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Toulouse handed a rare lesson; Wimbledon ban hands Putin the propaganda war

The Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

"A lesson in rugby that Touluose rarely receives." Perhaps unsurprisingly considering the final margin was 27 points in a European semi-final, the French press was particularly complimentary of Leinster's performance on Saturday. One man came in for praise more than most, player of the match Johnny Sexton who continues to defy father time: "The years pass, the concussions too, but he is still there. At 36, we wonder if he is still at the level, but Sexton proves in high-stakes matches that he is still just as effective." La Rochelle's victory in yesterday's other semi-final ensures Sexton will once again square off against old friend Ronan O'Gara, the French side's coach, in just under a fortnight's time. However, airline staff shortages and the fact that the Champions League final is also being played in France on the same day means that actually getting to Marseille will be a task in and of itself.

Dublin continue to put their abysmal league form into the rear-view mirror, swatting aside Meath yesterday to book their place in the Leinster final where they will square off against Kildare. Meath's performance was particularly disappointing it has to be said as the contest was over well before half-time. In the hurling, it looks like Waterford are in big trouble now after defeat to Cork. As Nicky English writes this morning: "Austin Gleeson took the fight to Cork and looked the only Waterford player capable of turning the tide, but he fell on his sword with another sending-off. It's a major fall from grace, and now their future in the championship is no longer in their hands."

Before Sunday, Riyad Mahrez's penalty success rate was 70 per cent. Surprisingly, Kevin de Bruyne's was just 66 per cent. Their statistically best penalty taker that has had more than one attempt, Ilkay Gundogan, was sitting on the bench. Up stepped Mahrez yet Lukasz Fabianksi recorded his second career penalty save against the Algerian, denying City the three points and handing Liverpool a lifeline in the title race, as Ken Early points out this morning. Pep Guardiola's defensive injury crisis no doubt also had something to do with the result as Fernandinho struggled out of position. Mary Hannigan was watching all of the weekend's sporting action, in particular the FA Cup final, and in her TV column points out some of the oddities picked up by broadcasters: "Sky's Geoff Shreeves informing us that Prince Albert of Monaco was at the West Ham game because he and Mark Noble share a mutual friend had even more folk scratching their scalps 'til they blew bubbles. Also too, Liverpool fans booing Prince William, Abide with Me and God Save The Queen will never not be funny/strange, especially when it produces incandescent-with-fury Sunday headlines."

Russian and Belarusian tennis players can compete at the upcoming French Open, but not at Wimbledon later this summer. The two tournaments have opted for very different policies, the latter laying out an outright ban on those from the two countries either responsible for or supportive of the war in Ukraine. Brian O'Connor goes through the pros and cons of such a ban in his column this morning, but despite the potentially difficult image of a British head of state handing a trophy to a Russian victor and the propaganda issues that could entail, he comes down against the ban: "Boil it down, however, and Wimbledon's decision has handed Putin and his cronies a propaganda victory already. Doubling down on individual rights and freedoms is best policy in the face of fascists. Failure to do so reflects only weakness."

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