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Second half La Rochelle crush...
Rugby

Second half La Rochelle crush Leinster's Champions Cup dreams

Stephen Kisbey-Green
Stephen Kisbey-Green

17:01 2 May 2021

Leinster and La Rochelle were both hoping to book their place in the Heineken Champions Cup final against Toulouse on Sunday afternoon.

All of the headlines leading up to the match surrounded La Rochelle's coach, Ronan O'Gara and his storied history against the men in blue.

However, it was clear early on that Leinster would not go down hoping in France, as they were all over O'Gara's men from the opening whistle.

Despite an early missed penalty attempt from Ross Byrne, Leinster took the lead early on, capitalising on the the extra man brought forth by Wiaan Liebenberg being yellow carded for repeated infringements inside the 22m.

Leo Cullen's men went through the phases, ultimately getting the ball in the hands of Tadhg Furlong who bashed over the line from close range.

Furlong Leinster Try Referee Matthew Carley signals Leinster's first try, scored by Tadhg Furlong not pictured, during the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final match between La Rochelle and Leinster at Stade Marcel Deflandre in La Rochelle, France. Photo by Julien Poupart/Sportsfile

From that early try, the first folded into a battle of the boot between Byrne and Ihaia West, with the two out halves trading penalties for the remainder of a tightly-contested opening half.

Momentum began to swing in favour of La Rochelle at the beginning of the second half, with West putting the hosts in the lead for the first time five minutes into the half with a fifth successful penalty.

This lead was short-lived though, as Byrne brought the visitors back out in front, however a yellow card for a cynical foul by James Lowe in a kickable position on the pitch allowed West to again take the lead again.

The hosts took the full ten minutes to take advantage of the extra man, with their only other points since Lowe left the pitch coming just as he was about to run back onto the pitch.

Similar to Furlong's try earlier in the match, La Rochelle went through the phases, even being denied a try via the TMO, before Gregory Alldritt crahsed through the Leinster defence from close range to take La Rochelle out in front by two scores.

It was all but sealed for the French side with just over five minutes left in the match, as La Rochelle opted to kick for touch from a kickable penalty rather than take the points.

Will Skelton took the initiative off the back of the ensuing maul to score the try, which would take La Rochelle to a 16-point lead.

Not to be kept wanting, Leinster fought their way into the La Rochelle half to get the ball out wide to Byrne, who crossed over to bring a glimmer of hope back to the Dublin side. He quickly converted his try, however the French side were in no rush to take the restart.

It was not to be for Leinster, as La Rochelle won a penalty in the final minute to secure the a trip to Twickenham against Toulouse in the Heineken Champions Cup final.

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Read more about

Champions Cup Gregory Alldritt Ihaia West James Lowe La Rochelle Leinster Leo Cullen Ronan O'Gara Ross Byrne Tadhg Furlong

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