Investec Champions Cup: Leinster 40-13 La Rochelle – Five-try Leinster knock out holders


James Lowe finishes off a try against La Rochelle
James Lowe scored twice in the win
Leinster: (23) 40
Tries: Lowe (2), Gibson-Park, Baird, Sheehan Pens: R Byrne (3) Cons: R Byrne (3)
La Rochelle: (13) 13
Tries: Penverne Pens: Hastoy (2) Cons: Hastoy

Leinster advanced to the semi-finals of the Investec Champions Cup with a dominant victory over La Rochelle.

This was the fourth year in a row the sides had met in the knockout stages of this competition with La Rochelle having won in each of the past three years.

But Leinster were never behind this time, crossing for five tries.

The back-to-back champions offered just one score in response and did not manage a point after half-time.

After the series of close games between these sides in recent years, this one appeared set to be another in the early stages.

Ross Byrne kicked the first points of the day after La Rochelle strayed offside but the hosts had to rely upon key turnovers from Joe McCarthy and Jordan Larmour to hold on to that early lead.

After 17 minutes, they would extend their advantage when Ross Byrne sent James Lowe into the clear down the left flank. La Rochelle appealed for a forward pass but referee Karl Dickson saw no issue. Byrne’s conversion nudged Leinster into a 10-0 advantage.

After a hat-trick of scores in this stadium against Leicester Tigers last weekend, Jamison Gibson-Park was next over the line, although on this occasion La Rochelle captain Gregory Alldritt managed to hold up the scrum-half. The visitors’ goalline defence would prove a real asset through a first half where they offered little in attack until the final moments.

Byrne and Antoine Hastoy traded pairs of penalties and Leinster would snatch the game’s second try when Lowe made a break and offloaded for Gibson-Park to scamper home.

Just as they had when these sides met in last year’s Champions Cup final, Leinster held a 17-point lead.

When Louis Penverne was mauled over with the clock deep in the red, plenty in a packed Aviva Stadium will have wondered if another La Rochelle comeback was about to unfold.

Jamison Gibson-Park in action against La Rochelle
Jamison Gibson-Park was impressive again for Leinster

Crucially, though, Leinster would score the first try of what was to become a one-sided second half.

With excellent handling in contact, Leo Cullen’s side worked the ball out to Ryan Baird with the flanker breaking attempted tackles from Jack Nowell and Antoine Hastoy on his way to the line.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow was stretchered off in the aftermath of that score for La Rochelle who had already lost Dillyn Leyds to injury.

With 25 minutes to go Dan Sheehan’s score felt sure to have made the game safe against opponents showing the strain of their cross-hemisphere travel after beating the Stormers in Cape Town in the last 16.

To round things off, Lowe would score his second and Leinster’s fifth on the hour mark when collecting Robbie Henshaw’s cross-kick and fending off Jack Nowell.

With Aviva Stadium unavailable because of preparations for the Europa League final, Leinster will play their semi-final against either Northampton Saints or the Bulls at Gaelic Games venue Croke Park with the 82,000-capacity ground to stage a rugby game for the first time in 14 years.

Line-ups

Leinster: Frawley; Larmour, Henshaw, Osborne, Lowe; Byrne, Gibson-Park; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong; McCarthy, Jenkins; Baird, Connors, Doris (capt).

Replacements: Kelleher, Milne, Ala’alatoa, Molony, Conan, McGrath, H Byrne, Van der Flier.

La Rochelle: Leyds; Nowell, Seuteni, Danty, Thomas; Hastoy, Kerr-Barlow; Penverne, Latu, Atonio; Dillane, Skelton; Cancoriet, Botia, Alldritt (capt).

Replacements: Lespiaucq, Kaddouri, Sclavi, Lavault, Boudehent, Tanga, Iribaren, West.

Match officials

Referee: K Dickson (ENG)

TMO: T Foley (ENG)

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