The National League is about as balanced as it has been in the last decade.

The Central is stacked, the East got better and the West is far from decided.

But even with the parity in the league we are going to give our predictions for all of this year's winners by division, pennant and awards.

Here are those predictions.


Central – Chicago Cubs

Last year, the Cubs were the first team to be a disappointment that won 95 games.

But this year everyone is coming back, Kris Bryant and Yu Darvish will likely be healthier and a lot of players (Ian Happ, Willson Contreras) got bad second years out of their systems.

We are picking them to ride an underrated starting rotation to a division title this year as Milwaukee will likely take a slight step back and the St Louis Cardinals will take some wins away from the Brewers as well. The Cincinnati Reds will do the same thing as they got better too.


East – Washington Nationals

No team is better with the subtraction of Bryce Harper. That is ludicrous. However, the Nationals added Patrick Corbin, still have a fantastic rotation with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and their lineup is solid from top to bottom.

A bad season last year was an anomaly. This team is good. They will prove it this year.


West – Colorado Rockies

The Rockies will ride their pitching rotation to this year's division title.

Between Kyle Freeland, German Marquez and Antonio Senzatela the Rockies have a powerful, young rotation that could guide them for years to come.

And, they have the best third baseman in all of baseball in Nolan Arenado, added a steadying bat in the middle of the lineup in Daniel Murphy and David Dahl, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and Ian Desmond fill out a talented lineup. That is more than enough to win a division they lost in a one-game playoff to the ageing Los Angeles Dodgers last season.


Wildcards – Los Angeles Dodgers, St Louis Cardinals

This is as tough of a couple of picks as there could ever be because the argument can legitimately made that the Brewers, Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks and Dodgers could all earn one of the two wildcard spots.

But our thinking here is simple: the Dodgers play in the weakest of the three divisions, and the Cardinals added Paul Goldschmidt. The Cards barely missed the playoffs last year, and if they add a pitcher at the deadline that could be the piece to push them over the top.


NLCS pick – Cardinals vs. Rockies

The Rockies learned a lot in their playoff run last season and will hit better in the playoffs this time around. St Louis will get a good second year from Jack Flaherty. Those two things will help them get to the NLCS and in that series Colorado will come away with the win to make it back to their first World Series since 2007.


MVP – Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals

Despite finishing amongst the top MVP candidates in the National League five of the last six years, Goldschmidt has somehow never won the MVP. A big reason for that is no one pays attention to the Diamondbacks – unfortunately – and many believe Chase Field inflates numbers for hitters.

Goldschmidt will not have to worry about that this year as the Cardinals are always in the national spotlight and people will not hold his ballpark against him in St. Louis. He will produce there and people will realise he is not a product of a ballpark and then go check his numbers and see he had a higher batting average and more homers away from Arizona.

All of that and a playoff berth for the Cardinals will give him his first MVP award.


Cy Young Winner – Max Scherzer

He had a legitimate argument to win the award last year even when Jacob deGrom had an all-time season. He will anchor the best rotation in the NL and win the award for the third time in the last four years and fourth time in his career.


Rookie of the Year – Nick Senzel, Reds

Nick Senzel has several things going for him: one, he is an incredibly talented player, two, the Reds added several good hitters to an already good lineup with Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp so he will have more protection when he is called up, and three, Great American Ballpark is a hitter's haven.

The only question is how long it will take for Senzel to get to MLB. If he is on the team from the start of the year, .290 with 20 homers and 80 RBIs is not out of the question. That got Miguel Andujar serious consideration for a win in the AL last year. Senzel will get it if he gets there as well.


Manager of the Year – Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks

The perception of the Diamondbacks is they will be bad this year after losing Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. Losing a team's two best players is a recipe for regression. So any good success for Arizona will mean they will exceed expectations and that is how a manager wins Manager of the Year.

The Diamondbacks are not bad despite the perception. Zack Greinke is good, as is Robbie Ray and Zack Godley. And the lineup is still pretty solid. If Arizona win 86 or 87 games and competes for a wildcard spot, Lovullo will be in the conversation for Manager of the Year.

The American League, in contrast to the National, is incredibly top heavy again in 2019.

The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians are all capable of winning 100 games and the bottom teams in all three divisions are capable of losing 100 or more.

But the playoffs should be absolutely fantastic, so you will have to take the good with the bad.

Here are our predictions for how the AL will shake out in 2019.


Central - Cleveland Indians

Yes, Cleveland underachieved last year and, yes, Francisco Lindor is starting the season hurt, Jose Ramirez was bad down the stretch and you cannot name a single one of their outfielders, but the Indians are still really, really good.

Their rotation had four starters who struck out 200 or more batters last year and they have every chance to do it again, while Lindor and Ramirez are still really good too. The bullpen is also likely to improve from last year's disaster.

Cleveland should walk this division.


East - New York Yankees

The Yankees are already dealing with a lot of injuries as Luis Severino, CC Sabathia and Greg Bird are hurt, but the rotation is still good, the lineup is very good and the bullpen is transcendent.

The Indians won 10 games less than they should have a year ago because of their bullpen while the Red Sox are in a similar spot this year.

It got them through the postseason in 2018, but that was with massive help from Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale. Those men will not be in the pen during the regular season and it will cost them wins and the division.


West - Houston Astros

The Astros lost three starters from a year ago, but can you name the Astros' top two starters from 2017? Probably not. Can you name their bottom three? Without a doubt, no. But this year they still have Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole at the top and an accumulation of guys at the bottom.

Verlander and Cole will win more than enough to carry the team to the deadline and Collin McHugh, Wade Miley and Brad Peacock will be more than passable to solidify the rotation.

Reinforcements will also come in the form of Josh James, Forrest Whitley, Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas. The pitching will be more than fine, the bullpen is very good and the lineup got better with the addition of Michael Brantley. If Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and George Springer are simply slightly more healthy than they were a year ago, this team will definitely win 100 games and maybe even 105.


Wildcards - Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners

The Red Sox are an obvious pick here; the Seattle Mariners not so much.

Here is the thinking: the Oakland Athletics are going to regress this year. They have one starting pitcher and, while everyone thinks they will succeed with bullpenning like they did last year, remember Sean Manaea was a staple in the rotation until August and Trevor Cahill and Edwin Jackson ate up some innings while combining to win 15 games.

None of those guys are in the rotation this season and that will really hurt Oakland. The only other team that we think could slip in would be the Tampa Bay Rays, but they went through a lot of turnover.

Seattle have solid pitching again and a lineup that works. While it may feel like recency bias as the Mariners just beat the A's twice in Japan, it is not. We really like this team and think they will dominate the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers, using that to get back to the playoffs for the first time in what seems like an eternity.


ALCS pick - Astros vs. Yankees

A rematch of the 2017 ALCS, this series will all come down to who has home-field advantage. If the Yankees get it, they win. If the Astros get it, they do. We will take the Yankees to win the series for this reason and almost this reason alone: James Paxton is the Astros' kryptonite.

Paxton is 7-3 with a 2.89 ERA in his career versus Houston and he will likely get two starts in an ALCS matchup between the two teams. Houston also cannot hit Luis Severino and, if the youngster comes back healthy after a spring training arm injury, that could be four wins between just those two pitchers.

Four games wins an ALCS, so that is the pick.


MVP - Mike Trout, Angels

It feels like there was a lot of hand-wringing last season when Mike Trout did not win the award despite the Angels not making the playoffs. Assuming good health, Trout will have the best numbers of anyone in the AL - both with the eye test and by WAR - and he will earn his third career MVP.


Cy Young Winner - Trevor Bauer, Indians

If Bauer had been healthy throughout 2018, he would have won the AL Cy Young. He bested team-mate Corey Kluber in just about every single category and Kluber was a Cy Young finalist.

There is no pitcher in MLB with better stuff than Bauer at the moment. His collection of fastball, curveball, slider and change is as good as gold and, when you see him pitch up close, you have no idea how anyone can touch him.

If he stays healthy, he will win the award this year.


Rookie of the Year - Yusei Kikuchi, Mariners

This feels a little dodgy because Kikuchi is 27 years old, but it will be his first season in MLB and he will be in the rotation for Seattle from day one.

He will post good numbers in a pitcher-friendly ballpark and earn a lot of wins in a division with bad teams like Texas and Los Angeles and terrible hitter's parks in Oakland and LA. But do not discount Houston for how bad their park can be to hit in as well. No one likes that batter's eye in center field and it hurts runs scored. 

Kikuchi has very good stuff and is a mature pitcher, which should be enough to win him the award.


Manager of the Year - Scott Servais, Mariners

If the Mariners get back to the postseason for the first time since 2001, Servais will win the award. This one is pretty self-explanatory.

Cardiff Blues scored 38 unanswered points in the first half as they cruised to a 41-17 victory over the Scarlets on Friday to boost their Pro14 play-off hopes.

Less than a week after Wales' Grand Slam-clinching triumph over Ireland, and in the shadow of the Principality Stadium, Blues coach John Mulvihill threw Six Nations stars Josh Navidi and Gareth Anscombe straight back into his starting XV.

And Anscombe – playing at full-back after shining at fly-half for his country – was central to the capital region's success, kicking 16 points, while Aled Summerhill crossed for two of five Blues tries.

The Scarlets held back their own brigade of Grand Slam champions, bringing on Gareth Davies, Ken Owens and Rob Evans at the start of the second half.

Evans scored two tries – his first of the season – as the visitors mounted a response at the Arms Park, but the damage done in the opening period was too much to overcome.

The result sees the fourth-placed Blues stay level on points in Conference A with third-placed Connacht, who triumphed 29-14 over Benetton.

Matt Healy scored two tries as the Irish province got the better of Conference B's second-placed side, while Jack Carty became their all-time record points scorer with a try that secured a bonus point in the 80th minute.

Leinster are already assured of their play-off spot and suffered only their third defeat of the season at Edinburgh, losing 28-11.

A closely fought first half ended 14-11 in the home side's favour but tries from Ross Ford – making his 203rd appearance to become the second-most capped player in the competition's history – and Viliame Mata saw them streak clear after half-time.

Edinburgh now sit just two points off the third play-off spot in Conference B, moving above the Scarlets.

Serena Williams came through her opener unscathed at the Miami Open as she defeated Rebecca Peterson 6-3 1-6 6-1 on Friday.

The 23-time grand slam champion retired from her clash with Garbine Muguruza at Indian Wells last week with illness, but she was fit to take on Peterson at Hard Rock Stadium.

Williams made a shaky start and was worked hard by the Swede, seeing her form desert her entirely in a punishing second set.

But the home favourite recovered her composure to power past Peterson in the third and set up a third-round clash against Qiang Wang.

A series of early errors saw Williams collapse from 40-0 to lose her first service game with a backhand into the net, but a similarly scrappy second game brought the 10th seed level.

The match settled from that point, yet a blazing return at the net handed Williams two break points and the second was seized as she backed Peterson into a corner.

A subsequent hold to love saw the favourite take the opener, although Peterson managed to stay with Williams early in the second and produced one particularly gutsy hold at 1-1.

That gave Peterson the opportunity to go after a break and it arrived immediately, with Williams wearing a bemused grin as the underdog repeatedly defied her and broke again before securing the set.

Williams repeatedly bellowed for the Miami crowd to back her at the start of the third, yet she required a Peterson double-fault to belatedly reclaim the lead.

Back in control, it was plain sailing from there as Williams set up a meeting with Wang.

Northampton Saints produced a stylish first-half display as they defeated rivals Leicester Tigers 29-15 in the Premiership.

The Saints moved up to fifth after giving Leicester a mountain to climb with a fast start, scoring three times before half-time away from home.

Cobus Reinach went over early on before Tom Collins added a double shortly before the break, with Mike Williams' yellow card compounding matters for Leicester late in the half.

Northampton did not need to cross again after the interval to stretch their advantage as Leicester were again punished for their ill-discipline. Dan Biggar kicked four penalties in total and Dan Cole also visited the sin bin.

Returning England star George Ford belatedly got the hosts up and running with a 66th-minute try and then Tom Youngs capitalised to score late as Jamie Gibson saw yellow.

Huddersfield Giants moved off the bottom of the Super League table with a demolition of Hull KR, while leaders St Helens also won big to maintain their 100 per cent start. 

The Giants had triumphed in just one of their opening six matches and were rooted to the foot of the table before Friday's match, but they ran out 42-8 victors at the John Smith's Stadium.

Huddersfield were in control from the moment Kruise Leeming crossed for the opener after 14 minutes, with Oliver Roberts and Darnell McIntosh also going over before the break.

Leeming got his second within two minutes of the restart and the hosts accelerated out of sight as Jermaine McGillvary went through twice in quick succession.

The scoring slowed and Weller Hauraki got a try back for Rovers, but Suaia Matagi stretched the Giants' lead again in the closing stages to cap a much-needed triumph.

St Helens' victory was far less surprising but no less ruthless as third-placed Castleford Tigers were put to the sword on their own patch.

The Saints scored eight tries in a 42-12 rout, leading 18-0 at the break as Lachlan Coote, Regan Grace and Dominique Peyroux went over.

Further tries followed through Zeb Taia, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Mark Percival, Peyroux and Jonny Lomax, although Michael Shenton and Jacob Trueman at least got the humbled hosts on the scoresheet.

Naomi Osaka survived a second-set wobble to reach the Miami Open third round with a 6-0 6-7 (3-7) 6-1 victory over Yanina Wickmayer.

The top seed exited the competition at this stage last year after knocking out Serena Williams in the first round, but she forced her way into a clash with Hsieh Su-wei this time around.

Osaka asserted her authority on the contest in the early exchanges, putting in a near faultless display in a 22-minute first set.

The Japanese conceded only two points on her own serve in the opener, but she faced a sterner test in the second.

Wickmayer fired over six aces on her way to forcing a tie-break, as seven of the 12 games went to deuce.

It was the Belgian who eventually won out, despite dropping the first point of the breaker on her own serve.

But normal service was resumed in the deciding set, Osaka racing into a 3-0 lead before wrapping up the victory with a love service game.

Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu continued her sensational run of form with a 6-3 6-3 defeat of Sofia Kenin at the Miami Open on Friday.

Kenin was the last player to defeat Andreescu in Acapulco, but evidence of the teenager's swift progress was clear as she cast aside the seeded American in the second round.

There were setbacks in the first set as Kenin threatened to again establish a hold over one of the WTA Tour's form players, yet Andreescu's riposte was superb.

A confident second set saw the 18-year-old extend her winning run to nine matches, with Angelique Kerber - beaten in the final at Indian Wells - potentially next up.

Andreescu came through a testing first game but bowed to the pressure when she served again, going long on break point as an accomplished early Kenin showing was rewarded.

The power of Andreescu's return saw an immediate response and the breaks kept coming in an entertaining contest, but the Canadian found her composure when serving out the opener.

There was no let up in Andreescu's play, although the second set threatened to go the same way as both players struggled on serve.

As in the first, though, the in-form star came out on top and took the third of three match points when Kenin double-faulted.


Wigan Warriors say they will not stand in Shaun Edwards' way should he renege on an agreement to become the Super League champions' head coach in 2020.

Edwards agreed to take over at the club last year, with his time as Wales' defence coach set to come to an end following the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

However, the Wigan legend caused confusion after Wales wrapped up the Six Nations Grand Slam with victory over Ireland at the weekend, claiming his future was up in the air.

Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan has confirmed that no contract was signed at the time of Edwards' announcement and that the move to Wigan was "cemented by a handshake".

Wigan now say they will accept whatever decision Edwards - linked with a return to Wasps - comes to.

"Wigan Warriors Rugby League Club's position is that it has an oral agreement with Shaun Edwards to become head coach from 2020, cemented by a handshake and announced publicly in a press conference by both parties in August 2018," said Lenagan.

"I take full responsibility for including the mention of a signed contract in Wigan's press release at the time of Shaun's appointment. I have done business on many occasions on the basis of an oral agreement over a handshake.

"Shaun and I have known each other for a long time, have great respect for each other and share a passion for all things Wigan – of course the main focus for that being Wigan Warriors and its supporters.

"Following the announcement of his appointment we agreed not to distract Shaun, at his request, in any way throughout the Six Nations.

"With Wales' emphatic victory in Cardiff at the weekend, it is understandable why their coaching team have become so desirable throughout world rugby and Shaun is obviously an integral part of that.

"Rather than debating the merits and legalities of an oral or written agreement, I have had constructive dialogue with Shaun this week to make it clear that, despite our desire for him to take up the Wigan Warriors head coach role as agreed, we would not attempt to hold Shaun to any agreement - disputed or otherwise - if he now preferred to take up a different option.

"During our conversations, Shaun asked for more time to consider his options. I agreed to his request and fully understand his reasons for doing so.

"It is obvious we need to clear up this situation as quickly as possible in a dignified manner for the best interests of Wigan Warriors and Shaun.

"It is proving to be a difficult and emotive situation for us all to navigate, but I am determined to provide our loyal fans with the clarity they deserve once Shaun has come to his decision. We will support whatever decision he reaches."

Jamaica has won the right to host the third Carifta Triathlon, Aquathlon and Mixed Relay Championships set for August 17 and 18 and Jewels Resorts in Runaway Bay, St. Ann.

Rugby's tier-one unions to look beyond their own national interest and back plans for a global Nations Championship, World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper has urged.

The sport's governing body revealed its revised format for the tournament this month, after the original proposals were met with concerns about player welfare.

Under the new plans, the Six Nations and Rugby Championship would feed into a league system that would also feature fixtures in rugby's other international windows.

The top team in each of the two hemispheres would then face off in a grand final, while those at the bottom would be at risk of relegation, with nations in the lower tiers battling to force their way into the elite.

The prospect of introducing promotion and relegation has been greeted with some trepidation, given that the tournaments have always been a closed shop.

But Gosper insists the changes would be for the good of the sport as a whole.

"Everyone sees the merits of what we're doing," Gosper told BBC Sport.

"Everyone sees that adding meaning and context to all of these matches that happen throughout the year is an exciting prospect.

"Generally, where there's a bit of discomfort is around the issue of promotion and relegation. That's understandable – many of these teams have been pretty well protected in closed competitions for a long time.

"What we're asking is that some of that national interest is tempered by a little bit of concern about where the global game might be going as well. It's trying to find that balance that will be important if this is to get across the line."

Gosper added that the benefits of World Rugby's proposals outweigh those of a rival bid for a 30 per cent stake in the Six Nations from private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, who also have a share in the Premiership.

"It's about keeping the money in the sport and it's about making our own decisions about what's right for the sport, and you can do that when you have 100 per cent ownership," he said.

World Rugby has also revealed that it will explore changes to the laws of the game following this week's player welfare symposium.

Continued height tackle trials and a review of kicking rules are among the topics that will be looked into, as well as the possibility of reviewing yellow cards while a player in the sin bin.

Andre Greipel hopes to add to his 11 Tour de France stage wins in 2019 after his new team – Arkea Samsic – were handed a wildcard for this year's event.

Greipel stepped down from the elite level of cycling to join the French team ahead of the new season, his contract with Lotto Soudal having come to an end.

The German's departure after eight years with the team was confirmed last July during stage 15 of the Tour, a race Greipel had already withdrawn from.

Moving down to the second tier threatened to deny him a chance to return to the Tour, but he will be at the start in Brussels in July.

"I learnt the news on the bike. It's great news for us. The Tour has always been a dream. Last year I was disappointed," he told Arkea Samsic's website. 

"I'm happy to be able to go back to the world's most beautiful race to give everything and get a good result."

Sprinter Greipel won three stages in the 2012 edition of the race and went one better in 2015, when he finished second in the points classification behind Peter Sagan.

An apparent death threat directed at CSKA Moscow forward Will Clyburn has been condemned by Euroleague Basketball, which says it will support any action against the perpetrator.

Clyburn was part of the CSKA team that defeated Fenerbahce in a top-of-the-table clash on Thursday.

The American then addressed a Twitter post to the Euroleague and Fenerbahce, calling for a response as he provided an image of messages sent to his wife saying that he would "be murdered within three days".

The messages included the Turkish flag and claimed that those responsible were in Russia, while promising that the rest of Clyburn's family were safe.

Responding in a statement, the Euroleague said: "Euroleague Basketball and all participating clubs condemn all disrespectful or threatening comments towards any member of the basketball family or individual.

"The aforementioned messages do not represent Euroleague Basketball, clubs or fans."

It added: "Euroleague Basketball applies a zero-tolerance policy towards this kind of behaviour and has already reported this case to the different social media platforms.

"The person or persons responsible for the comments cited will be prohibited access to any Euroleague and EuroCup games.

"Euroleague Basketball will support Will Clyburn and his family in any further action he may consider taking."

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton appears to enjoy a challenge.

The former NFL MVP is battling through an offseason that has included shoulder surgery, veganism and apparently no sex for the month of March.

On The Late Late Show with James Corden, Newton said that March was "no climax" month.

Explaining himself to a stunned crowd, Newton said the decision aims to force him to become stronger mentally.

"It makes my mind stronger," he said. "So when the season comes around, I say if I did those things, I’m mentally stronger."

Max Verstappen is reluctant to make any early calls on the Formula One season despite an impressive third-place finish in Australia.

Red Bull's star driver reached the podium at the opening grand prix of the campaign in Melbourne, finishing behind Mercedes pair Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.

But with Bahrain to come next week and China a fortnight after that, Verstappen is staying patient before assessing how Red Bull are faring this year.

"To start the season with a podium in Australia is very positive, but Melbourne is not a typical circuit," he said. "We should not get carried away.

"I also don't think we really know where we are until after the race in China."

He added: "You never know exactly where you stand when you start the qualification. You have not yet had optimum preparation because the circumstances are not the same as in the free training sessions."

Verstappen will hope to build on his promising first result, having struggled for consistency in the first half of last season.

The Dutchman then finished 2018 with five straight podiums - including victory in Mexico, his second of the year - to finish fourth overall in the drivers' championship.

Alun Wyn Jones and George North will miss the next month after picking up injuries during Wales' triumphant Six Nations Grand Slam campaign, the Ospreys have confirmed.

Jones led Wales to five wins out of five in the championship and was named player of the tournament on Friday after a public vote.

North scored twice in the opening match against France, but only played nine minutes of the victory over Ireland that sealed the Grand Slam.

They have both returned to club rugby ahead of the final weeks of the Pro14 season, but the Ospreys remain unsure whether they will be able to feature in any of their four matches.

"Alun Wyn suffered knee ligament damage last weekend and is currently rehabbing," an Ospreys statement read.

"He won't travel to South Africa [to face the Cheetahs and Southern Kings] with the squad at the start of April but at this stage we haven't ruled him out of the Judgment Day game against Cardiff Blues [on April 27].

"George fractured two metacarpals in his left hand early in the Scotland match. Having seen a specialist this week, he needs time for the bones to heal but we are optimistic about the potential for him to be involved on Judgment Day."

While Jones and North have a chance of playing again this season, Scott Williams is "progressing well" towards a return ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

"Scott is recovering from the disc problem in his lower back which kept him out of the Six Nations," the Ospreys' statement continued.

"He is progressing well but we aren't expecting to see him back representing the Ospreys before the end of the season. He will continue his rehabilitation into pre-season with the goal of making himself available for the Rugby World Cup."

Thomas Pieters held his nerve on the back nine to take the halfway lead at the Maybank Championship by one shot.

Pieters started Friday two shots behind overnight leaders Marcus Fraser and Nacho Elvira, and fell further behind with a bogey at the second.

While he got that shot back two holes later, Elvira was opening up a four-stroke advantage at the top of the leaderboard.

However, the increased winds in Kuala Lumpur saw the Spaniard struggle on the back nine, and he finished the day with a level-par 72 to occupy second place with Danny Masrin.

Pieters had no such problems, though, as he picked up three shots on the way home to edge clear of the field through 36 holes.

"I struggled off the tee early on – at the end it was a lot better," said Pieters.

"It didn't feel like a good day to me. I made the best of what I had. I gave myself a lot of chances but I couldn't seem to get the ball in the hole."

Fraser endured a miserable day as he signed for a five-over 77, the Australian carding three double bogeys as he slipped to two under and a share of 30th.

Ernie Els also suffered in the tough conditions, but the veteran was able to finish the day two shots behind Pieters.

The two-time Open champion heads a group of seven players on six-under.

Suliasi Vunivalu scored a first-half hat-trick as Melbourne Storm made it two wins from two in the 2019 NRL season, beating Canberra Raiders 22-10.

Vunivalu's fifth treble of his career was sealed inside 30 minutes on Friday as the Storm raced into a 14-point lead at GIO Stadium.

His opener came courtesy of Jahrome Hughes' pass, while a grubber kick from Brodie Croft enabled him to double his tally.

Curtis Scott's assist gave Vunivalu his hat-trick and put the Storm in complete control.

The Raiders got on the board in the second half as Jarrod Croker scored twice, but it was not enough to stop last year's losing Grand Finalists continuing their impressive start to the new campaign.

After defeat to the Storm in round one, Brisbane Broncos bounced back in style as they beat North Queensland Cowboys 29-10.

Corey Oates bagged his second double of the season as the Broncos overpowered the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium, the visitors unable to get on the board until the 58th minute.

By that time Oates had dotted down twice, with James Roberts also grabbing two and Tevita Pangai Junior adding a fifth try to give the Broncos a 24-0 lead.

Jordan Kahu and Justin O'Neill gave the Cowboys something to celebrate but it was never going to be enough to deny the Broncos.

Luka Doncic conceded he struggled to get going as the Dallas Mavericks were beaten 116-100 by the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.

Doncic is leading the way in the battle to be crowned Rookie of Year in the NBA after averaging 21.1 points, 5.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds with the Mavs.

Despite Doncic's impressive debut season, the Mavericks are struggling for form and their latest reverse was a 13th loss in 15 games, a run that has seen them eliminated from playoff contention.

The 20-year-old only scored 13 points against Sacramento, and he admitted he struggled against the close attention of the Kings' defenders.

"They have big defenders and I think we just had a really bad game, especially me," said Doncic. "They have amazing players.

"They're a young team and they have some really good talent. Every time I have some free days I really enjoy watching them. They play with energy, they play fast and they're just a great young team."

Coach Rick Carlisle added: "Everybody is loading up on him, so this is nothing new. We've seen a lot of this.

"He's got to keep attacking, making reads, seeing when double-teams are there and the right play is to advance the ball or hit a guy who's coming up from the corner or something like that, but it's tough."

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