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'I will not give names' - O'Gara's withering 18-word take on France star's howler

By Ian Cameron
La Rochelle's Irish head coach Ronan O'Gara gestures prior to the French Top14 rugby union match between Castres Olympique and Stade Rochelais at The Pierre-Fabre Stadium in Castres, south-western France on April 20, 2024. (Photo by Valentine CHAPUIS / AFP) (Photo by VALENTINE CHAPUIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Who’d be a rugby coach? La Rochelle boss Ronan O’Gara has expressed his disappointment as a blunder by one of his star players cost his side dearly against Bordeaux-Bégles.

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The error ended up being a turning point in the game which ultimately saw La Rochelle suffer a 34-14 defeat.

Bordeaux-Bégles repeatedly capitalized on La Rochelle’s profligacy – running in six tries throughout the 80. The real ‘coach killer’ from O’Gara’s point of view came just before the hour mark when Bordeaux’s Damien Penaud scored following a total brain fade from No.8 Gregory Alldritt.

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After Mathieu Jalibert took a quick-tap penalty and kicked the ball downfield, it appeared that Alldritt was about to secure the ball for a dropout after it had rolled over the try line.

Alldritt didn’t realise that Penaud was continuing to sprint from afar before managing to touch down before Alldritt could react.

It was a credit to Penaud’s pace and workrate, even if it came at the expense of his Les Bleus teammate Alldritt, who was left looking sheepish in the immediate aftermath.

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The howler will draw obvious parallels with the infamous Rob Howley try for Wasps against Toulouse in the 2004 Heineken Cup Final and serves as a reminder of how momentary lapses in concentration can have catastrophic repercussions in a rugby field.

Ronan O’Gara was not impressed; the Irishman openly critical of his team’s performance in a moody post-match press conference. He pinpointed the lapse as indicative of the team’s current travails – writ large.

“We were punished by players who have crucial responsibilities in this team,” O’Gara noted in his post-match press conference, although he refrained from singling out individuals publicly. “I will not give names.”

The loss to Bordeaux now places their playoff ambitions in jeopardy. Currently clinging to the sixth spot (the last qualifying position for the playoff) La Rochelle are just one point ahead of Pau.

It effectively means all their remaining games are now must-wins.

This season has been particularly tough for O’Gara’s squad. After being dumped out of the Champions Cup by arch-rivals Leinster, they had high hopes of contending for the Top 14 title after impressive runs in recent seasons.

With the league title having eluded O’Gara’s to date, the manner of this defeat will only add to the pressure.

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