Shane Lowry leads the US Open by two

Shane Lowry leads by two on five under

Shane Lowry leads by two on five under

Ireland’s Shane Lowry carved out a two-shot lead before the third round of the weather-delayed US Open was suspended due to darkness on Saturday.

Lowry, who called a penalty on himself during the second round when his ball moved as he addressed a birdie putt on the 16th, had reached five under par after 14 holes at Oakmont before play was halted at 8:49pm local time.

First-round leader Andrew Landry was Lowry's closest challenger on three under with five holes to play, with Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson all another shot back.

South Africa's Branden Grace, who was tied for the lead with eventual winner Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay last year until driving out of bounds on the 16th, had set the clubhouse target on one under after six birdies and two bogeys in a 66.

And world number one Jason Day was a shot further back after four birdies and an eagle in his own 66, the 28-year-old Australian battling back from an opening 76 which had left him 10 shots off the pace.

A victory for Lowry on Sunday would make it 10 major titles for Irish golfers in the last 10 years after the successes of Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, although the 29-year-old from Offaly would be the first from the Republic of Ireland to win the US Open.

Lowry won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron last year, just 115 miles away from Oakmont, but came into the week on the back of a missed cut in the BMW PGA Championship and frustrated at failing to turn good opening rounds into good finishes.

"I just need to put four of them together," Lowry had said after an opening 68. "As soon as I put four of them together, I think it will be close enough."

Speaking on Saturday, Lowry added: "I've beaten a field of this quality already so there's no reason I can't do it again tomorrow. I feel very comfortable out there.

"I'm glad we didn't have to play another four holes as I was getting tired towards the end but I'm really looking forward to getting out there on Sunday. I've never been in this position but this is where you want to be."

Johnson held a one-shot lead when the delayed second round was finally completed on Saturday afternoon and quickly doubled that with a birdie on the first, before his pulled tee shot on the second hit a male spectator on the head and bounced under a concession stand.

After taking a free drop, Johnson's approach to the green finished on the edge of a bunker, from where he almost holed his delicate chip for the unlikeliest of birdies.

The 31-year-old did not make the most of his good fortune however, promptly taking a double bogey on the third after a weak chip failed to find the green and rolled back to his feet.

And when Westwood holed out from 130 yards on the fifth for his second eagle of the week, a four-shot swing meant the pair were tied for the lead with Landry.

Johnson regained the lead with a two-putt birdie on the par-five fourth as Westwood bogeyed the seventh, but Lowry had recovered from a bogey on the second with birdies on the fourth, sixth and seventh to move into the outright lead.

"I knew that putt was to take the lead and it was a nice little milestone," Lowry added. "My game is good and I feel very comfortable out there."

Lowry bogeyed the eighth after finding sand off the tee but bounced back immediately to birdie the next from four feet and the 12th from half the distance to ensure he would end another long day in front.

Westwood and Garcia have both failed to convert numerous chances to win a major title, but Garcia insisted there was no "monkey on his back" ahead of Sunday's final day.

"No, there's no monkeys. That's nonsense," the Ryder Cup star said. "At the end of the day, the only thing I can do is give myself chances, play well. And if it happens, it happens.

"I will only know (what it means) the day that it happens. So it is easy for me to stand here and tell you it will mean this or that, but until it happens, you never know."

Ireland book place in semi-finals of World Rugby U-20 Championship

Ireland's Andrew Porter scores the final try of the match

Ireland’s Andrew Porter scores the final try of the match

Ireland 35 – Georgia 7

Nigel Carolan’s brilliant side have booked a place in the semi-finals of the World Rugby U-20 Championship with a third straight win.

He made 13 changes to the side which defeated New Zealand on Saturday but it made little difference as they maintained their winning streak.

The Georgians had to play most of the match with 14 men after flanker Ilia Spanderashvili was sent off after just eight minutes.

That ruined their excellent start which saw senior star Vasil Lobzhanidze dash over for a converted try after just five minutes.

But Spanderashvili was adjudged to have lashed out at Irish lock Sean O’Connor and was sent off.

Yet, the Georgians battled bravely and made Ireland work for their lead.

But a superb try from winger Hugo Keenan sent Ireland on their way to the semi-finals.

And brilliant out-half Johnny McPhillips pointed them in the right direction, following up a couple of penalties with a try four minutes from the break to lead 20-7 at half-time.

Terry Kennedy wrapped up the issue with a third try after 59 minutes and they secured a bonus point in the final play of the night when replacement prop Andrew Porter crashed over.

Ireland will take on Argentina in the semi-finals of the World Rugby U-20 Championship at Manchester City Academy Stadium next Monday (5.30pm).

England will take on South Africa in the other semi-final. Champions New Zealand have been eliminated at the pool stage for the first time — the only match they lost was to Ireland on Saturday.

John Fallon

Ireland: H Keenan, J McPhillips, T Kennedy & A Porter tries; J McPhillips 2 cons, 3 pens; B Connon con
Georgia: V Lobzhanidze try; D Modzgvrishvili con

Ireland U-20: B Connon (Newcastle Falcons); T Kennedy (St. Mary's College/Leinster), J O’Brien (UCD/Leinster), P Kiernan (c) (UCC/Munster), H Keenan (UCD/Leinster); J McPhillips (Queen's University/Ulster), N Saunders (Epsom College/Exiles); J Bollard (Dublin University / Leinster), V O’Brien (Cork Con / Munster), V Abdaladze (Clontarf / Leinster); E Mintern (Cork Constitution/Munster), S O’Connor (Cashel / Munster); G Jones (UCD / Leinster), C Boomer (Ballymena/Ulster), K Brown (Shannon / Munster).
Replacements: M Deegan (Lansdowne/Leinster) for Brown (18), C Gallagher (Sligo/Connacht) for Boomer (25-31), A Porter (UCD/Leinster) for Bollard (49),  A Coyle (Naas/Leinster) for Abdaladze (49), C Gallagher (Sligo/Connacht) for Jones (59), S Daly (Cork Con/Munster) for O'Brien (64), J Stockadale for McPhillips (64), S Kerins (Sligo/Connacht) for Saunders (73), A McBurney (Ballymena/Ulster) for Gallagher (73).
Replacements: A McBurney (Ballymena/Ulster), A Porter (UCD/Leinster), A Coyle (Naas/Leinster), C Gallagher (Sligo/Connacht), M Deegan (Lansdowne/Leinster), S Kerins (Sligo/Connacht), S Daly (Cork Constitution/Munster), J Stockdale (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster).
Georgia: M Modebadze; L Miminoshvili, G Koshadze, G Kvesladze, A Merkvilishvili; D Modzgvrishvili, V Lobzhanidze; T Mataradze, L Sajaia, L Tabidze; M Babunashvili, O Giorgadze; I Spanderashvili, G Tsutskiride, B Gorgadze.
Replacements: D Epremidze for Giorgadze (25), I Tskhadadze for Babunashvili (39), G Melikidze for Tabidze (54), G Afrasidze for Miminoshvili (55), R Shanidzefor Koshadze (57), S Iluridze for Lobzhanidze (70), L Goginava for Mataradze (74), G Khuroshvili for Sajaia (74).


Referee: C Evans (Wales).


14-man Ireland squad beat South Africa in extraordinary display

HISTORY at Newlands. Ireland have beaten the Springboks in South Africa for the first time and they did it the hard way after spending 58 minutes with 14 men due to CJ Stander’s first-half red card.

It was a remarkable display of courage from Joe Schmidt’s men who can now turn their attentions to winning the Test Series, something only New Zealand and the Lions have done in this famously difficult venue.

This isn’t a vintage Springbok team, but Ireland are missing a host of key players including their key man Johnny Sexton.

They made light of the list of absentees, with Paddy Jackson kicking 16 points in an excellent display, while Jared Payne was excellent at full-back and Luke Marshall won the man of the match award.

In truth, it could have been one of a host of players after a performance that will go down in the annals as one of the greats, if not the greatest.

Ireland opened brightly, with the South Africans’ showing the signs of their long wait for Test-rugby since the World Cup with an ill-disciplined opening quarter.

And the tourists took full advantage of their generosity, getting their maul going in impressive fashion to drive close to the line. The Springboks hauled it down, so Rory Best went again and when the drive came down, Ireland attacked with Iain Henderson carrying hard before Luke Marshall deftly chipped through for Jared Payne to score.

It was a double-blow for the ‘Boks who lost Lood de Jager to the sin-bin for his maul infringement and, although  Pat Lambie got his side off the mark with a penalty, Ireland went back up the other end and Jackson followed up his earlier conversion with a successful penalty.

Things were going along nicely for Joe Schmidt, but then disaster struck.

As Lambie released an up-and-under, Stander launched himself into the air and, as he came down, his hip connected with his former U-20 team-mate’s head.

When play came to a stop, French referee Mathieu Raynal consulted with his television match official Jim Yuille and concluded that the Munster skipper had made no attempt to block the ball and was guilty of dangerous play and sent him off.

The challenge was certainly reckless and left Lambie needing a stretcher, but the red card appeared to be harsh.

Ireland faced a gruelling 58 minutes with 14 men and replacement out-half Elton Jantjes narrowed the gap with his first kick as the onslaught began and de Jager returned.

It got worse. With the visiting scrum in trouble and the hosts beginning to find joy from their maul, Jantjes delayed his pass beautifully to put Lwazi Mvovo over.

Robbie Henshaw absolutely levelled the Lions fly-half after he’d released the ball and he was shown a yellow card as Jantjes dusted himself off to convert the try.

Somehow, Ireland drew level before half-time as a well-executed power-play saw Luke Marshall find a gap, Andrew Trimble kept things going with some neat foot-work and Jackson dropped a goal.

And the 13 men managed to get to the dressing-room with parity on the scoreboard despite wave after wave of white jerseys attacking, with Conor Murray halting Duane Vermeulen’s march and Iain Henderson stripping the ball from de Jager before Jackson forced Mvovo into touch on the last play.

Whatever Schmidt said at half-time appeared to have an effect as, with Henshaw restored, Ireland struck for their second-try to the sound of stunned silence at Newlands.

Brilliant hands from Payne released Trimble down the right, Willie le Roux slapped down his pass but Rory Best picked it up well and surged forward. Conor Murray picked it up, slipped de Jager’s tackle and scored and when Jackson converted Ireland were somehow in front by seven.

The out-half was looking sharp and almost followed it up with a try when he stepped inside Frans Malherbe and chipped the ball over Faf de Klerk’s head, but he couldn’t beat the diminutive scrum-half in the race and the ‘Boks escaped.

The hosts were growing frustrated at their inability to make their numerical advantage count and, while second-rows Eben Etzebeth and de Jager made hard yards, Best managed to disrupt and Jackson could clear. Next time they came forward, the Ireland captain ripped the ball from de Jager’s grasp.

Allister Coetzee turned to his bench as his side looked to overpower the Irish, but Lionel Mapoe knocked on and again Ireland could clear.

Jackson even had a chance to kick his side further in front when Jamie Heaslip, Henderson and Devin Toner held Warren Whitely up in the tackle, the scrum forced a penalty but his long-range effort hit the post.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, Ireland were applying pressure and when Le Roux knocked Henshaw’s grubber into touch, they had another opportunity with a 5m lineout but there was obstruction in the maul set-up and the chance went.

Still, Jackson was able to stretch the lead to 10 points with a difficult penalty after Frans Malherbe went off his feet and with 12 minutes remaining Ireland dared to dream of history.

They soon woke up. The out-half’s attempted pass to Jack McGrath was picked off by Peter Steph du Toit and the replacement second-row raced under the posts.

Jantjes converted and the gap was back to three.

Jackson missed a drop-goal attempt to extend it, but he nailed another tough kick after Malherbe yet again went off his feet at the breakdown.

Six points up, Ireland defended as if their lives depended on it.

There were echoes of the All Black defeat of 2013 as JP Pietersen went for the corner at the death, but a combination of Payne, Henshaw and Jackson forced him into touch as Ireland hung on. 

SOUTH AFRICA – W le Roux; JP Pietersen, L Mapoe, D De Allende, L Mvovo; P Lambie (E Jantjies 23), F de Klerk; T Mtawariria (T Nkayane 59), A Strauss, F Malherbe (J Redelinghuys 78); E Etzebeth, L de Jager (PS du Toit 56); F Louw (W Whitely 56), S Kolisi, D Vermeulen.

IRELAND – J Payne; A Trimble, R Henshaw, L Marshall, K Earls (C Gilroy 77); P Jackson, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt) (S Cronin 70), M Ross (T Furlong 59); I Henderson (U Dillane 70), D Toner; CJ Stander, J Murphy (R Ruddock 74), J Heaslip.

Referee: M Raynal (France)

Via Independent