Full-back Lee Byrne dubbed it ‘the toughest game of our season’ after Clermont Auvergne fought their way past Munster and into their first ever Heineken Cup final. Clermont had to produce a character-building final 10 minutes to resist Munster’s late rally and finish as 16-10 winners of an absorbing semi-final clash in Montpellier. Delighted with Clermont’s progress to the Aviva Stadium final on Saturday, May 18, their Welsh back Byrne said: “It is a dream come true to finally reach a Heineken Cup final. It was the toughest game we’ve had all season and you’ve got to hold your hands up to Munster for that. They wore the famous red jersey with real pride.” He added: “We fully deserved to come through with the win. We had a few opportunities (to score a second try), but the ball didn’t stick. We got a bit nervy, but hopefully we will come back stronger for the final. “Whoever we face it will be another very tough challenge. We will do our homework and come out firing,” he added, with Saracens and Toulon meeting in the second semi-final on Sunday at Twickenham. Ronan O’Gara, the record points scorer and most-capped player in Heineken Cup history, would not be drawn afterwards on whether this was his final outing at this level. The Munster out-half had kicked the visitors in to an early lead and it was his perfectly weighted grubber kick that teed up Hurley for the only try of the second half. The raw emotion was etched on the 36-year-old’s face after the final whistle as the Irish province bowed out at the penultimate stage. “Defeat is extremely hard to take after you have put so much into a game like that. But it is winner takes all in a semi-final,” said O’Gara. Press Association
Yes, Horan hollered in the stadium tunnel.MORE: Naeher’s save the perfect answer to doubters“Well that was not needed,” said England defender Steph Houghton, speaking with London-based talkSPORT. “It’s disrespectful.”Indeed, we have reached the point in the evolution of the U.S. women’s national team where they cannot celebrate in blowouts, cannot celebrate enormous goals in enormous games and cannot even shout when they’re in the relative privacy of the stadium tunnel — all because there might be damaged feelings.The United States is the reigning power of international women’s soccer. Its dominance began with victory at the initial World Cup in 1991 and the initial competition at the 1996 Olympic Games and has continued through this decade with three World Cups finals.They are what Brazil was to the men’s game during Pele’s reign.Pele, though, barely has had a negative word said about him in his six decades as a public figure, not even about his acting in “Victory.” Is the difference now that criticism is amplified? Or is it that the standard is different for female players?The headline in Wednesday’s Daily Mail declared United States star Alex Morgan, following her goal against England in the FIFA Women’s World Cup semifinals, had sparked a “storm in a teacup with ‘distasteful’ celebration.”The word “distasteful” appeared in quotes, which meant someone with some station had labeled it as such. Honestly. Morgan scored the game-winning goal, advancing the U.S. women’s national team to their third consecutive World Cup final, and pretended to drink a spot of tea.That’s an issue?It’s the world’s most popular sport, whatever one wishes to call it, so hasn’t anybody watched any soccer/football/futbol/calcio lately? Dudes are practically staging full-length productions of “Pagliacci” after each time they score.MORE: Rapinoe makes profound statement in victory over FranceWe have seen players cupping their ears toward the standings, the universal gesture for “I can’t hear you.” We have seen players put their index fingers to their lips, the gesture for “I just shut you all up.” A player for the Italy national team once pretended to play the violin. In a club game, Roma’s Francesco Totti took a selfie. In Lithuania a few years back, Dzmitry Kowb ran up into the stands after scoring, sat down and applauded his own effort.England veteran Lianne Sanderson, working as an analyst for BeIN Sports, was the person who took umbrage with Morgan’s flying pinkie. “You can celebrate however you want, but that, for me, is a bit distasteful, and I don’t think she needs to do that,” Sanderson said. “She can celebrate however she wants, and I’m a big believer in the Americans and how they celebrate, but for me this was a little bit disrespectful.”When I was sitting in the upper corner end zone in Reims for the United States’ 13-0 victory over Thailand, as I watched 10 second-half goals scored at our end of the field, I cringed at the celebrations the American players performed. Not because I was bothered or thought it was problematic, but because I know how the media world works. I knew the players would be eviscerated for enjoying their victory.That ought to have been a one-day story, though. It has been stunning to see this narrative advanced as the tournament continued.VERTELNEY: Disgraceful? Classless? That’s what reactions to U.S. 13-0 win has been England coach Phil Neville could be forgiven for carping in advance of the semis about two anonymous U.S. soccer officials “invading” the Lionesses’ hotel housing; a coach does what he can to legally gain an edge. When the game was over and England still was griping about disrespect, it became more than obvious the team that is being disrespected is the reigning champion.It wasn’t an American who flopped twice, trying unsuccessfully to draw penalties and later acted as though a bump in the calf had caused a catastrophic injury. That was England striker Ellen White, whose histrionics led to a video review that showed enough of a foul to call a penalty (that time). It wasn’t an American who committed two egregious fouls that warranted yellow cards and thus was sent off for the resultant red card. That was England defender Millie Bright. And it wasn’t a U.S. coach complaining afterward that the game referee had “lost control.” That was Neville.It wasn’t clear from the audio what Horan had shouted as she passed through the tunnel on the way to another celebration that apparently was private enough to offend no one. Let’s just hope it wasn’t anything about Brexit, because that would have been mean. It was Lindsey Horan’s perfectly placed pass that United States teammate Alex Morgan transformed — using her head, literally — into the game-winning goal that advanced the U.S. to the final of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.Perhaps it was that play on her mind, or teammate Alyssa Naeher’s stunning penalty save, or just the breadth of joy at achieving a lifelong dream, when Horan had the audacity to shout as she traveled from the field to the locker room following the semifinal victory.