WELLINGTON - The New Zealand Rugby Union says its chairman and a member of its board of directors were mugged by motorcycle-riding thieves outside the All Blacks team hotel in Buenos Aires yesterday. The union said chairman Mike Eagle and director Gerhard van Tilberg were uninjured in the incident. The All Blacks team was preparing to leave for the airport when the incident occurred. New Zealand beat Argentina 54-15 in a Rugby Championship match in La Plata, near Buenos Aires, on Sunday.
PARIS - Marseille's stunning start to the Ligue 1 season, which had seen them win six from six games, came to a spectacular end yesterday as mid-table Valenciennes whipped them 4-1. A double by much-travelled striker Anthony Le Tallec and one apiece from Foued Kadir — gifted to him by Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda — and Gael Danic gave Valenciennes the points, with Jordan Ayew scoring a consolation in time added on. It was Marseille's first defeat in all competitions this season.
MADRID - Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcantara has been ruled out of action for up to eight weeks after rupturing ligaments in his right knee in yesterday's 3-2 win over Sevilla, the club said. "Tests performed yesterday confirmed the player suffered a rupture of the ligaments in his right knee. His absence is estimated at eight weeks," said a club statement. Thiago came on as a 75th-minute substitute for Sergio Busquets which saw Barcelona score twice in the last few minutes to secure victory after being 2-0 down.
Relief for Li
BEIJING - China's Li Na was a relieved woman yesterday after thrashing her fellow ex-French Open champion Francesca Schiavone in the China Open's first round — a year after a humiliating defeat at the same stage. Asia's top women's player, who needs a strong showing this week to qualify for the WTA Championships in Istanbul next month with Australian Sam Stosur breathing down her neck for the eighth and last spot, dominated the match to win 6-2 6-3.
Napoli joins Juve
ROME - Napoli rejoined Juventus at the top of Serie A with a 1-0 win at 10-man Sampdoria yesterday, as the southern club seeks its first Italian title since Diego Maradona first led it to glory. Edinson Cavani converted a penalty for Napoli in the 67th for his league-best sixth goal of the season after six rounds. Daniele Guastaldello was given his second yellow card for tripping Marek Hamsik at the edge of the area to set up the penalty. Replays showed that the penalty may have occurred just outside the area.
Play for pride
PRETORIA - Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau says pride in the gold jumper will ensure the battered Australian troops lift for their final Rugby Championship Test against Argentina. The Wallabies suffered a shocking injury toll in their 31-8 loss to South Africa — the worst being Berrick Barnes, who was left behind with the team doctor in Johannesburg with a punctured lung. Utility back Adam Ashley-Cooper flew home to Sydney after being knocked out cold in the match. Back-rower Radike Samo (shoulder) and winger Digby Ioane (knee) travelled with the team but are also in some doubt.