Leinster banish Champions Cup ghosts as La Rochelle’s three-peat dream emphatically ended

Planet Rugby
Leinster wing James Lowe.

Leinster wing James Lowe.

Leinster put their recent woes against La Rochelle to bed as they demolished the reigning Investec Champions Cup holders in a 40-13 victory in Dublin on Saturday.

Tries from James Lowe (2), Jamison Gibson-Park, Ryan Baird and Dan Sheehan were added to by the boot of Ross Byrne as Leinster move on to a Croke Park semi-final.

For La Rochelle their dream of a European three-peat were ended as they struggled to live with the ruthless Irish province, scoring just one try through prop Louis Penverne.

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Byrne opened the scoring with an eighth-minute penalty from 45 metres, and Leinster dominated the early exchanges, which was underlined when they scored their opening try just nine minutes later.

The La Rochelle defence was stretched in all directions before Lowe touched down and Byrne converted, before Byrne and Antoine Hastoy kicked penalties and a second Hastoy three-pointer made it 13-6.

Another Byrne strike restored a 10-point lead before Leinster struck again following clever interplay between Lowe and Gibson-Park that ended with the scrum-half sprinting over unopposed.

Byrne’s conversion left Leinster in charge of the contest, but they were unable to close out the opening 40 minutes before their opponents dragged themselves back into contention.

Leinster infringed inside their 22 and La Rochelle’s powerful driving lineout game was graphically illustrated when Penverne touched down and Hastoy converted to make it 23-13 at the break.

But La Rochelle were dealt a double blow early in the second period, conceding another try and seeing scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow carried off.

Baird was the beneficiary of a poor attempted tackle from Hastoy – build-up play had included a superb pass from prop Tadhg Furlong – and Byrne converted after a lengthy delay while Kerr-Barlow received treatment before leaving the field.

La Rochelle knew they had to score next or there was no way back, but they conceded two tries in four minutes.

Sheehan claimed the first following flanker Josh van der Flier’s powerful surge, then Lowe added his second when he finished impressively after chasing a kick into space.

It was ruthless rugby from the home team and La Rochelle had no answer as they found themselves dominated in all departments.

The teams

Leinster: 15 Ciaran Frawley, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Jamie Osborne, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris (c), 7 Will Connors, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter
Replacements: 16 Rónan Kelleher, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Michael Ala’alatoa, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Josh van der Flier

La Rochelle: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 UJ Seuteni, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Antoine Hastoy, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Grégory Alldritt (c), 7 Levani Botia, 6 Judicael Cancoriet, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Louis Penverne
Replacements: 16 Quentin Lespiaucq, 17 Alexandre Kaddouri, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Thomas Lavault, 20 Paul Boudehent, 21 Yoan Tanga, 22 Teddy Iribaren, 23 Ihaia West

Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant Referees: Luke Pearce (England), Andrew Jackson (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)

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