Planet Rugby

La Rochelle clinch Top 14 promotion

26th May 2014 06:43


La Rochelle players celebrate Top 14 promotion 2014

All smiles: La Rochelle players celebrate after beating Agen

La Rochelle were promoted to the Top 14 after defeating Agen 31-22 in the Pro D2 play-off final in Bordeaux on Sunday.

La Rochelle dominated the opening period as they took a 21-3 lead into the half-time break courtesy of a try from wing Damien Cler and a penalty try that was awarded just before the interval.

Sireli Bobo touched down early in the second half to put them further in front but Agen staged a rousing comeback with three tries of their own to claw to within nine points and ensure a nervy finish.

However, La Rochelle held on, avenging a pair of regular-season losses to Agen, to secure a return to the top tier of French rugby after a three-year absence.

"It's a happy, marvellous ending," said La Rochelle president Vincent Merling.

"We've been working tirelessly since 2011 to return to the Top 14 in 2015. We dominated the first half but then got frightened, Agen came back with an extraordinary speed.

"But we've made it. I've less fear now of going up to the Top 14 than the final moments of that match."

They will join D2 champions Lyon in next season's Top 14, taking the places of relegated duo Perpignan and Biarritz.

La Rochelle have invested heavily in a return to the top flight and with a stadium capacity set to increase to 15,000 and a budget of 16.5 million euros have given themselves the means to compete against elite teams such as Toulon who retained their Heineken Cup title on Saturday.

"I still can't believe that we're going to be playing at Toulouse, Clermont," said an emotional coach Fabrice Ribeyrolles.

"I know that we're going to have a lot of work to do in the build-up to the new season. Next year is going to be very complicated. The hardest is yet to come.

"I'm already worried. I saw Toulon yesterday night... Oh la la, it's going to be something else. But we've made it. That's the main thing."

  • Top 14 Fixtures
Forthcoming Fixtures
All times are local
Top 14
Friday , October 3
Oyonnax vs Toulon20:45
Saturday , October 4
Bordeaux-Begles vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Racing Metro Paris vs Brive18:30
La Rochelle vs Lyon18:30
Castres vs Grenoble18:30
Bayonne vs Montpellier18:30
Toulouse vs Stade Francais20:45
Friday , October 10
Grenoble vs Brive20:45
Saturday , October 11
Bordeaux-Begles vs Castres14:35
Lyon vs Bayonne15:00
More Top 14 fixtures
  • Top 14 Results
Recent Results
All times are local
Top 14
Saturday , September 27
Toulon 40 - 17 MontpellierToulon vs Montpellier Report
Brive 34 - 24 Bordeaux-Begles
Grenoble 27 - 25 Racing Metro ParisGrenoble vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Oyonnax 8 - 19 Clermont Auvergne
Stade Francais 43 - 10 La Rochelle
Lyon 28 - 18 Castres
Friday , September 26
Bayonne 35 - 19 ToulouseBayonne vs Toulouse Report
Saturday , September 20
Racing Metro Paris 27 - 16 ToulouseRacing Metro Paris vs Toulouse Report
Castres 27 - 18 Oyonnax
Grenoble 24 - 15 Bayonne
More Top 14 results
  • Top 14 Table
Overall 2014
Top 14 Table
1Clermont Auvergne727
3Stade Francais722
5Racing Metro Paris718