Friday, June 15, 2018

DEFENCE SHINES BRIGHT AS RIDERS DOWN ARGOS AT MOSAIC

All eyes were on the Saskatchewan Roughriders offence and Zach Collaros ahead of Friday night’s contest but it was the team’s defence that stole the show in their 27-19 win over the Toronto Argonauts.
Saskatchewan’s defensive unit held Toronto to just four points in the first half and disrupted Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray throughout the entire night on their way to victory at Mosaic Stadium.
Charleston Hughes made an immediate impact in his Roughriders debut, recording three sacks on Ray in the first half alone, and defensive back Nick Marshall scored a pick-six late in the contest.
Collaros, yet another Rider making his first start in the green and white, spread the ball evenly among his receivers, hitting nine different targets through the air, including running back Jerome Messam, on the way to his first win with his new team. He finished his night throwing for 203 yards and connecting on 18 of his 25 pass attempts.
Naaman Roosevelt scored a touchdown for the Riders in the win and kicker Brett Lauther was good on four of his five field goal attempts.
After a lackluster first half that saw Ray throw for just 71 yards, the Argonauts pivot ended the night with 232 passing yards and an interception. His backup, James Franklin, scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak and threw a touchdown pass to Declan Cross in the second half but it wasn’t enough for a comeback.
Both teams took the first few possessions of the contest to feel each other out as each defence stood tall on either side, trading two-and-outs as things got under way at Mosaic Stadium.
The Boatmen’s defence put early pressure on Collaros, who was making his debut in Rider green, with Cleyon Laing and Shawn Lemon both recording a sack on the former Hamilton Tiger-Cats pivot.
The first point of the contest was scored on a rouge and Toronto took a 1-0 lead just over five minutes in.
Collaros started to put first downs together as he got more comfortable with the Roughriders offence late in the first quarter. A 16-yard catch from Duron Carter and two penalties (15 yards each) to Argos defensive back T.J. Heath moved Saskatchewan down the field and into Toronto territory. Collaros kept rolling with No. 89, tossing an incompletion to his receiver and then an 11-yard grab for a first down, as the pair started to build some early chemistry. That drive set up a 32-yard missed field goal from Lauther to tie the score at 1-1.
As Ray tried to generate some offence for his Argonauts, Hughes recorded his 100th career sack, which was also Hughes’ first as a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, forcing Toronto to punt the ball away.
To start the second quarter, Lauther hit his second field goal attempt of the evening, this one from 45-yards out, to give the Riders their first lead of the contest (4-1).
Once again the Riders defence held the Argos to a two-and-out on Toronto’s next possession. Ed Gainey broke up the pass intended for S.J. Green on first and 10 and Willie Jefferson knocked down Ray’s next pass attempt, forcing Pfeffer to punt the ball away.
Collaros tossed his first touchdown pass as Rider to Roosevelt to put the home team up 11-1 as the quarterback continued to gain confidence as the game progressed. A third down gamble (which was a 34-yard completion to Caleb Holley) proved to be the right play call as it extended the drive that started on their own 30-yard line and set up for the major score.
Lauther hit his second-straight field goal to add three more points to the Riders lead. The 43-yard kick put Saskatchewan up 14-1 with under three minutes left in the half.
Hughes continued to make Ray’s night miserable as he added his third sack of the game late in the second quarter.
On that same drive, Pfeffer’s 35-yard field goal sailed through the uprights to cut Saskatchewan’s lead to 14-4 as the half finished and the teams went to their respective locker rooms.
Collaros finished the first half connecting on 12 of his 16 passes for 142 yards and a major score as he started to settle in. His counterpart, Ray, completed just six of his 13 passes for 71 yards after 30 minutes.
Toronto started the second half with the ball, hoping that the break from action would kick start their offence. The Riders defence had other plans, however, forcing Toronto to punt the ball away.
Pfeffer added another single for the Argonauts on his team’s next series, cutting Saskatchewan’s lead to 14-5 in the third quarter.
Collaros continued the momentum on his team’s side late in the third quarter, moving the sticks into field goal range. Lauther was good on his 46-yard attempt, increasing Saskatchewan’s lead to 17-5.
Toronto had the ball to start the fourth quarter and a marched down the field to set up Franklin’s one-yard sneak for his team’s first major score of the contest. With Pfeffer’s point after, the touchdown score cut the Riders lead to 17-12.
Saskatchewan’s defence continued to roll late in the fourth quarter, as Nick Marshall picked off Ray and took it to the house for a touchdown. The 65-yard return put the Riders up 24-12.
Toronto wasn’t ready to give up just yet. On the team’s next drive, Franklin tossed a touchdown pass to Cross with 2:16 left in the game to cut the Riders lead to 24-19.
With a five-point lead, Collaros and his offence stepped back onto the field and moved into field goal range where Lauther made his 32-yard attempt to put the Riders up 27-19 with 13 seconds left on the clock.
Ray and the Argonauts hit the field for one last chance to move down the sticks but were unsuccessful and the Riders started their 2018 season off with a win.
The Riders head to the nation’s capital next week to take on the Ottawa REDBLACKS while the Toronto Argonauts are at home to host the Calgary Stampeders.

World Cup Recap For June 15, 2018


Ronaldo illuminates stellar draw with Spain

Cristiano Ronaldo was Portugal’s saviour once again as he scored a hat-trick to secure a draw against Spain. It was the Real Madrid man’s highest goal tally in a FIFA World Cup™ match.
He kicked off with an early penalty, deceiving Nacho inside the box to win it and then stroking the ball home from the spot. Fortunately for *La Roja*, Diego Costa was also at his bristling best, getting the better of the Portugal defence to level the scores. Isco then thumped a rasping drive against the bar. Yet while Spain dominated possession they were vulnerable on the counter, and it was on the break that Ronaldo put his side back in front, firing in a drive that David de Gea was unable to hold.  
Costa scored his second equaliser of the night just after the restart before Nacho atoned for his penalty-box trip on Ronaldo by powering a superb half-volley in off the post, his first goal for Spain. As the clock ticked down, however, Gerard Pique brought down CR7 just outside the box, with the Portugal star dusting himself down to complete the scoring with a sublime free-kick.
The Portuguese could not have wished for a better start, or a better ending for that matter. Spain made them work hard for a well-earned point, which came courtesy of a classy treble from the best player in the world.
Spain impressed on Fernando Hierro’s debut in the dugout, coming from behind only for Cristiano Ronaldo to spoil De Gea’s evening. The midfield excelled and though Costa’s double and Nacho maiden goal for his country were not enough to secure three points, they can take plenty of satisfaction from the result, as can the Portuguese.
The Portugal captain ensured a share of the spoils in a match that Spain dominated, becoming only the third Portugal player to score a World Cup hat-trick after Eusebio at England 1966 and Pauleta at Korea/Japan 2002.
Ronaldo opened the scoring from the spot with only three minutes and 30 seconds on the clock, the third fastest penalty in the history of the World Cup. Only Dutch duo Johan Neeskens and Robin van Persie have scored quicker spot-kicks, the former after 87 seconds of the Final against West Germany in 1974 and the latter after two and a half minutes of the match for third place against Brazil in 2014.
What’s next
Iran-Spain, Group B, 20 June, Kazan
Portugal-Morocco, Group B, 20 June, Moscow

Iran snatch late win with own goal heartbreak

For the second time on Friday, a last-minute goal has transformed the state of a group at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, and cut down a North African side. While it was Uruguay in the earlier encounter, a heartbreaking own goal sunk Morocco in IR Iran's favour for a 1-0 win.
Morocco flew out of the traps in Saint Petersburg, carving out some sensational chances, but Iran easily could have gone in ahead at the break. By contrast, the second-half hardly had a opening worthy of note, until deep in stoppage time when Aziz Bouhaddouz headed into his own net.

Iran made it. A second ever win at a World Cup. Team Melli found itself still in the game come the closing stages after being under pressure in the opening minutes. They hit Morocco on the counter-attack at certain points, but to score the crucial goal they had to wait until the final seconds of stoppage time. That own goal leaves Iran hopeful and eager for their upcoming fixtures, but they still need at least a point to have a chance at qualifying.

A heartbreaking defeat for Morocco. They had the chances, but Amine Harit's superb supply only reflected the glaring absence of a true centre-forward in the team. In five visits now, Morocco have never won their first World Cup. Ultimately, the absence of Nabil Dirar cannot be underestimated and it will be a real challenge to pick themselves up for the Portugal game.

What’s next
Morocco v Portugal – Group B, 20 June, Moscow (Luzhniki)
Iran v Spain – Group B, 20 June, Kazan

Pain for returning Egypt as Uruguay earn late win

Uruguay were made to work overtime before finally edging a late 1-0 win over Egypt in their opening Group A contest in Ekaterinburg. Defender Jose Gimenez was the unlikely hero with a towering last-minute winning header, after Egypt had impressed with their organisation. Star forwards Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez were largely starved of opportunities, although the former hit the post with a free-kick, as Uruguay finished strongly. Egypt's star forward Mohamed Salah failed to make an appearance after injury and the Pharaohs’ Russia 2018 opener ended on a sour note.

Egypt's match against Uruguay was headed for a draw until Uruguay finally broke the deadlock. The Pharaohs held their opponents away from goal due to the defensive focus of coach Hector Cuper, which succeeded in reducing the danger of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. However, the attack was not completely absent from the Egyptian team, despite the absence of Mo Salah.

Uruguay struggled to break down a well-organised Egypt side until the latter stages. The Uruguayans had more of the ball, trying to use the flanks, but it failed to pay dividends until the last part of the match. La Celeste suffered more than expected, but were able to win a World Cup opening match for the first time since Mexico 1970.

What’s next
Russia v Egypt – Group A, 19 June, St Petersburg
Uruguay v Saudi Arabia – Group A, 20 June, Rostov-on-Don

WEATHERING THE STORM: ESKS OUTLAST BOMBERS IN SEASON OPENER

Mike Reilly orchestrated a late-game comeback to lead the Edmonton Eskimos to a victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Thursday night.
The contest didn’t end until early on Friday morning, thanks to two weather related delays, as the Eskimos opened their season with a 33-30 win on the road.
Sean Whyte kicked the game-winning field goal to seal the deal as the seconds ticked off the clock at Investors Group Field.
For the home team, rookie quarterback Chris Streveler tossed three touchdown passes, to Derel Walker, Weston Dressler and Drew Wolitarsky in his CFL debut.
Kevin Fogg also made an impact in his team’s loss, returning a missed field goal for a touchdown and tallying an interception in the end zone late in the game.
After Reilly and the Eskimos couldn’t generate any offence on their opening drive of the game, Streveler hit the field for the first series of his CFL career but the Bombers were forced to a two-and-out.
Edmonton started their ensuing drive deep in their own zone but the reigning MOP showed exactly why he earned that honour last season. Reilly was cool on first-and-10 and aired it out to Walker who ran it 101-yards for game’s first the major score. With Sean Whyte’s point after, the Esks took an early 7-0 lead.
The Esks’ defence kept the momentum on the visiting team’s side as J.C. Sherritt welcomed Streveler to the CFL, picking off the rookie quarterback on the Bombers’ 45-yard line.
Edmonton took advantage of the turnover and scored three points, thanks to a 52-yard field goal from Whyte, to go up 10-0 with just over nine minutes left in the first quarter.
Streveler’s first CFL touchdown pass was to Dressler, who was wide open and ran it into the end zone untouched for the 16-yard major. That score, along with Justin Medlock’s point after, cut the Eskimos lead to 10-7.
However, the Eskimos responded with a touchdown on their own.
Reilly plunged into the end zone as the seconds winded down in the first quarter, adding to his team’s lead and swinging things back into Edmonton’s favour. Reilly orchestrated a drive that covered 69 yards in 10 plays before he called his own number for the one-yard score. Edmonton headed into the second frame with a 17-7 lead.
Both teams were forced to head to the locker room early because of lightning in the area with just over nine minutes left in the first half. After over an hour delay, the rain continued to fall as both squads returned to the field to finish the contest.
A few drives were traded between both teams but only two points were scored, as Justin Medlock conceded a safety to add to the Esks’ lead (19-7).
Streveler put together a 39-yard drive to move down the field and found Adams for the rookie’s second touchdown pass of the night. Adams’ 23-yard score, along with Medlock’s convert, cut Edmonton’s lead to 19-14 with a minute and a half left in the second quarter.
Just after the touchdown, there was more lightning spotted and the game was delayed once again.
Over an hour later, things were back underway at Investors Group Field.
The Eskimos offence was sharp coming back from the break, and moved down the field into field goal range, but after Whyte’s 45-yarder was wide, Fogg returned the miss 110 yards all the way to the house. That score put the Bombers up 20-19 as the first half ended. Because of the weather delays, there was no halftime break and things picked right up away in the third quarter.
Winnipeg kept the momentum rolling after Fogg’s return to start the third, adding to their score on the team’s very next drive.
Streveler continued to impress in his debut, tossing his third touchdown pass of the contest, this time to Wolitarsky for a 20-yard strike adding to the Bombers’ lead. With Medlock’s point after, Winnipeg took a 27-19 lead early in the third quarter.
The Esks cut Winnipeg’s lead with Whyte’s 32-yard field goal to make it 27-22 at the end of the third frame. Winnipeg responded with their own field goal, as Medlock hit his from 34-yards out to add to their lead (30-22).
As the Eskimos were rolling down the field, Fogg made another big play for the Bombers, intercepting Reilly deep in the end zone.
Edmonton wasn’t done just yet.
Reilly moved his offence efficiently down the field and plunged into the end zone for his second sneak of the game. The two-point convert attempt was caught by Nate Behar to tie things up at 30 with 1:22 left in the game.
Whyte then kicked the game-winning field goal with just seconds left on the clock to hold onto the win.
The Edmonton Eskimos head home next week to host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats while the Bombers head to Montreal for a tussle with the Alouettes.