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‘Awful’ Cowboys to step up against Manly

After an “awful” golden point win, North Queensland backrower Gavin Cooper hopes a step up in the class of opposition will lift his side in Saturday night’s crunch NRL home clash with Manly.

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Cooper baulked at saying they took wooden spooners Cronulla for granted but admitted they “put the foot off the gas” before a late Johnathan Thurston field goal sealed the dramatic 20-19 win on Monday night.

“That was awful,” he said of their display.

North Queensland booked a finals berth with the less than convincing victory and can finish as high as fourth if they defeat the table-topping Sea Eagles.

Easier said than done – the last time the Cowboys downed Manly was their 22-20 triumph way back in round eight 2011 in Townsville.

Manly will back themselves to seal the minor premiership on Saturday night after winning the last six clashes against North Queensland.

But Cooper – nominated as North Queensland’s Ken Stephen Medal finalist for community work – believed Manly would bring the best out of them.

“I don’t want to discredit Cronulla but when we have played the better teams we have aimed up a little bit better – hopefully that is the case on Saturday,” he said.

“There is a bit to play for.

“They have been a speed bump for the club for a while.

“We took a step back (against Cronulla). It gets really serious next week but this is when we need to start playing our best footy.”

North Queensland made an encouraging start against a Cronulla outfit without 17 regular first graders when boom lock Jason Taumalolo scored within the first 90 seconds.

“I think we put the foot off the gas after that first try,” Cooper said.

“I don’t think we are allowed to score in the first two minutes any more.

“We didn’t take them lightly during the week…(but) they nearly blew us off the park.”

Cooper said they wouldn’t be able to get out of jail if they produced a similar effort against Manly, who again showed their fighting spirit to seal a Jamie Lyon-inspired, last gasp 26-25 win over Penrith last round.

“They showed on the weekend that you can never discount them, they plucked one out of thin air,” he said.

“They will be coming up here looking to ruin our night.”

Gillett’s head spinning over blunder, Hunt

A bizarre sin binning is not the only thing Brisbane backrower Matt Gillett has been coming to terms with of late.

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Gillett may still be getting his head around referee Ben Cummins’ last round clanger but the Broncos forward says teammate Ben Hunt’s meteoric rise has also been something to behold.

Gillett not only tipped surprise Dally M Medal contender Hunt to match Melbourne’s Cooper Cronk in their must-win NRL away clash on Friday night but also one day usurp the Storm playmaker’s Test and Queensland No.7 jersey.

Gillett was left scratching his head – along with most watching the game – when he was incorrectly sin-binned by Cummins in last round’s win over the Dragons for being offside, despite running 40m to make a tackle.

“It was one of those decisions that was out of my hands, I just had to cop it and take a 10 minute rest,” Gillett said.

“I was a bit confused but you can’t change those decisions.

“I just had to get off the field and do my time.”

Gillett says he is now more worried about Brisbane downing Melbourne for the first time since round nine 2010 and clinching their NRL finals berth.

And he believes Hunt will be the key.

Gillett has marvelled at Hunt’s transformation in 2014.

Hunt won the NYC 2009 Player of the Year but struggled to find his feet in first grade, spending more time on the bench as a back-up hooker.

But thrown the starting No.7 jersey this year by coach Anthony Griffin, Hunt hasn’t looked back.

Hunt received a sobering reality check with a flat performance the last time he tangled with Cronk in round 20’s 30-8 home loss.

However, Gillett backed him to bounce back at AAMI Park on Friday night.

“He’s been a pleasure to watch,” he said.

“I am sure Ben was looking forward to this challenge (against Cronk).

“Obviously Cooper is the Australian and Queensland halfback.

“One day Ben probably wants to be in those shoes. I am sure he will be up to it.”

Hunt is one player grateful for the faith shown by Griffin, who marks his 100th and possibly last game at the helm before Wayne Bennett reclaims the reins.

“A lot of players are here because of Hook (Griffin),” Gillett said.

“I think a lot of us here owe him a fair bit. He stuck by us so we want to stick by him and do a good job for him.

“I am sure he doesn’t want us to be thinking that way but he is why a lot of players are around here – it’s because of him.”

Marsh spearheads big Aussie win

Explosive allrounder Mitchell Marsh has spearheaded a crucial 62-run bonus point win over South Africa to book Australia’s place in the one-day tri-series final in Harare.

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Looking to save face after their embarrassing defeat at the hands of lowly Zimbabwe two days ago, Australia came out with renewed purpose with both bat and ball, setting the Proteas a target of 288 to win.

Faf du Plessis scored his second consecutive hundred against Australia this series, but Marsh’s incredible 86 not out from 51 balls and two wickets proved the difference as the Proteas were all out for 220 after 44 overs.

Had Australia lost, they would have opened the door for Zimbabwe to beat South Africa in the last round-robin match on Thursday and bump them out of the final to be played on Saturday.

But now the decider will pit Australia against fierce rivals the Proteas.

After Australia were sent in, in-form opener Phil Hughes played beautifully for 85, before late in the innings Marsh came in at No.6 and found the middle of the bat with the most memorable knock of his career.

In the 47th over, the 22-year-old opened the shoulders to blast Dale Steyn for three consecutive sixes – the first time that’s happened to the Proteas star in his career.

Marsh crunched 64 off 24 balls as Australia clubbed 70 runs from the final five overs to lift out of trouble in the middle overs and post a competitive 7-287.

The seven giant sixes Marsh piloted over the fences – but mostly over the grandstands – is the most by an Australian in an innings since Shane Watson hammered 15 against Bangladesh in 2011.

Australia’s decision to open the bowling with Glenn Maxwell paid immediate dividends as the part-time spinner claimed the wicket of Quinton de Kock.

Marsh further proved why he’s considered to have a massive future in all three forms of the game for Australia when he knocked over danger man Hashim Amla.

However, the match really tipped into Australia’s favour when spinner Nathan Lyon took the crucial wicket of South African captain AB de Villiers, who posted an unbeaten century in the Proteas’ seven-wicket win over Australia last week.

De Villiers picked George Bailey out at square leg and South Africa were 3-64.

Du Plessis (126 off 109 balls), who has had most of his success against Australia over the years, played a magnificent innings featuring eight fours and six sixes.

But he was running out of partners when Mitchell Johnson (2-30) decimated the stumps of David Miller.

The No.6 had two stumps sent flying out of the ground as Johnson showed his fearsome pace can be effective on even the slowest of wickets.

Du Plessis was ultimately out hit wicket to Kane Richardson, who took two wickets.

US, Slovenia remain unbeaten at World Cup

Slovenia and United States both remained undefeated at the World Basketball World Championships with comfortable wins on Tuesday while Australia surprised Lithuania and Mexico picked up a historic win.

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Phoenix Suns playmaker Goran Dragic led Slovenia with 22 points and the other four starters also scored in double digits in an 89-72 win over South Korea to improve to 3-0 atop Group D.

Korea, who dropped to 0-3, were led by 20-year-old Lee Jong Hyun with 12 points, five rebounds and four blocks.

Group D also saw the biggest surprise of the day as Australia handed Lithuania their first loss of the competition, an 82-75 victory in Gran Canaria.

Australia saw their 19-point halftime lead dwindle to three points late in the game but managed to hold on – thanks to 18 points from Joe Ingles while Aron Baynes scored 14 points.

Renaldas Seibutis led all scorers with 21 points for Lithuania while Darjus Lavrinovic had 14 points. But they were not enough as the Europeans dropped to 2-1 and were joined by Australia on the same mark in the group.

In the other Group D game, Mexico beat Angola 79-55 for their first win in this year’s competition – and their first victory at the worlds in 40 years.

Mexico, whose last win dates back to their 85-84 defeat of Australia at the 1974 World Championship, were paced by Hector Hernandez’s 24 points while Gustavo Ayon had 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Yanick Moreira led Angola with 13 points and nine rebounds.

Both teams are 1-2 in the group.

Group C is topped by the United States, who breezed past winless New Zealand 98-71 thanks to 21 points from Anthony Davis while Kenneth Faried had 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Ukraine picked up another victory in their first World Cup by knocking off Turkey 64-58 behind 19 points from Olexsandr Mishula.

Ukraine improved to 2-1 while Turkey dropped to 1-2 despite 14 points and 20 rebounds from Omer Asik.

Dominican Republic also jumped to 2-1 with a 74-68 win over Finland, who fell to 1-2. Eloy Vargas scored 18 points to lead four Dominicans in double figures

Finland wasted a 23-point showing from Petteri Koponen in the loss.

Groups A and B had a rest day on Tuesday. All four groups will be in action on Wednesday.

Parents who prevented ill son from being treated freed from jail

“We’ll go as soon as possible to see my son.

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We have been dying to see his face for so long,” Ashya’s father Brett King, 51, told reporters on Tuesday as he and his wife Naghemeh King, 45, left the Soto del Real prison north of Madrid.

A Spanish judge ordered their release after British prosecutors withdrew an extradition order for the couple in a case that prompted an outpouring of public support for them in Britain.

The pair were free to leave Madrid and be reunited with their son, who has a brain tumour and is being treated in a hospital in Malaga, southern Spain.

They were arrested in Spain under a European arrest warrant for taking five-year-old Ashya out of hospital in England after disagreeing with doctors over his cancertreatment.

Prosecutors had said they suspected the parents of “cruelty” but the British Crown Prosecution Service said on Tuesday it was withdrawing the warrant as Ashya had been properly looked after.

A Madrid judge promptly ordered the case to be shelved, judicial sources said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the news on his Twitter feed, saying: “It’s important this little boy gets treatment & the love of his family.”

Ashya’s parents took him out of a hospital in Southampton, southern England, last week, in search of alternative treatment for Ashya.

The Kings are planning to sell their apartment in Malaga to fund proton beam therapy, an alternative to radiotherapy, for Ashya, according to their Spanish lawyer Juan Isidro Fernandez Diaz.

After the family left Britain with their seven children, police applied for an arrest warrant over fears that the condition of Ashya, who has undergone surgery and has to be fed through a special piece of equipment, could deteriorate.

The parents were detained on Saturday but the case prompted an outcry in Britain, where some 130,000 people signed a petition calling for the boy to be reunited with his parents.

Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said it was “not appropriate” to “throw the full force of the law” at Ashya’s parents for their actions.

The chief of police in Hampshire, the force which originally applied for the arrest warrant, said that all involved needed to ask what was best for Ashya.

“It is my view as Chief Constable that the situation today is not right,” said Andy Marsh in a statement.

“Irrespective of what has happened it is our view that Ashya needs both medical treatment and for his parents to be at his side.”