La Rochelle has given itself a second chance. In a meeting relocated to the Bollaert-Delelis stadium, in Lens, because of the Sexion d’Assault concert at Paris La Défense Arena, the Rochelais won against Racing 92 (20-13) in the semi-final of the Coupe d’ Europe, Sunday May 15.
At the end of a rough and chopped match, they validated their ticket for a second European final in a row. They will face, Saturday May 28, at the Vélodrome stadium, in Marseille, the Irish of Leinster, winners Saturday of the Toulouse stadium (40-17).
The score was already frozen in favor of the Maritimes when Ihaia West sealed the meeting at the siren. With a corner try scored in an acrobatic way, the opener definitively validated the qualification of his team for what will be his fourth final in three years, national and European competitions combined.
The previous three ended in defeats: in the European Challenge in 2019 (36-16) against Clermont, in the European Cup then in the Top 14 in 2021, against Stade Toulouse (22-17, then 18-8) . La Rochelle will have another opportunity to put a prestigious line on its list.
“We are specialists in winning semis, now we have to win finals”said La Rochelle center Jérémy Sinzelle smiling on BeIN Sports after the match on Sunday. “We are very happy, also welcomed Captain Grégory Alldritt at the microphone of France 2. We knew it would be hard, it was physical until the end. »
🚨 The @staderochelais is back in the #ChampionsCup final! After a complicated match for both teams… https://t.co/vBxumvYY1z
Racing too undisciplined
Laborious above all, so many inaccuracies and penalties were chained throughout an afternoon when rugby did not show its best face to promote itself in Hauts-de-France. In this game, the Parisians were by far the best, conceding no less than 19 penalties over the whole meeting (against 12 for La Rochelle).
“The disappointment is immense. We were too undisciplined, admitted the international center of Racing 92, Gaël Fickou. We have a lot of regrets, we deserved better. »
The clumsiness of Ihaia West
After quickly taking control thanks to the talent of Virimi Vakatawa, author of the first try (10-0, 28and), Racing 92 kept the advantage for a long time thanks to the chronic clumsiness of opposing striker Ihaia West.
As in the final of the Top 14 last season, the New Zealander showed glaring shortcomings in his kicking game. He left eight points en route by missing two easy penalties (11and and 46and) and by completely unscrewing the transformation on his team’s first try, signed Grégory Alldritt just before half-time (10-8, 40and).
🏉 | #R92vSR Who will join Leinster in the #ChampionsCup final? At the break, @racing92 leads 10-8 against… https://t.co/sWhMzHwXvV
But on returning from the locker room, the indiscipline of the men of Laurent Travers paid dearly. Blow after blow, Camille Chat (52and) and Cedate Gomes Sa (53and) were punished with a yellow card, leaving their partners at thirteen against fifteen. To make matters worse, La Rochelle was credited with a penalty try on the fault of the second named, passing ahead in the score for the first time in the match (13-15, 53and).
By not conceding any points in numerical inferiority, Racing 92 left itself reason to hope. “When you have chances, you have to put them to the bottom, we didn’t know how to do it. We lost too many balls.analyzed Maxime Machenaud.
Opportunities missed by Racing
At the end of the match, Racing 92 missed the opportunities to come back in front, like Nolann Le Garrec. The scrum half, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Saturday, missed two penalties after the hour mark (60and and 62and). “We had chances but we didn’t play the shots well”regretted Gaël Fickou.
Racing (4and of the Top 14) will have to refocus on the championship to hope to hang a title, since the European Cup escapes him once again after his three lost finals (2016, 2018 and 2020).
For La Rochelle, in a bad position to qualify for the final phase of the Top 14 (7and), the opportunity will be too good at the Vélodrome stadium. “We have a league game between the two, specified Grégory Alldritt. But we will have this Leinster match in the back of our minds. It’s a team that holds the ball, we will have to be so precise. » Much more than against Racing 92 in any case, but the essential is acquired for the players of Ronan O’Gara.