Rugby-La Rochelle bounce back in style after double 2021 heartbreak

The victory was masterminded by coach Ronan O’Gara, twice a winner of the competition as a player with Munster, who devised a plan and instilled the belief in his side that it could bring them home. In the end it was that belief that meant his players eschewed multiple opportunities to kick a penalty that would have made it a one-point game and were finally rewarded with their 79th-minute try.


Reuters | Updated: 29-05-2022 00:27 IST | Created: 29-05-2022 00:27 IST
Rugby-La Rochelle bounce back in style after double 2021 heartbreak

Last year La Rochelle suffered double heartbreak when they lost to Toulouse in the Champions Cup and French championship finals but they roared back on Saturday to beat favourites Leinster 24-21 with a dramatic late score that buried all that pain.

It had looked as if another defeat was on the cards as Leinster, bidding for a record-equalling fifth Champions Cup triumph, stood on their tryline and repelled attack after attack, only for Arthur Retiere, helped by a slip, to stretch his arm through a tiny gap for a try that sent Marseille's Stade Velodrome wild. The victory was masterminded by coach Ronan O’Gara, twice a winner of the competition as a player with Munster, who devised a plan and instilled the belief in his side that it could bring them home.

In the end it was that belief that meant his players eschewed multiple opportunities to kick a penalty that would have made it a one-point game and were finally rewarded with their 79th-minute try. Asked what the victory meant to him, O'Gara said: “I don’t think you’ve any idea. Where we started was a long way away from dreaming of getting to finals. I’ve got to thank those boys. It would have been easy to keel over and lose today but that’s not us. We found a way to win. Was it pretty? No. Mentally, this is the start of a good journey for this team.

"This team was second division eight years ago. Now we are playing with the big boys, and why not, why not us? They are all warriors. "We had to take their time and space away and we knew we had to score tries to win. There was great heart. We could have rolled over but we didn't and I think this is the start of something special."

Flyhalf Ihaia West played his part, taking an age before converting the try and using up all the game's remaining seconds. "Amazing, honestly. After last year, losing two finals, coming here against a class team like Leinster no-one gave us a chance but we believed deep down we had what it took," he said.

"The fans are amazing every match –- they were last year when we lost. Seeing those yellow flags when we ran it, it was great. Opposite number Johnny Sexton, who kicked 18 points before going off injured, was seeking a fifth triumph of his own.

“It’s an incredibly hard competition to win," he said. "When you get to the final it’s the hardest game of the season. We had some chances we probably didn’t take. It’s devastating to lose it that way at the end -- the ball squirts out, and he slips -- it’s devastating." Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said: "It came down to fine margins and a couple of defensive sets.

"In the last 15 minutes we could have been better. It is a sickener but credit to La Rochelle."

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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