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Sweet revenge: Leinster end La Rochelle’s bid for Champions Cup three-peat

By PA
A dejected Jack Nowell - PA

Leinster emphatically ended La Rochelle’s bid for a hat-trick of Investec Champions Cup titles by beating them 40-13 at the Aviva Stadium.

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Ronan O’Gara’s team defeated Leinster in the last two finals by a combined margin of just four points.

But La Rochelle’s quest for silverware ended at the quarter-final stage this time around as Leinster marched on in pursuit of a record-equalling fifth tournament triumph.

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Wing James Lowe (2), scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, flanker Ryan Baird and hooker Dan Sheehan scored tries, while fly-half Ross Byrne kicked three conversions and three penalties as Leinster never looked in danger of suffering another loss to their fierce rivals.

La Rochelle saw prop Louis Penverne go over for a try on the stroke of half-time, with Antoine Hastoy adding two penalties and a conversion.

But they were blown away during the second period, failing to score a point, as Leinster stormed into yet another Champions Cup semi-final.

Byrne opened the scoring with an eighth-minute penalty from 45 metres, and Leinster dominated the early exchanges, which was underlined when they scored their opening try just nine minutes later.

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The La Rochelle defence was stretched in all directions before Lowe touched down and Byrne converted, before Byrne and Hastoy kicked penalties and a second Hastoy three-pointer made it 13-6.

Another Byrne strike restored a 10-point lead before Leinster struck again following clever interplay between Lowe and Gibson-Park that ended with the scrum-half sprinting over unopposed.

Byrne’s conversion left Leinster in charge of the contest, but they were unable to close out the opening 40 minutes before their opponents dragged themselves back into contention.

Fixture
Investec Champions Cup
Leinster
40 - 13
Full-time
La Rochelle
All Stats and Data

Leinster infringed inside their 22 and La Rochelle’s powerful driving lineout game was graphically illustrated when Penverne touched down and Hastoy converted to make it 23-13 at the break.

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But La Rochelle were dealt a double blow early in the second period, conceding another try and seeing scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow carried off.

Baird was the beneficiary of a poor attempted tackle from Hastoy – build-up play had included a superb pass from prop Tadhg Furlong – and Byrne converted after a lengthy delay while Kerr-Barlow received treatment before leaving the field.

La Rochelle knew they had to score next or there was no way back, but they conceded two tries in four minutes.

Sheehan claimed the first following flanker Josh van der Flier’s powerful surge, then Lowe added his second when he finished impressively after chasing a kick into space.

It was ruthless rugby from the home team and La Rochelle had no answer as they found themselves dominated in all departments.

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J
Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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