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Leinster player ratings vs La Rochelle | 2023 Champions Cup final

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster player ratings live from Aviva Stadium: A fifth star for the hosts or two in a row for the visitors? The consensus was that a Leinster team at home showing just two changes from last season’s late, late mishap in Marseille would surely have too much momentum for a La Rochelle XV with seven changes from a year ago.


How wrong that assumption was. In front of a capacity 51,711 attendance, we were given a re-run of the classic Guinness Six Nations encounter from last February between Ireland and France – but with one crucial difference.

Andy Farrell’s Ireland had the guile and the heart to make the best of a shutters-down second period in February after a thrill-a-minute first-half try-fest, but a James Ryan-less Leinster, who had led 17-0 just 11 minutes in and had two conversions hit the post, had the life slowly drained out of them by an increasingly powerful La Rochelle.

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Ronan O’Gara’s defending champions overcame a 14-23 interval deficit to eventually win 27-26 through a converted 71nd-minute Georges-Henri Colombe try. It was a compelling finish, the gripping drama only added to by a yellow card for Jonathan Danty some minutes later which left it 14-versus-14 as Ronan Kelleher had been carded after the La Rochelle try.

Instead of going at the posts from the sideline on the 10-metre line, Leinster went for the corner and ultimately were left seeing red in the dying moments, sub tighthead Michael Ala’alatoa getting sent off for his reckless ruck collision with Colombe a few metres from the try line. Here are the Leinster player ratings:

15. Hugo Keenan – 7
Didn’t have much to do in the opening period but what he did had an impact, running an important line in the creation of his team’s second try and then tidying up neatly when La Rochelle kicked ahead over the Leinster line. Was equally vigilant in the second half, so the blame game won’t involve him. He also had a late stab at the La Rochelle line as well.

14. Jimmy O’Brien – 6 (Cian Healy – 79)
Excellent start with a try and an aerial catch, but didn’t have much else to do in the opening half. Was annoyed at getting penalised by Jaco Peyper for a second-half aerial contest with Raymond Rhule. Tackled well. Was sacrificed in the last minute with Leinster a prop short.


13. Garry Ringrose – 4.5
His tackling has for a while been a hot topic in Ireland. Excellent attacking play usually offset this debate, but it heated up again with his defensive decisions for the two La Rochelle first-half tries. That said, one shooter action did create the pressure for penalty points from Ross Byrne. Acted as captain after Ryan’s injury exit and it was unfortunately his carry near the line on 77 minutes where the ball was lost.

12. Robbie Henshaw – 8 (Charlie Ngatai – 7)
Zesty when Leinster were in their early pomp, a cracking tackle on Danty on halfway at 12-0 highlighted doughtiness that continued shortly before the break when another intervention forced a spill. Massive tackle count overall but will be frustrated that he gave up a ruck penalty that allowed La Rochelle to close to 20-26. An excellent poach was his final act on 62. His replacement Charlie Ngatai was good, getting struck in with venom to quickly win a turnover.

11. James Lowe – 6
His first game since his April 7 quarter-final injury versus Leicester got off to an exquisite start with his splendid 50:22 kick on four minutes that secured the territory for the O’Brien score. Will be annoyed with the knock-on that led to scrum pressure and the first La Rochelle try, and some kicking frustrations then followed.

10. Ross Byrne – 6.5
Brian O’Driscoll told RugbyPass during the week that while Byrne looked nervous in his sub cameo in last year’s decider, he had grown immensely this term and that greater composure was evident in his assist pass for the second Leinster try and how he didn’t let two conversion attempts that hit the upright put him off his game as he landed two penalty kicks after that to finish three from five off the first-half tee. Scored another penalty after the break but crucially didn’t take on a penalty kick five minutes from time from far out. A penny for injured Johnny Sexton’s thoughts on this decision, and also why Byrne never sat in the pocket up by the 22 to offer a drop goal option after the kick to touch?


9. Jamison Gibson-Park – 8 (Luke McGrath – 79)
This Duracell Bunny felt the force of some bulkier La Rochelle ball carriers when defending but on the attack, he was slick and quick. Fantastic passes were at the heart of Leinster’s first and third tries and it was his quick tap that resulted in the Tawera Kerr-Barlow sin-binning on 11 minutes. Scrambled well to deny UJ Seuteni early in the second half but he couldn’t get his attack motoring again and the pressure eventually told.

1. Andrew Porter – 7.5
Having him play every minute of the game was a sign that Leinster didn’t have the bench to bring this home. Had his issues at some first-half scrums but would have enjoyed the 47th-minute set-piece that gave his team what turned out to be their only second-half score.

2. Dan Sheehan – 8.5 (Ronan Kelleher – 0)
He was incredibly a try-scorer after a mere 41 seconds with a canny lineout move, and he added a second just 10 minutes later. His duties then became defensive and he had a huge tackle count and was also a threat over La Rochelle’s ruck ball. Played for 69 minutes. In sharp contrast, his replacement lasted just two minutes as he was yellow-carded for collapsing the maul in the lead-up to the lead-losing converted try.

3. Tadhg Furlong – 6 (Michael Ala’alatoa – 0)
It wasn’t the greatest of outings for the tighthead who exited with a grimace on 45 minutes with Leinster set to put in at an attacking scrum. He exhibited deft hands to gather the Paul Boudehent lineout spill to grab the possession for the second Sheehan try but otherwise didn’t feature on the ball. Was busy on the tackling front and the first-half issues Leinster had at the scrum were on their other side. Ala’alatoa, who was poor versus Munster last week, couldn’t get low enough to deny the late clinching try and the sub’s day then got worse with his needless red card.

4. Ross Molony – 7
Was Robin to Batman Ryan during the opening half-hour but the collective challenge minus the engine room’s leading Leinster man eventually became too much of a burden for Molony to handle despite some excellent work, especially at the maul in the second half and with the immense number of tackles he got through.

5. James Ryan – 7.5 (Jason Jenkins – 5.5)
Played just 30 minutes but he was a prime reason why Leinster had so much zip about them at that stage, their breakdown ball being constantly quick with him present. Had off-the-ball words with Will Skelton shortly before he crashed into the Australian with the tackle that left him sustaining a glancing blow when on the ground in its aftermath. He was deeply missed as Jenkins, who started in last week’s loss to Munster, wasn’t as combative and it showed in the second half.

6. Caelan Doris – 6.5
Wasn’t a major contributor to the early Leinster dominance and it was his ruck penalty concession that gave La Rochelle their chance to finally do something at 0-17. More positive after that and he finished in his better position at No8. Having made plenty of tackles, he was the player who took the yellow carded clattering from Danty.

7. Josh van der Flier – 7.5
Was picked on a few times during the first half off the ball, one incident earning a penalty. Really came to the fore in the second half with his defensive work in the tackle, at the breakdown and in the maul, but that resistance wasn’t enough to prevent La Rochelle’s successful comeback.

8. Jack Conan – 7.5 (Ryan Baird – 6)
Enjoyed an electric start, giving the assist for the opening try and then carrying effectively on numerous other occasions, including one penalty-winning thrust. Was spent, though, by the time of his 60th-minute exit for Baird who went well but not well enough.


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