Kiwis win their opener
New Zealand won an extraordinary opening match in their Rugby League World Cup title defense when they held off Samoa 42-24 in what became a 13-try thriller in Warrington, England, on Sunday. The Kiwis had it seemingly wrapped up by halftime when they led by a runaway 22-4, then 36-4 after 48 minutes, but Samoa rose to the occasion and the sellout crowd of 15,000 rose to applaud them as they scored four consecutive tries to close the gap to 12 points with 15 minutes left. Moments later, Kiwis second-rower Sonny Bill Williams slipped three tackles to skip over the try-line, only to botch the try when his foot slipped over the dead-ball line before he touched down. Moments after that, the Kiwis finally extinguished Samoa’s resurgent threat when winger Manu Vatuvei completed his hat-trick. Earlier, France escaped 9-8 winners when Papua New Guinea fullback David Mead missed a 79th-minute penalty in front of the posts in Hull, England.
Selig hands out awards
Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Cabrera of Detroit won Major League Baseball’s Hank Aaron Award as the league’s outstanding offensive players on Sunday. League commissioner Bud Selig announced the winners prior to Game 4 of the 109th World Series. Tigers slugger Cabrera was on hand to collect his award, but the Diamondbacks’ Goldschmidt was traveling in Australia so could not be there. First-time All-Star Goldschmidt was impressive this season, leading the National League with 36 home runs and 123 runs batted in. American League All-Star Cabrera claimed the award for the second straight year. He led the major leagues by hitting .348, capturing his third straight batting crown.
Platini eyes expanded finals
UEFA president Michel Platini wants the FIFA World Cup finals expanded to 40 teams from 2018 to allow more African and Asian countries into the tournament without reducing the number of European nations represented. Europe currently provides 13 of the 32 teams at the finals, compared with five from Africa and four or five, depending on the winners of a playoff against a South American team, for the most populous continent Asia. FIFA president Sepp Blatter wrote last week that Africa and Asia deserved more representation at soccer’s showpiece event because they had more member associations than Europe and South America. Platini, widely regarded as the most likely successor to Blatter, said by his own calculations that adding eight more teams would require extending the tournament by only three days. “It’s good for everybody,” Platini told the Times newspaper in an interview.
Toure meets FIFA official
Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure met a top FIFA official on Sunday to discuss allegations that he was the victim of racist abuse from fans during a match in Russia last week. The Ivory Coast international held talks with FIFA vice president Jeffrey Webb at Stamford Bridge in London. A City spokesman confirmed the meeting took place, but would not comment on the discussions. Webb is also president of CONCACAF and the head of an anti-racism task force at FIFA. Toure said he suffered racist abuse during last Wednesday’s 2-1 UEFA Champions League victory at CSKA Moscow, a claim that prompted UEFA to open disciplinary proceedings against the Russian club.