West try seals La Rochelle victory over Racing 92 to reach Champions Cup final | Champions Cup
Former Munster legend Ronan O’Gara will look to defeat Leinster favorites in Marseille on Saturday week. La Rochelle’s director of rugby saw his team beat the Champions Cup close to the men of Racing 92 in the sweltering heat of northern France during the first professional rugby match at the Bollaert-Delelis stadium in Lens.
It was physical and attritional but it wasn’t pretty. True, these sides could not match Leinster’s majestic progress to the final 24 hours earlier. La Rochelle won’t beat overwhelming favorites Leinster if they choose to play a high-tempo game next week, but if it’s a close game they’re up for anyone. O’Gara’s men, beaten 12 months ago at Twickenham in the final by Toulouse, have a monstrous pack and they have made great progress in the last 12 months.
No one has made more carries in the competition this season than their captain, Grégory Alldritt, whose half-time try turned the game in La Rochelle’s favor and the No.8 stood out alongside 35-year-old former All Black Victor. Vito in last row.
Romantics will regret that the final is not honored by Racing’s Nolann Le Garrec. The scrum-half turned 20 on Saturday but couldn’t celebrate a win alongside half-back partner Finn Russell, both of whom were exceptional the previous week against Sale in the quarter-finals in Paris.
Le Garrec was hailed as the next Antoine Dupont but he had to watch Ihaia West finally kill the game in the final blow of the afternoon with a try that made up for the New Zealander’s wayward kick that could have them cost the game. . La Rochelle, however, deserved its victory.
The day hadn’t started well for Racing with full-back Max Spring and prop Trevor Nyakane retiring with injuries, but the Parisian side put their noses up front in a scrappy first half when the two teams seemed to be nervous. their first meeting in the Champions Cup. After Le Garrec gave Racing the lead with an early penalty, his team scored the first try. The Racing pack moved forward and Virimi Vakatawa saw his opportunity with a clean step and a stretch on the line.
The pack of La Rochelle then begins to build muscle. Racing suffered another blow when Ibrahim Diallo fell low to stop giant prop Uini Atonio and the flanker left the field dazed and confused. La Rochelle began to draw life from the Racing peloton and, after a series of penalties and scrums, Alldritt took the upper hand with the final move of the first half to bring his side within two points of Racing for which the second half looked worrying. .
Racing changed their first line at the break. La Rochelle had an early chance to take the lead for the first time, but West missed his third kick of the afternoon when a simple penalty hit a post. Rather, it was Racing who extended their lead when Le Garrec picked up a penalty five minutes later.
Racing, however, put more pressure on themselves when hooker Camille Chat, one of those substitutes, was shown a yellow card for tackling a man without the ball. Suddenly the whole momentum of the game changed.
The La Rochelle peloton rumbled forward and referee, Matthew Carley, awarded them a penalty try when Racing No 8 Yoan Tanga was penalized for obstructing the maul. Tanga were shown a yellow card and Racing were reduced to 13 players and a seemingly hopeless task of saving the game.
Le Garrec had two chances to restore the advantage to the 13 men with two penalties. But they pulled away and La Rochelle felt they were on their way to a second consecutive final.
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