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Men in black fall foul of Tour officials

RadioShack’s team colours are red and grey.

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However, seven-time champion Armstrong and his teammates showed up for the 20th and final stage wearing black outfits emblazoned with the number 28.

That is a reference to the 28 million people Armstrong’s Livestrong foundation estimates are living with cancer.

The American famously battled cancer in 1998 to return to racing and win the Tour seven times consecutively.

In recent years his Livestrong foundation has been involved in raising awareness, and funds, in a bid to beat the disease.

But his latest bid was kept in check by International Cycling Union (UCI) officials on Sunday.

After turning up wearing black for the 20th and final stage from Longjumeau to the Champs Elysees in Paris, the rest of the peloton had to wait while they were forced to change back to red and grey.

Race jury president Franceso Cenere told French TV: “It is forbidden to change jersey in a stage race without an authorisation from the UCI.

“They had to change jersey otherwise they would have been excluded from the race.”

Armstrong decided to try again after the stage, when he and his team turned up at the podium to receive their prize for dominating the teams’ classification wearing black.

“In the end, I think the fact we had to change the jerseys (before the stage) gave us some publicity,” Armstrong told France Televisions.

On what was his final Tour campaign, Armstrong finished the race nearly 40 minutes behind Spain’s three-time winner Alberto Contador, his former teammate at Astana in 2009.

The 38-year-old American is at the centre of serious doping allegations levelled recently by former teammate Floyd Landis.

Landis’s accusations have led to the launching of a federal investigation into alleged doping practices of Armstrong and other riders at his former team, US Postal.

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BP’s robot submarines cap oil leak

BP’s robotic submarines wrestled a cap into place over the jagged end of a pipe from ruptured well deep below the Gulf of Mexico, in a dramatic bid to stem a disastrous oil spill.

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Live video feed provided by BP showed the inverted, funnel-like cap being attached to the well’s fractured riser pipe in near-freezing waters, nearly a mile (1,600 meters) below the surface. BP aims to then siphon the oil to a ship on the surface.

Oil and gas continued to spew out unimpeded with great force, complicating efforts to determine whether the cap was in fact a good fit. BP officials and the US Coast Guard did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

But engineers have already acknowledged that the cap will not be a fix-all, and some of the crude will still spew out even if it is successfully placed over the gusher.

BP earlier managed to slice off the fractured well pipe with a pair of giant shears, but the cut was jagged and officials had to resort to a looser-fitting cap.

The British energy giant’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, has warned it could take about a day after the cap is put in place to know if it is managing to contain the worst of the spill, amid warnings that, with the broken pipe cut off, the oil flow would initially increase by up to 20 percent.

The firm has repeatedly tried — and failed — to contain the disastrous leak since an April 20 explosion tore through the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig just off the Louisiana coast.

Between 22 million and nearly 36 million gallons of crude have already spewed into Gulf waters, threatening vulnerable coastal wetlands, wildlife and livelihoods, according to US government estimates.

After the cap, the next chance to halt the flow would not come until mid-August, when relief wells are completed.

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Republicans are radicals: Obama

US President Barack Obama on Friday branded Republicans as radical and reactionary, in campaign appearances for high-profile Democratic senators under threat in November’s mid-term polls.

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Obama rallied crowds in Los Angeles, California, and was to move on to gambling paradise Nevada in a bid to rescue wobbling Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid, on the third day of a four-day campaign blitz.

He charged that the first Republican president, his political hero Abraham Lincoln would not be able to win the opposition party’s presidential nomination in the modern age.

“Seriously, can you imagine him trying to run with these folks?” Obama said, in a bid to portray the Republican Party as outside the mainstream ahead of November 2 congressional polls in which his Democrats fear heavy losses.

Obama accused Republicans of sitting on their hands while he saved the economy from a second Great Depression and of wanting to go back to the same lax regulatory regimes that caused the crisis in the first place.

“This agenda that poses as conservatism is not conservative. It resulted in a radical shift from record surpluses to record deficits, allowed Wall Street to run wild, nearly destroyed our economy,” Obama said.

“This is a choice between the past and the future, between fear and hope, between moving backwards and moving forwards. And I don’t know about you, but I want to move forward,” Obama said, at a campaign event for under-fire Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.

“They are clinging to the same worn-out, tired, snake-oil ideas that they were peddling before.”

At a second event in Los Angeles, featuring actor and comedian Jamie Foxx as a warm up act, Obama fired off his stump speech to a crowd of 32,500 people, as 5,000 more watched on a big screen set up in an overflow area.

Republicans need to win 39 seats to take back the House after four years of Democratic control — a task well within their reach with some analysts judging up to 90 races in the 435-seat chamber as competitive.

In the Senate, Republicans need a 10-seat swing, a result that may be beyond them after several races tightened in favor of Democrats in recent days, and a scenario of six or seven seats changing hands seems more likely.

Obama was later to head to Nevada to take part in a Democratic National Committee rally alongside Reid, who is the top Republican target in the election, and is locked in a close race with “Tea Party” conservative favorite Sharron Angle.

He was due to finish up a campaign swing, which has also taken in Oregon and Washington state, in Minnesota on Saturday.

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Former F1 test pilot De Villota found dead

De Villota, who lost her right eye and fractured her skull at a test in England in July 2012, had apparently died of ‘natural’ causes, a Spanish police spokeswoman said.

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“We are assuming it was a natural death, but we cannot confirm anything,” the spokeswoman said, adding that forensic scientists and a homicide unit would examine the scene.

De Villota’s sister Isabel was quoted as saying in local media later on Friday that the family had been told the 33-year-old had died in her sleep at about 6 a.m. local time (0400 GMT / 5:00 A.M. BST) as a result of neurological injuries she suffered in the crash.

Although de Villota recovered, she no longer competed and had instead become an inspirational figure for aspiring female drivers and was due to present a book detailing her experiences on Monday.

The daughter of former F1 racer Emilio De Villota, she was appointed test driver for Anglo-Russian team Marussia a few months before her accident.

She never took part in a general test with other drivers but was one of only a handful of women to have driven Formula One cars in the last decade. None, though, have come near to racing one in competition.

The news of her sudden passing stunned Spain and the motor racing world.

“I feel I owe it to her (to say something) because, out of the paddock and out of the motorsport bubble, she was an incredible character, she was a fighter,” Susie Wolff, a Williams development driver who had a test for the team last July and knew De Villota well, told Reuters.

“She had such a spirit for life and what she came through was a testament to her strength of character and her positive outlook,” added the Scot from the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.

“After the accident she was so behind me and had such a lust for life, she was so happy to be alive and that she’d survived it and she had so many great plans for the future.

“She was just an incredible lady, no matter about what she did on the racetrack. She was just an incredible character.”

ROLE MODEL

Spanish F1 driver Fernando Alonso appeared lost for words in an interview with radio broadcaster Cadena Ser shortly after hearing the news.

“I really don’t know what to say,” he said from Suzuka.

“Pray for her and her family and the whole motor sport family. She was really loved by everyone.”

De Villota’s family posted a brief message on Facebook.

“Dear friends. Maria has left us. She had to go to heaven like all the angels. We give thanks to God for the year and half more he allowed her to be with us.”

The crash occurred at Duxford airfield in England after De Villota had completed a test run and was returning to the mechanics. The car suddenly accelerated into the back of a team truck with her helmet taking much of the impact.

She was taken to Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s hospital and had an emergency operation that began on a Tuesday afternoon and kept her in theatre until the following morning.

Marussia published a brief statement on their website (www.marussiaf1team.com) from Suzuka:

“It is with great sadness that we learned a short time ago of the news that Maria de Villota has passed away.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Maria’s family and friends at this very difficult time.”

SPECIAL INSIGHT

Speaking in public for the first time since the accident in October last year, an upbeat De Villota, who married her personal trainer Rodrigo Garcia Millan in July, said she believed the best part of her life was still to come.

Wearing a patch over her eye socket and with her blonde hair cropped close to the skull, De Villota thanked all those who had helped and supported her and said she now believed she had “a new opportunity to live at 100 percent”.

She said she was determined to stay involved with Formula One in some form and being a role model for aspiring young female drivers was extremely important to her.

“I have motor sport in my DNA and there’s no way I can stay away from that world,” she said.

“I want to keep fighting because I believe so strongly in women being part of motor racing.

“The crucial thing was to get back some optimism about the future, that’s what helped me to get my interior motor running again. I am sure that the best is still to come.”

Spain’s secretary of state for sport, Miguel Cardenal, said the government was discussing ways of sustaining her legacy.

“I was talking to her on Tuesday about the book she was going to present,” Cardenal was quoted as saying in local media.

“She believed she could help many people, find something positive, because losing something makes you realise what you have,” he added.

“The accident gave her this special insight and she wanted to give something to others. We are thinking about how to sustain her legacy because she brought something different to Spanish sport, different values and her vision of life.”

(Additional reporting by Alan Baldwin in Suzuka, writing by Sarah White, Sonya Dowsett and Iain Rogers, editing by Patrick Johnston)

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England close on finals after win over Montenegro

A Wayne Rooney strike after 48 minutes, an own goal from Branko Boskovic after 62 minutes, a stunning third on his debut by Andros Townsend, and an injury-time penalty from Daniel Sturridge secured England’s victory.

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England lead their section with 19 points, one ahead of Ukraine and four more than Montenegro.

Montenegro appeared to set up a nervous finale when Dejan Damjanovic scored after 71 minutes but England weathered the storm and will qualify for the 2014 finals if they beat Poland at Wembley in their final qualifier on Tuesday.

The only blot on an otherwise good night for Roy Hodgson’s team was a booking for right back Kyle Walker, which will keep him out of Tuesday’s match.

Rooney opened the scoring three minutes into the second half after a 70-metre run from debutant Townsend, whose cross caused mayhem in the Montenegro defence before Rooney lashed in a left-foot shot from close range.

England doubled their lead in the 62nd minute when Branko Boskovic turned the ball into his own net after a cutback from Danny Welbeck.

Those goals settled an anxious Wembley but Montenegro proved they were not totally down and out when Manchester City’s Stevan Jovetic almost beat his club colleague Joe Hart with a 30-metre shot that smashed against Hart’s crossbar and bounced away to safety.

They did even better in the 71st minute, when Dejan Damjanovic diverted a shot from substitute Fatos Beqiraj past Hart to set England’s nerves jangling again.

But Townsend settled them in the 78th minute with a superb shot from 20 metres that swerved past Vukasin Poleksic and went in off the post.

Liverpool striker Sturridge completed the scoring from the spot in the third minute of time added on after he was fouled by Ivan Kecojevic.

(Editing by Stephen Wood)

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O’Sullivan makes fresh fixing claim

World champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has said he turned down an offer of STG20,000 ($A34,000) to fix a Premier League snooker match.

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The 37-year-old, five times champion of the world, wrote in his autobiography he was approached during a brief meeting in Epping Forest, Essex, east of London 10 years ago.

Nigel Mawer, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association’s (WPBSA) disciplinary committee, told the BBC: “We are aware of what has been said in the book and will be writing to Ronnie O’Sullivan to ask him to explain his comments.”

O’Sullivan wrote: “Someone rang me and said he’d like to meet me over in the forest and have a walk through the woods. I knew the fella, and it was someone you don’t want to mess around with.

“What they were offering me, 20 grand, I could get for a couple of nights’ work.”

O’Sullivan’s fellow English snooker player Stephen Lee, the former world number five, was banned last month for 12 years for seven match-fixing offences but is to appeal against his suspension.

Last month, following Lee’s ban, O’Sullivan told his Twitter followers: “I’ve heard there’s many more players who throw snooker matches .. I suppose Steve lee was just caught out.”

He added “plenty of people have got loads to hide”.

However O’Sullivan back-tracked after World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn warned he must not make “vague announcements” and risked disciplinary action.

In response, O’Sullivan said: “My reference to players throwing matches was out of context in that I was referring back to rumours from many years ago when there were only a few tournaments on the circuit.

“If I were aware of match-fixing, I understand that it would be up to me to report any fears to the association.

“I have no intention of undermining the integrity of the sport that I love and enjoy participating in so much and firmly believe that my tweets were taken out of context.”

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Belgium, Germany and Swiss book World Cup tickets

Belgium, boasting one of the most talented squads in Europe, will return to the global showpiece for the first time since 2002 after a 2-1 win in Croatia guaranteed top spot in Group A.

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Germany’s 3-0 home win over Ireland, with goals from Sami Khedira, Andre Schuerrle and Mesut Ozil, put them through from Group C while the Swiss won 2-1 in Albania to wrap up Group E.

The Netherlands and Italy had already sealed their passage to the finals before the penultimate round of qualifiers.

Group F leaders Russia are on the verge of qualifying thanks to a 4-0 victory in Luxembourg while Wayne Rooney was among the scorers in England’s 4-1 win over Montenegro at Wembley which kept Roy Hodgson’s side top of Group H heading into Tuesday’s final round of matches.

England are a point ahead of Ukraine who kept up the pressure by beating Poland 1-0.

Bosnia, seeking to reach their first major tournament as an independent nation, and Greece remain neck-and-neck on 22 points at the top of Group G after home wins on Friday.

Bosnia, with Edin Dzeko scoring twice, thumped Liechtenstein 4-1 while a Martin Skrtel own goal handed Greece a 1-0 success at home to Slovakia.

Robin van Persie hit a hat-trick in the 8-1 demolition of Hungary to become all-time leading Dutch scorer, taking his tally to 41 international goals and surpassing the 40 scored by Patrick Kluivert.

Nicklas Bendtner made a sensational return from a six-month ban by netting both goals in Denmark’s 2-2 draw at home to Italy. The striker was suspended by the Danish FA after being arrested for drink-driving but his international return was spoiled by Alberto Aquilani’s stoppage-time equaliser.

World and European champions Spain will move closer to qualifying if the Group I leaders beat Belarus in a late kickoff.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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IMF cuts Asia-Pacific growth forecast

EDS: Not for use before 0015 AEDT, Saturday, October 12

By Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics Correspondent

CANBERRA, Oct 12 AAP – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has confirmed it expects Australian economic growth to remain below trend this year and next, as the mining investment boom wanes.

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But in a mixed assessment of Asia and the Pacific in its latest Regional Economic Outlook released in Washington on Friday, the IMF expects neighbouring New Zealand to gain a boost as its post-earthquake reconstruction is accelerated.

It has cut its economic growth forecast for the region to 5.1 per cent for 2013, down from a 5.7 per cent prediction made in April.

For 2014 growth is now seen at 5.3 per cent rather than six per cent.

It says activity among emerging economies in the region lost their impetus during the first six months of 2013.

“Tepid external demand from advanced economies and a slowdown in China dampened industrial activity throughout much of emerging Asia,” it says.

At the same time, many of these economies have endured tighter financial conditions as a result of expectations that the US Federal Reserve will start winding back its monetary policy stimulus.

In India, one of Australia’s major trading partners, the fallout from financial stress has likely left corporate and bank balance sheets vulnerable, leading to a further downward revision to growth forecasts that were already historically lower.

While China has been insulated from recent financial market vulnerability, the IMF expects continued measures to slow credit demand from the excesses of the past should put the economy on a slower trajectory.

The IMF has cut its growth forecasts for emerging Asia by 0.9 per cent since April for both 2013 and 2014 to 6.3 and 6.5 per cent respectively.

Among advanced countries in the region, an economic upswing in Japanese growth has been a “bright spot” and is starting to lift the country out of chronic deflation.

“In Australia, a slowdown in the resource investment boom will drag down growth but in New Zealand continued low interest rates and the acceleration of post-earthquake reconstruction will provide a boost to the economy,” it said.

As in the World Economic Outlook released earlier this week, the IMF lowered its Australian forecasts to 2.5 per cent for this year and 2.8 per cent for the next, bringing it more into line with Australian Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia’s forecasts.

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Bosnia move closer to qualification with win

Bosnia are level with Greece, 1-0 winners over Slovakia, on 22 points from nine games but with a vastly superior goal difference (+23) over their rivals (+6) before the final round of qualifiers on Tuesday.

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Bosnia visit Lithuania while Greece are at home to Liechtenstein in the climax to their neck-and-neck race for an automatic berth in next year’s finals in Brazil.

“It would be a disaster if we failed now and I am convinced that we will get the win we need in Kaunas,” Bosnia coach Safet Susic told state television BHT after his side scored four times in a frantic 12-minute first-half spell.

“We never doubted we would pick the lock. It was a question of time, and once we scored there was no stopping us from celebrating an emphatic victory.

“I told the players to slow down in the second half in order to avoid bookings and injuries.”

Edin Dzeko scored twice and Zvjezdan Misimovic and Vedad Ibisevic added the other two for Bosnia, who were treated to a standing ovation by their noisy fans after the final whistle.

Beaten in the reverse fixture 8-1 a little over a year ago, Liechtenstein held out for 27 minutes in a packed Bilino Polje stadium before Manchester City striker Dzeko opened the scoring with a downward header after a perfect cross from the right by Misimovic.

The midfielder turned scorer seven minutes later when he drilled in a crisp shot from 12 metres before Ibisevic and Dzeko netted inside a minute to send the home fans into raptures.

Stand-in right back Avdija Vrsajevic tormented the visitors with darting runs on his flank and his pinpoint deliveries set up Misimovic and Ibisevic for the second and third goals before Dzeko netted the fourth after a flowing team move.

Liechtenstein keeper Peter Jehle produced several fine saves early in the second half before Nicolas Hasler pulled one back on the hour for the visitors, steering in a shot off the crossbar.

The home side took their feet off the gas in the final third of the match, although Misimovic came close with a curling shot from the edge of the penalty area.

“We have made one of two steps towards the finals and it’s now up to us to finish the job in Lithuania,” Ibisevic said.

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic, Editing by Sonia Oxley and Stephen Wood)

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Germany secure World Cup spot with win over Ireland

Sami Khedira’s deflected shot gave the hosts a 12th-minute lead and Andre Schuerrle made it 2-0 in the second half following a fine turn.

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Mesut Ozil then made sure of victory with the third goal in stoppage time.

Despite having more than half a dozen injury absentees, Germany were always in control with midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger back in the side after a six-month break to earn his 99th cap.

Germany have 25 points from nine games and an unassailable lead at the top of the group before they face second-placed Sweden in Stockholm on Tuesday.

Arsenal midfielder Ozil was played up front due to injuries to Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose as the hosts fielded six Bayern Munich players in their line-up.

Ireland, with interim coach Noel King in charge after the departure of Giovanni Trapattoni last month, went close through Kevin Doyle in the opening minutes before Germany stepped up a gear.

Khedira struck when his shot from the edge of the box went in off Ireland defender Ciaran Clark.

Keeper David Forde denied Germany a second goal in the 35th minute, spectacularly fisting a thunderous Schuerrle header away.

At the other end Clark almost made amends for his earlier mistake when his header hit the bar on the stroke of halftime.

Germany made it 2-0 in the 58th minute when Schuerrle controlled a fine Toni Kroos chip in the box before blasting the ball beyond Forde.

The Irish forced keeper Manuel Neuer to make a double save in the 73rd minute and Jerome Boateng responded for Germany with an unstoppable shot that rattled Forde’s crossbar.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Tony Jimenez)

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Bathurst will still surprise: Whincup

Low expectations for breaking the legendary Bathurst 1000 qualifying lap record won’t spell the end of high drama at Mount Panorama, according to V8 Supercars defending champion Jamie Whincup.

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Four-time Bathurst winner Whincup had believed, under the right conditions, the Car of the Future design introduced this year could help eclipse Greg Murphy’s 2003 time of two minutes, 6.86 seconds on the mountain – affectionately known as “the Lap of the Gods”.

But after “hauling” his Holden to clock the weekend’s fastest time (two minutes, 8.00 seconds) and claim provisional pole ahead of Saturday’s top 10 qualifying shootout, the series leader all but gave up on reeling in Murphy’s 10-year-old record – for now.

However, he claimed the hot, deteriorating track was to blame – not the new COTF set-up.

“I don’t think anyone here is happy. I think it will take a couple more years to really get right on top of these cars around this crazy place,” Whincup said.

But asked about the likelihood of breaking flying Kiwi Murphy’s now legendary time, Whincup said: “I think a V8 Supercar doing an eight dead (2:08.00) is hauling, don’t disrespect that.

“If I had my way I wouldn’t be too focused on the time.

“It is what is going on behind the scenes, whoever is competing against each other trying to be quickest still applies.

“Even if we are doing 2:10, 2:11, the same fun is going on behind the scenes.”

Ford threat Mark Winterbottom who was second fastest for the shootout was more blunt when asked about Murphy’s decade-long mark of Bathurst perfection.

“Do a 2:06.8? I think you are dreaming,” he said.

“But who knows? It might be overcast (for the shootout). Who can tell? But I wouldn’t think so.”

Holden’s Jason Bright – who was third fastest on Friday – believed the question should be asked after the Bathurst surface receives a facelift ahead of the 2014 race.

“It’s the greasiest I have ever felt it around here,” said Bright, who made his V8 debut way back in 1997.

“I have never had the car move around the way it has at the moment. Usually the car feels quite planted.

“I would put it down to track temperature more than anything else.”

Top 10 qualifying starts at 1700 AEDT.

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Finks gang disbanding in SA: court told

The Finks bikie gang is disbanding in South Australia, a court has been told.

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In a case involving a member of the gang, the SA District Court has heard that some Finks are joining another group called the Mongols.

But defence counsel Heath Barklay said his client, Dylan Jessen is not making the switch and is seeking a fresh start.

Jessen has pleaded guilty to a string of firearms offences while his former girlfriend, Jaymee Renee Noble, is also before the court and has pleaded guilty to one offence, illegally possessing a loaded gun which she hid in her underpants.

Mr Barklay told the court that he had recently received material, including recorded phone conversations, which included details of how the Finks were disbanding and some were joining the Mongols.

But he said his client was no longer associated with the gang and wanted to demonstrate to the court that he was “on the right path”.

“He’s making a break from it all,” Mr Barklay said on Friday.

Solicitor-General Martin Hinton described the prosecution as “upping the ante” in relation to the new information but conceded Jessen should be given an opportunity to convince the court that he had embraced a new life.

In relation to Noble, the court was told her actions in hiding the gun involved an incredibly stupid decision in a moment of panic when police entered Jessen’s home in November last year.

She had intended only to frustrate the police at the time.

The case against Jessen and Noble will return to court on October 30 for further submissions.

Earlier this week SA Attorney-General John Rau expressed concern that the US-based Mongols bikie gang was setting up in Australia and that some local members of the Finks were moving over to the other group.

“This crowd in the United States are a very serious, hardcore criminal group,” Mr Rau said.

“It appears they are wanting to have a chapter or a branch in Australia in the same sort of way as the Hells Angels do.”

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Del Piero stars in Sydney win

Italian superstar Alessandro Del Piero capitalised on a couple of howlers from Newcastle’s Zenon Caravella to lead Sydney FC to a 2-0 home win over the Jets in the opening A-League game of the season.

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Del Piero, who notched 14 goals in his maiden A-League campaign last season, scored one and made one for Joel Chianese at Allianz Stadium, but Caravella played a part in both.

After 36 minutes, Del Piero worked his way into the penalty area, but appeared to have lost possession to Connor Chapman only to be gifted it back when midfielder Caravella ran into Chapman.

The veteran striker picked his way through what little defence was left and expertly slid the ball across goalkeeper Mark Birighitti into the far corner of the net.

Caravella, who signed a one-year contract extension earlier this week and is the nephew of Sydney coach Frank Farina, was also culpable for the second goal on the hour.

He was dispossessed by Del Piero, who fed the ball to Chianese who lashed a powerful shot into the net.

Sydney created far more chances against a Newcastle side lacking penetration up front, with strikers Emile Heskey, Michael Bridges and Joey Gibbs all on the injury list.

The Jets had a couple of decent chances after Chianese’s goal, but rarely exposed Sydney’s new-look rearguard, which included three newcomers to the club.

Adam Taggart flashed a strong header just over the bar and Craig Goodwin’s free-kick was saved by Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic.

Del Piero helped enliven the game after a dull first quarter.

Chianese had a shot blocked by Birighitti in a one-on-one situation created by a Del Piero pass.

Former Newcastle player Matt Thompson almost marked his Sydney debut with a goal when his 20 metre shot crashed off the crossbar and then bounced off Birighitti’s back.

Becoming progressively more involved, Del Piero sent a wicked 20 metre drive just over the bar a few seconds before halftime.

The Jets showed some nice touches early on through Nathan Burns, James Virgili and Craig Goodwin, but didn’t create any good first half chances.

Sydney coach Frank Farina described his team’s work ethic as sensational and was happy with their performance, especially given what he perceived as negative media comments about their prospects.

“Before the ball was even kicked there was a lot of pressure on us, myself, the team,” Farina said.

“It’s a good start, that’s about all.”

He said Sydney still had a lot of work to do, but looked solid defensively and described the debut of former Red Star Belgrade centre back Nikola Petkovic as outstanding.

He was quick to spread the praise across his side rather than focus on Del Piero.

“I thought he was very good tonight, but more so I think collectively we were good,” Farina said.

“There wasn’t a player out there that didn’t pull his weight or didn’t work hard.”

Newcastle coach Gary van Egmond said the Jets created their own misfortune with both goals and lamented his side’s inability to make inroads down the wings and build on a promising start.

“Early on we seemed to start to get on top and we looked extremely dangerous,” van Egmond said.

“But that comes back and bites you if you don’t start to take those chances.”