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Stormers leave La Rochelle's Champions Cup title defence in tatters

Stormers players celebrate following their victory during the European Rugby Champions Cup, Pool 4 Rugby Union match between Stormers and Stade Rochelais (La Rochelle) at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town on December 16, 2023. (Photo by Gianluigi Guercia / AFP) (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Stormers recorded their first Champions Cup win of the season, beating Stade Rochelais in Cape Town on Saturday, leaving La Rochelle’s title defence in tatters after two rounds.

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It was a very challenging Round Two clash with a late try by replacement Andre-Hugo Venter and a Manie Libbok conversion handing the Stormers the 21-20 win over the back-to-back champions La Rochelle.

The Capetonians headed into the fixture as underdogs given their challenging starts in both the United Rugby Championship and Champions Cup.

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They have recorded just one win in their last five URC matches and suffered a European Cup loss to Leicester Tigers last week.

And for the majority of Saturday’s match looked destined to extend their troubling run.

However, a 79th-minute maul try and conversion snatched the one-point win over a formidable La Rochelle side.

The win is a major boost for the Stormers, who will host the Bulls next week in the URC South African derby.

For La Rochelle, the defeat means the defending champions have lost both of their opening matches and the threat of an early elimination hangs over the TOP14 side.

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It was an incredible start from the defending champions.

Antoine Hastoy opened the scoreboard with a penalty before Pierre Bourgarit bumped off a couple of defenders and sent Tawera Kerr-Barlow on his way for a try.

With a 10-0 lead, the visitors looked comfortable against a very disjointed Stormers side.

Match Summary

3
Penalty Goals
2
2
Tries
2
1
Conversions
2
0
Drop Goals
0
103
Carries
85
4
Line Breaks
5
15
Turnovers Lost
12
4
Turnovers Won
9

The hosts’ line-outs were troubling and they struggled at the breakdown.

The Stormers had their best opportunity just after the quarter mark, but a crucial try-saving tackle by Levani Botia on Herschel Jantjies kept them scoreless.

One positive was their scrums. They put La Rochelle’s pack under pressure, winning a scrum penalty which handed Libbok the chance to put his team on the board with three points.

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The two flyhalves exchanged penalties before La Rochelle took a 13-6 lead at the break.

In the second stanza, Libbok narrowed the deficit to six with a 45-metre penalty kick.

La Rochelle hit back immediately. Dillyn Leyds pounced on a loose ball before his pop pass found Yoan Tanga, who went over in the right-hand corner.

However, the Stormers were resilient and finally got a try. A perfectly-timed cross field kick from Damian Willemse found Ben Loader, who beat one defender en route to the try line.

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Libbok failed to convert.

Hastoy appeared to have given the French team the win with a try.

However, the referee spotted a dangerous tackle on Venter in the build-up which saw Joel Sclavi sent to the sin-bin.

With La Rochelle down to 14 men, the momentum shifted and the Stormers took control of proceedings.

Venter powered over the line from the back of the maul before Libbok’s conversion handed the victory to the hosts.

Stade Rochelais now find themselves needing a big performance in their next match against Leicester Tigers at home, while the Stormers will face Sale Sharks at the Cape Town Stadium.

Man of the match: La Rochelle scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow was a standout for his team and deserves a mention. Our nod goes to La Rochelle flank  Levani Botia, who was an absolute workhorse. Under the South African sun, the No.7 was a manace at the breakdown and his try-saving tackle on Herschel Jantjies was the highlight of the match.

The scorers:

For Stormers:
Tries: Loader, Venter
Cons: Libbok
Pens: Libbok 3

For La Rochelle:
Tries: Kerr-Barlow, Tanga
Cons: Hastoy 2
Pens: Hastoy 2

Yellow card: Joel Sclavi (La Rochelle, 75 – head-on-head contact)

Teams

Stormers: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian Willemse, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Hacjivah Dayimani, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 Ruben van Heerden, 4 Adre Smith, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Andre-Hugo Venter, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Connor Evans, 20 Ben-Jason Dixon, 21 Marcel Theunissen, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Courtnall Skosan.

La Rochelle: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 UJ Seuteni, 12 Jonathan Danty, 11 Jules Favre, 10 Antoine Hastoy, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Yoan Tanga, 7 Levani Botia, 6 Paul Boudehent, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Thomas Lavault, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Pierre Bourgarit, 1 Reda Wardi.
Replacements: 16 Sacha Idoumi, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Georges-Henri Colombe, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Remi Picquette, 21 Judicael Cancoriet, 22 Teddy Iribaren, 23 Hugo Reus.

Referee: Christophe Ridley (France)
Assistant referees: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy), Simon Harding (England)
TMO: Andrea Piardi (Italy)

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Comments

2 Comments
C
Chris 186 days ago

Yeah baby! Massive victory for the boys

G
GrahamVF 187 days ago

A repeat of the 2022 URC semi final with a miracle Libbok winning kick from the touch line - only this time it was from the opposite side of the field. He kicks them when they really count.

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