Five things we learned from the Heineken Cup Final

first_imgWith Bakkies Botha and Danie Rossouw lurking menacingly on their front line, Toulon were never going to be scared of the wolf-pack. In the end though, the manner in which they muscled out Saracens to triumph 23-6 was mightily impressive. Though eulogies will continue for Wilkinson long past this weekend’s Top 14 final, his post-match interview with Sky’s Alex Payne demonstrated why retirement from playing cannot signal the end of Wilkinson’s wider involvement in rugby. Despite the emotion of the situation, Toulon’s captain was lucid, articulate and insightful with each answer. As a coach, ambassador or even as a pundit, he has so, so much to offer. The whispers are that Boudjellal will continue to employ him. The RFU should do its utmost to intercept that process.Watch highlights from the 2014 Heineken Cup final below!  For all the phenomenal individuals that magnetic lunatic Mourad Boudjellal has assembled, his team actually amounts to more than the sum of its parts. Everyone knows their role and delivers without fuss. The little things – capitalising on Alain Rolland’s iffy ruck interpretations in the Millennium Stadium mud, for instance – added up.It was a cohesive unit of gnarled winners that ousted Mark McCall’s men. But what did we learn from the last Heineken Cup decider? Here are five things.Vulnerability evaporatesKnow-how on high-stakes occasions – seven of Toulon’s starters had featured in a Rugby World Cup final – eventually told in Cardiff. However, the Top 14 superstars seemed strangely consumed by red mist during Saturday’s opening exchanges. There was Craig Burden hollering in the face of fellow South African hooker Schalk Brits like an idiotic NFL linebacker, Delon Armitage showing typical prickle and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe very lucky to escape a red card after taking Steve Borthwick in the air.Perhaps it was the emotion of Jonny Wilkinson’s pre-game address, but Toulon were ragged. Saracens missed penalties either side of Lobbe’s brain fade and despite a very disciplined beginning, they could not manufacture a decent lead. In fact, Matt Giteau’s sublime try and a Jonny Wilkinson drop-goal put them behind at the break.Saracens looked strong again as the second period began, patiently navigating the trenches and earning a penalty to cut their deficit. But disorganisation from the ensuing restart and failure to clear their lines let their rivals back in. Toulon took hold and Juan Smith’s score was breathtaking – worthy of rubber-stamping any encounter.Voice of experience: Botha and Rossouw made up an all-Springbok second rowDon JuanSteffon Armitage thrived in front of spectator Stuart Lancaster and once again reinforced how he could enhance England’s World Cup effort. Even so, the way he jackaled the man-of-the-match award away from his brilliantly belligerent back-row colleague amounted to daylight robbery.On a largely turgid evening, Smith was dynamic and destructive – on a different plane to anyone else in the contact area. A tally of 16 tackles was the most in the match, but his dominance in those collisions was what defined a formidable display. Saracens carriers were simply bullied. Debilitating injury troubles cruelly snatched two years away from Smith and the medical miracle from Bloemfontein is channeling that hurt into a seriously special career sunset.Forgive Billy When the Sky cameras spun round to Wilkinson at the final whistle, they also captured a disconsolate Billy Vunipola trudging down the tunnel. Toulon’s triumphant fly-half approached the defeated Saracen in a bid to sympathise, but seemed to get ignored. It didn’t look great. In fact, it looked pretty petulant and extremely immature. Suddenly, judging by the sanctimonious faux-outrage on Twitter, the 21 year-old was “disgraceful” and “everything wrong with modern English players”. What garbage.Now this is not an attempt to defend Vunipola’s actions. It is an attempt to defend him as a person, though. This was the biggest domestic game of his fledgling career and, as such, the biggest disappointment. England’s rising star tried manfully – beating eight defenders from 19 carries. Nevertheless, Toulon tacklers crowded him out, causing two knock-ons and a penalty for holding on. Vunipola had every right to feel totally gutted.Storming back to the changing rooms was not ideal, but it was human. Professional athletes are not robots and controlling emotions requires experience. You can be certain that Billy – a hugely humble, considerate young man – sought out Wilkinson later to apologise profusely and explain how frustration got the better of him. Big brother Mako tweeted as much too. He won’t do it ever again. Let’s get off his case. Toulon unravelled Saracens to win the Heineken Cup final 23-6 at the Millennium Stadium, but what did we learn from Saturday’s match? Zero-tolerance for divers, pleaseBryan Habana spent part of his Sunday composing a public confession that he aired on social media, admitting culpability for some second-half play-acting that Ashley Young might have thought excessive. The 95-cap, 53-try Springbok admitted to “letting myself, our opponents and the game down”. Again, the individual should not be overly vilified – especially after expressing such regret. However, though gamesmanship in rugby is nothing new, diving is a very grave issue.Habana’s Hollywood tumble was a cynical attempt to earn Owen Farrell a yellow card. Luckily, Rolland ruled a penalty was sufficient before warning Toulon’s South African wing. But it would have been more fitting to see him reverse the penalty and send Habana to the sin-bin instead. There are enough serious injuries in rugby without fakery manipulating perspectives. The job of a referee is already excruciatingly tough as well. Simulation must be stamped out before it becomes an ugly epidemic.New era: Wilkinson, who scored 13 points v Saracens, will join Toulon’s coaching teamJust the beginning for JonnyIncluding four flawless kicks at goal with his left foot and one dead-eye drop-goal with his right, Wilkinson only had 16 touches of the ball in 77 minutes. That was plenty of time to exhibit his unparalleled ability to execute under pressure. When the big screen showed his face as the clock wound down, the Millennium Stadium swelled in a rather touching ovation. It is an exceptional person that can genuinely compel universal respect. Power of four: Steffon Armitage won four turnovers against Saracens on Saturday read more

Israeli warplanes hit Gaza, Syria after Palestinian rocket barrage

first_imgIsraeli aircraft hit what the military said were Islamic Jihad sites in the Gaza Strip and Syria late Sunday, after the Palestinian militant group fired a barrage of rockets at Israel.In a new flareup a week ahead of fresh general election in the Jewish state, the Israeli Air Force carried out strikes on “Islamic Jihad terror sites” throughout Gaza and near the Syrian capital Damascus, a military statement said.There were no immediate reports of fatalities in either Gaza, which lies to the west of Israel, or Syria, which is to the country’s north. Islamic Jihad, which along with allied group Hamas has fought three wars with Israel in Gaza since 2008, operates in both territories.The Israeli military said it had struck “dozens” of Islamic Jihad targets throughout Gaza.A military aircraft also fired at “Islamic Jihad terror operatives preparing to launch rockets,” from the northern Gaza Strip, the army said.”A hit was identified,” it added, with health officials in Gaza saying four people were wounded in the strikes. In Syria, the Israeli army said it had struck Islamic Jihad targets outside the capital Damascus, including a base “used as a hub” for the group’s activities in the country.An AFP correspondent in Damascus heard several strong explosions shortly before midnight (2200 GMT).The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attacks were “near the Damascus international airport”.The Syrian state news agency Sana said “most of the enemy missiles were shot down before reaching their targets,” stressing that “no airport” was struck.Bulldozed Earlier Sunday, more than 20 rockets and mortars were launched from Gaza towards Israel, setting off warning sirens in the southern city of Ashkelon and several other locations, the army said.More than a dozen were intercepted by the Jewish state’s Iron Dome missile defence system, the Israeli army said.There were no reports of serious injuries.Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rockets, calling them a response to the killing of one its fighters along the Gaza border early Sunday.Israel said the man had been part of a cell seeking to plant an explosive device on the border fence.Islamic Jihad identified the dead man as Mohammed al-Naem, 27, a member of its armed wing.A video later emerged on social media showing a bulldozer approaching a body while a group of young, apparently unarmed men, were trying to retrieve it. The sound of gunfire is heard and the men ultimately run away as the bulldozer scoops up the body.A tank can be seen positioned nearby.Israel’s hawkish Defence Minister Naftali Bennett has pursued a policy of retaining the bodies of militants from Gaza as bargaining chips to pressure Hamas, which has held the bodies of two Israeli soldiers since 2014.Hamas is also believed to be detaining two Israeli citizens who entered Gaza separately and whose families say suffer from mental illness.Israel has a general election on March 2, its third in less than a year after deadlocked polls in April and September 2019.Embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, facing trial over a series of corruption allegations, is again neck and neck with centrist challenger Benny Gantz, a former military general.Hamas and Israel last fought a full-scale war in 2014 but smaller flareups are relatively common.In November, Islamic Jihad and Israel fought a three-day conflict that left 35 Palestinians dead and more than 100 wounded, according to official figures.There were no Israeli fatalities.Under the informal agreements in the past year, Israel has slightly eased a blockade of the impoverished Palestinian enclave in exchange for relative calm.Topics :last_img read more

Black bear sighting confirmed in southern Indiana

first_imgNew Albany, In. — Indiana Conservation officers have confirmed a black bear was hit on I-64 by a car near New Albany on Sunday evening.Based on information gathered at the scene officers say the bear wandered into the woods after being hit but was not found.“It’s unfortunate and unusual for a bear to be hit on an Indiana roadway,” said Brad Westrich, DNR mammalogist, “but bear sightings are nothing to be alarmed about. As bear populations expand in neighboring states, it’s only natural that they become more common here.”Black bears are rarely aggressive toward humans.If you see a black bear:— Enjoy it from a distance.— Never attempt to feed or attract bears.— Do not climb a tree.— Advertise your presence by shouting and waving your arms and backing slowly away.— Report bear sightings to the Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife at 812-334-1137, through email at [email protected], or problems arise when bears associate food sources with humans. Do not feed bears. Doing so increases the likelihood of negative bear-human interactions. Unfortunately, a fed bear often becomes a dead bear due to increased aggressive behaviors associated with the loss of fear of humans—help keep wildlife wild.Bears can smell food from more than a mile away, so it’s important to secure food sources and discourage animals from associating humans and human dwellings with food. To reduce or eliminate the potential for bear-human conflicts, here are some tips:— DO remove bird feeders and bird food from late March through November.— DO clean and store grills away after use.— DO eliminate food attractants by placing garbage cans inside a garage or shed.— DO pick ripe fruits and vegetable ASAP, or place an electric fence around them, to ensure bear cannot reach them.— DON’T intentionally feed bears. Bears that become accustomed to finding food near your home may become “problem” bears.— DON’T leave pet food outside overnight.— DON’T add meat or sweets to a compost pile.— DON’T climb a tree, but wait in a vehicle or building for the bear to leave the area.More information on black bears is here.The DNR has no information on the vehicle accident. Officers with the New Albany Police Department investigated the vehicle accident.last_img read more