AFL to provide clarity for its players after seeing skipper Zach Merrett suspended for Anzac Day due to a dangerous tackle in round five.

“All the players would love clarification,” McGrath told reporters on Wednesday.

“We play a game that’s so random and chaotic at times and you’re not exactly sure what’s allowed and what’s not allowed.

“There’s been a lot of cases in the last few weeks of players getting done for similar incidents so it would be great to get a little bit of clarification.

“As the cases are going, we’re sort of figuring out what’s fair and not fair and what’s being permitted.”

Bartel, a three-time premiership winner with Geelong, explained where players had been left confused.

“The issue I’ve got with it is that you’ve still got to make sure that it’s a reportable offence,” he told Nine’s Footy Classified.

“We all agree that we want to get it out (of the game), but where we get confusion is … this potential to cause more damage.

“There’s potential to cause damage at every contest, so it becomes really subjective.

“It used to be (based on) impact, where it’s just off the medical report and whether the player played on.

“Now we’ve got this subjective nature of whether the player could’ve got hurt … I think that’s where the confusion is coming in.”

Bartel said umpires could help the situation by blowing the whistle earlier, before players felt the need to take an opponent down into the ground to hold the ball up.

Essendon great Matthew Lloyd said the tackle had become like the bump, where players needed to understand the consequences of injuring an opponent in the process.

“It’s like the bump now,” he told Footy Classified.

“If you try and execute a bump or you try and execute a tackle, and you either hit them in the head with a bump or you sling them with a tackle and they hit their head, you’re gone.

“If you’re sitting at home and you’re the AFL and you’ve just seen Andrew McGrath and Dion Prestia say, ‘I don’t know’, you would be there tomorrow or on the link-up to every head of football, every coach.

“You know what the coaches should be doing? Coaching it from tomorrow. Dion said, ‘We haven’t been coached it’.”

Former Collingwood president Eddie McGuire also backed up the players’ stance, saying the league needed to provide more clarity.

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“That is changing the name of the game,” he told Footy Classified.

“If we have to do that, then we have to do it. We have to tell people though. One of the things we’ve always been concerned about is that the player that gets the ball has to get a chance to get rid of it.

“No one knows the rule though. If they came out and said, ‘You can’t pull somebody to the ground’, you’d say, ‘OK, I get it’.”

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League greats Cameron Smith and Brad Fittler have locked horns over yet another contentious hip drop tackle in the Storm’s brutal clash against the Sea Eagles.

The incident in question occurred in the second half of Manly’s 18-8 win at Brookvale, when Storm backrower Trent Loeiro tackled his opposite number Haumole Olakau’atu from behind.

Loeiro grabbed Olakau’atu’s hips and dropped towards the turf, but made minimal contact with the Manly youngster’s legs while doing so. Nevertheless, referee Adam Gee penalised the Storm and placed Loeiro on report, but did not send him to the sin bin due to the tackle being classed as careless rather than reckless.

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Olakau’atu was not seriously injured in the play and was able to run out the remainder of the match unencumbered.

Following the match, Fittler argued that the tackle was a clear example of a hip drop, and said clubs needed to coach it out of players, calling it an instinctive play.

“That’s a hip drop. He had him by the hips and he dropped his body weight, that’s a hip drop,” he said on Nine’s NRL coverage.

“It wasn’t as bad as others (but) if he lands on his legs then all of a sudden you can do some real damage.

“What they (clubs) need to do, they need to actually train a different way because quite obvious that it’s actually instinct.

Loiero on report for hip drop

“A lot of these tackles are in really tight moments where people are breaking free, so the natural instinct is to grab them by their hips and drop the body weight.

“Clubs need to start searching for a different way to make their tackles.”

Former Storm captain Cameron Smith disagreed, saying the ongoing hysteria surrounding hip drop tackles had caused people around the league to be “jumping at shadows”.

“He barely grazes the left leg of Olakau’atu,” he told Nine.

“I just think that action, that looked very spectacular when it happened in fast motion, particularly with Harry Grant coming in and getting bent over.

NRL Highlights: Sea Eagles v Storm – Round 7

“Are we refereeing our game on optics or exactly what happens?

“I completely understand when someone drops their backside or their hip into the back of the legs, but Loeiro there, he’s just holding on, he lowers his weight down, but never at any stage does he put weight into the back of Olakau’atu’s legs.

“I just think at the moment it’s a hot topic in our game and particularly with the referees, they’re trying to keep up with it all and I just think we’re jumping at shadows.”

Stream the NRL premiership 2023 live and free on 9Now

Despite Smith’s argument, his former Origin teammate Johnathan Thurston said players needed to protect each other better during games.

”Players need to take better duty of care,” he said.

“We want to eradicate it out of our game because it’s starting to cause a lot of injuries as well and players are running the risk of missing weeks. Just get it out of the game.”

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Former Australian captain Mark Taylor has urged current and past players to break bread and inject some positivity into the nation’s elite cricket image.

Taylor’s comments on Nine’s Sports Sunday come days after former men’s head coach Justin Langer again aired his dirty laundry in public and lambasted “cowards” who he blames for his downfall earlier this year.

Langer was offered a six-month contract extension by Cricket Australia but chose to walk away from the job following the home Ashes series, although he has repeatedly suggested he was sacked – a furphy corrected by the governing body.

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The way in which he exited the chair has driven a wedge between past players and the current group – namely Test and ODI captain Pat Cummins, who some have accused of white-anting his coach out of the job.

Langer name-dropped Cummins in a new podcast last week and suggested “cowards” within the Australian camp leaked stories about his coaching style to the media, damaging his image and leading to the decision to only offer a short-term extension.

The fact the issue has entered headlines again on the eve of Australia’s Test summer – which begins Wednesday in Langer’s home city of Perth against the West Indies – has many concerned Langer is casting a dark cloud over the national team by raking over old graves and refusing to let the grudge die.

Taylor is worried the ugly episode has tarnished the game’s brand globally.

“(It has) probably (damaged Langer’s reputation) a little bit. But Justin is a combative guy, he’s a fighter – he was as a cricketer, was as a coach. So it’s his personality,” Taylor told Sports Sunday.

“If he’s got a cross to bear he wants to let people know, so he comes out with it.

Starc shuts down rift rumours

“The only thing I would say to Justin, or to players, or to administrators in general, is I’d like to see everyone just think a little bit more about Australian cricket – and I don’t mean Cricket Australia, I mean Australian cricket – before they make comment.

“It’s not great for the brand of Australian cricket.

“Let’s have a bit more positivity around Australian cricket. Less thought about individual brands, and a bit more about the team brand or the nation brand.”

Since the podcast aired Langer has gone on record to clarify he doesn’t have a personal issue with Cummins.

Another Australian fast bowler, Mitchell Starc, on Saturday moved to rubbish rumours of a rift between players and the former coach.

“We exchanged a few text messages post-World Cup, so as far as I’m concerned I’m pretty comfortable with how my relationship is with JL,” Starc said.

“I wouldn’t call us (cowards).”

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