Higgins has ring of confidence


Snooker: Mark Williams had to be content with the bridesmaid role as husband-to-be John Higgins regained his UK Championship title in Bournemouth last night.

The 1998 UK title holder humbled his Welsh rival 10-4 in a high quality match befitting of the occasion. Higgins, who marries on December 22nd, picked up £78,000 sterling, while Williams pocketed £41,000 by way of consolation.

It was a great display by the 25-year-old world number two in his first final since winning the Irish Masters at Goffs last March. A magnificent seven frames in the first session sent Higgins in leading 7-2. He had had three century breaks - 131, 108, and 115 - plus runs of 73, 54, 55 and 43.

When the match resumed Higgins had further runs of 45 and 76, which took him to within one of victory. Higgins then missed a couple of half chances and Williams, with nothing to lose, added some respectability to the scoreline.

The mini revival was stamped out as soon as the players came out for the final session. Higgins took frame 14 76-16 and it was 10-4 over and out for Williams.

Cricket: As expected, Ireland lost their second match in the Women's World Cup yesterday as Australia pulled off a comprehensive 10-wicket victory with almost 30 overs to spare at Hagley Oval in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Miriam Grealey won the toss and decided to bat, and while openers Karen Young and Anne Linehan looked comfortable enough in surviving the first seven overs, thereafter only Catherine O'Neill and Caitriona Beggs offered any real resistance, as Ireland were out for 90 runs, including 19 extras.

O'Neill faced 107 deliveries and hit two fours in her topscoring 28 before being run out, while Beggs's 18 runs came off 76 balls and included three boundaries.

Zoe Goss was Australia's most effective bowler, taking 4 for 10 off her 9.3 overs. Lisa Keightley (49 runs, 71 balls), and Belinda Clark (40 runs, 52 deliveries) amassed the required runs. Ireland face Sri Lanka tomorrow.

Athletics: Noel Berkeley of DSD won the individual title for the sixth time at the Tullamore Harriers' Festival of Road Races yesterday. In cold and windy conditions, the 36year-old was never far off the pacemakers, and over the last of the four miles he waged a personal duel with Cathal Lombard (Leevale).

Berkeley finally broke the challenge of his 24-year-old opponent at the entrance to the stadium to win by seven seconds.

The entry for the event was down from last year. The Quinlan Cup for the winning team was won for the fifth time by Clonliffe Harriers from DSD and Liffey Valley. The women's senior title was won by Ann Lennon, who led her Mayo AC to team glory. She clocked 22:58 in winning by 23 seconds from local girl Ann Carroll of Tullamore Harriers.

Tennis: Gustavo Kuerten swept past Andre Agassi in straight sets to win the season-ending Masters Cup and finish the year as the world's number one player.

The Brazilian won 6-4 6-4 64, beating the player who had finished 1999 with the top ranking. "It's been a great week, the last tournament, the last match," Kuerten said. "I had to give everything."