If a director decides to take a close interest in this match, his film will probably have its place at the next Cannes festival. At the end of a Hitchcockian scenario, La Rochelle achieved the feat of winning the Champions Cup, the most prestigious of the European Rugby Cups, for the second consecutive year, on Saturday May 20. Like last year, the Rochelais won at the end of the suspense against the Irish of Leinster (27-26), however pushed by an audience won over to their cause at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
“There are no words, it’s fantastic. We wanted to write our story. But honestly, I play with monsters, we have a crazy team, reacted on the verge of tears Romain Sazy, at the final whistle, at the microphone of France 2. It’s an extraordinary team, physically and mentally. Humanly, we can do extreme things with this group. »
Rochelais since 2010, the 36-year-old second row will be able to put an end to his career as a professional rugby player at the end of the season with the serenity of leaving a club in excellent health. And with, as a bonus, one last emotion that he may not soon forget. Because after ten minutes, the case seemed already heard, and the fifth star of European champions almost already embroidered on the jersey of Leinstermen.
𝔽𝕆ℝ𝕋𝕐-𝕆ℕ𝔼 𝕊𝔼ℂ𝕆ℕ𝔻𝕊! It’s the dream start for @LeinsterRugby! 🔥 Watch LIVE on @RTErugby, @btsportrugby,… https://t.co/eCz0pCd21g
Seeking revenge after last season’s final, it didn’t take long for the Dublin players to strike. Forty-one seconds precisely. Time for Dan Sheehan to throw himself into the in-goal after a touchdown combination that took the entire La Rochelle defense by surprise. Ten minutes later, the Irish hooker was going to flatten again along the sideline, barely leaving time for his teammate Jimmy O’Brien to go there, too, with his try (6e).
A catastrophic start
Completely overwhelmed like all of his teammates, scrum half Tawera Kerr-Barlow also paid for his team’s accumulation of fouls by picking up a yellow card (10e). “Clearly, at the 15th minute, when it is 17-0 and we are at fourteen, personally I tell myself that the afternoon is going to be long. Even if we try to keep serenity, in the head, it starts to work »recognizes hooker Pierre Bourgarit, guilty of several faults at the start of the match.
Still in the second division in 2014, the Maritimes have since offered themselves a great experience and some spectacular comebacks. Leinster also knew something about it for having let the title slip away in 2022 on a try by Arthur Retière scored two minutes from the end of the meeting. But, even warned, the premises did not manage to maintain their hold on the match, handicapped in particular by the absence through injury of their opening half and usual conductor, Jonathan Sexton, injured in the groin.
The Rochelais then returned to the score with abnegation, in their characteristic style: in power. It was first the center pair that stood out, Jonathan Danty (20e) and Ulupano Seuteni (38e) going in turn to restore hope to the La Rochelle supporters present in the Aviva Stadium. Then the Maritimes offered a recital in the second period, until finding the fault in force by the prop replacing Georges-Henri Colombe (72e).
WOW. Buckle up, we’re in for a TESNE final 10 minutes 🤯 #HeinekenChampionsCup | @staderochelais https://t.co/kYqcASkhte
And now, the Top 14?
With a well-assured transformation, Antoine Hastoy then allowed Stade La Rochelle to take the lead for the first time. But then it remained to keep the advantage. A task made difficult by the yellow card inflicted on Jonathan Danty for a high tackle (75e) and by the desire of the Irish to snatch a victory in their turn in the final moments. A hope gone by the indiscipline of their pillar Michael Ala’alatoa, guilty of a shoulder blow on Georges-Henri Colombe. This bad gesture earned him a red card (79e) and allowed the Rochelais to exult, at the end of this bitter fight.
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Thanks to this tremendous turnaround, the Maritimes become the first team to retain their Champions Cup title since the English double from Saracens (2016 and 2017). The Irish coach of La Rochelle, Ronan O’Gara, plays him a very bad trick at the club of which he was a rival during his playing career (at Munster). He thus became double European champion as a coach, after having been so during his years as a player (2006 and 2008).
And now ? The Rochelais will benefit from this title won after a hard fight. “I can’t wait to get back to La Rochelle. I know that we are expected and I can’t wait to celebrate it on the port with all the supporters”, confided captain Grégory Allditt, elected man of the match, a few moments after the issue.
But the Maritimes will probably not go too far, they who are still in the race in the Top 14. Before the last day of the regular phase, next weekend, Romain Sazy and his teammates have indeed secured their place in the semi-finals of the championship “It’s not over yet, there are still deadlines, we want to win everything”, ensured the second line, which would not be against the idea of finishing his career on the first Shield of Brennus of the Stade Rochelais.