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Ronan O'Gara unhappy despite La Rochelle win

By PA
La Rochelle head coach Ronan O'Gara, left, and forwards coach Donnacha Ryan (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

La Rochelle head coach Ronan O’Gara was unhappy with parts of his side’s performance despite securing a home tie in the knockout stage of the Heineken Champions Cup with a 31-13 victory over Northampton.

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The reigning champions made hard work of defeating a battling Saints, who lost their talisman Courtney Lawes to a calf injury before picking up two red cards with Fraser Dingwall and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto ordered off.

Despite their setbacks, Saints were still in contention until the last 15 minutes when La Rochelle’s numerical superiority took its toll.

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Replacement hooker Quentin Lespiaucq-Brettes scored two tries for La Rochelle, Levani Botia, Ulupano Seuteni and Gregory Alldritt the others with Antoine Hastoy kicking three conversions.

Tom James scored a try for Northampton with Fin Smith adding two penalties and a conversion.

O’Gara said: “We didn’t have a fear factor of playing here as we demolished Northampton back at our place.

“However when they went down to 14, we became involved in an arm-wrestle when we needed to move the ball wide.

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“We had opportunities to rip them apart but we weren’t ruthless enough and we need to have better standards than that

“We weren’t on song but there is huge growth in this side especially with the power of Jonathan Danty and Will Skelton returning.

“You win championships from defence but today we gave away a soft try but this is a really special competition for the players.

“Some say it’s on its knees, I hope not and after today’s fixtures, I think we can expect some super games in the knockout rounds.”

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It was a sobering afternoon for Saints, who completed their European campaign with a fourth successive defeat which sees them rooted to the bottom of Pool B with just one point.

Northampton head coach Phil Dowson said: “Just before half-time, I thought we were in a good space but the red card turned everything.

“I can’t fault the effort but our performance wasn’t good enough in certain areas. Our discipline was poor and I have no complaints about the two dismissals.

“We are very disappointed to finish bottom of the pool. At La Rochelle we were taught a huge lesson but although it was ugly it was a valuable experience for us and we learned from it.

“Munster at home was bitterly frustrating as we didn’t turn all our pressure into points and, back at their place, we played well in the second half but you can’t give them a 24-point start.”

Lawes left the field in the 29th minute and his departure will be of great concern to England’s head coach Steve Borthwick ahead of the forthcoming Six Nations.

Dowson said: “Courtney doesn’t appear to be downbeat, he never is, but he felt he couldn’t continue.

“His calf tightened up, he hasn’t had an issue with it before but he will need to see the physio tomorrow and possibly have a scan so it’s fingers crossed.”

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