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Hello and welcome to today’s liveblog from the Champions Cup final as Leinster seek a fifth star. Standing in their way is La Rochelle, or rather, La Rog-helle.

Coached by Ronan O’Gara, the former Munster and Ireland out-half, the French side have never won the competition and enter this final after finishing runners-up last year. Of course, they still beat Leinster at the semi-final stage to make it that far. Be under no illusion, they are a tough team to beat.

But Leinster have improved considerably since then. A year ago, for that semi-final defeat, they had no Johnny Sexton, no Jamison Gibson Park, no Caelan Doris and no Andrew Porter. They look in better nick today and are justifiably favoured to win. Kick-off is under half-an-hour away. Stay with us throughout the afternoon and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you need some reading before kick off, you have come to the right place.

Here is Ciaran Kennedy’s big match preview. Leinster arrive as the most thrilling purveyors of the modern attacking game in European club rugby, while La Rochelle hold the slightly unfair tag of brute enforcers. Both know they’ll need to borrow a little from the other’s playbook to get over the line this evening.

Ciaran is predicting a Leinster win.

He also profiles miracle man, Johnny Sexton, here.

Sexton’s influence will be key under the scorching French sun. This is a man who has previously almost single-handedly dragged his team over the line in finals. He heads into today’s decider in some of the strongest form of his career. There’s not much he hasn’t achieved in the club game at this stage, but he’s yet to lift this trophy as captain.

The42 also profiles the two Irish coaches in the hotseat. Only once before, in the history of this competition, have both finalists had Irishmen in charge. That’s why we need to be sitting up and taking notice of what Cullen and Ronan O’Gara have achieved this season. By taking a team to a Champions Cup final, they have achieved something only four Irish coaches, Harry Williams, McLaughlin, Declan Kidney and Mark McCall, have managed.

Our man, Ciaran Kennedy, is in Marseille. You can read his big match report and post match reaction on The42 after the final whistle.

Here are the teams for today’s big game.

LEINSTER: Hugo Keenan; Jimmy O’Brien, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain), Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong; Ross Molony, James Ryan; Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Joe McCarthy, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Ross Byrne, Ciaran Frawley.

LA ROCHELLE: Brice Dulin; Dillyn Leyds, Jérémy Sinzelle, Jonathan Danty, Raymond Rhule; Ihaia West, Thomas Berjon; Dany Priso, Pierre Bourgarit, Uini Atonio; Thomas Lavault, Will Skelton; Wiaan Liebenberg, Matthias Haddad, Grégory Alldritt (captain).

Replacements: Facundo Bosch, Reda Wardi, Joel Sclavi, Romain Sazy, Remi Bourdeau, Arthur Retiere, Levani Botia, Jules Favre. 

Referee: Wayne Barnes [RFU]

Teams are set to come onto the pitch.

Here we go, Sexton kicks off.

1 minute – Thomas Berjon find touch with his first clearance. Leinster win the line-out and win a penalty.

Leinster have the chance to get on the scoreboard already – their maul was excellent there – and Sexton shows his ambition by opting to kick to the corner rather than the posts.

5 minutes – That was some win initially for La Rochelle. Leinster’s set-piece was good, Kelleher flying onto the ball on a looping run; van der Flier acted as a continuity player in the attack and just as Leinster got within five metres of the posts, Grégory Alldritt proved a nuisance at the breakdown and won a turnover.

Leinster win the subsequent lineout, maintain pressure, win another penalty and then Sexton kicks it to put Leinster 3-0 ahead.

PENALTY LEINSTER – (SEXTON) Leinster 3-0 La Rochelle

6 minutes – From the restart, Wayne Barnes penalises La Rochelle for a third time in six minutes, Thomas Lavault penalised for not moving away.

7 minutes – Another penalty against La Rochelle, this time for offside, this time inside the La Rochelle 22. Sexton has option of easy kick from in front of the posts or a kick to the corner.

He is going for the posts as Barnes scolds Will Skelton for a dangerous tackle.

8.30 minutes – PENALTY LEINSTER (Sexton) Leinster 6-0 La Rochelle

Some start from Leinster. They are completely on top.

9 minutes – Fine clearance from James Lowe. La Rochelle yet to do anything significant from an attacking perspective in this game.

10 MINUTES – TRY LA ROCHELLE (Raymond Rhule)

Well, that last post aged well, didn’t it? Rhule rules in Marseille.

Rhule receives possession on the wing, swerves infield and then straightens his run before touching down. Game on.

11 minutes (West conversion) – La Rochelle 7-6 Leinster

Great conversion from wide out for West.

So, Leinster have dominated territory and possession and yet they are a point behind. La Rochelle beginning to motor, they now have a put-in for the first scrum of the game.

14 minutes – That was not a scrum; that was a humiliation. La Rochelle have certainly arrived in this final. The momentum has shifted.

15 minutes Dan Sheehan has come in for Ronan Kelleher. Blow for Leinster.

16 minutes – Jimmy O’Brien puts the bigger man, centre Jonathan Danty, into touch. La Rochelle a little predictable in attack but Leinster’s defending was excellent; Josh van der Flier putting in huge hits.

17 minutes – Ball goes forward as La Rochelle squeezed the space around Sexton as he tried a wraparound. So, scrum to La Rochelle in Leinster half. Hold your breath.

18 minutes – Leinster hold their own.

19 minutes – Danty passes wide to Rhule – too wide in the end; the ball goes into touch. Sheehan with the throw, Leinster win a penalty off the maul and are beginning to get back into this game. They have had a good three minutes.

22 minutes – PENALTY LEINSTER (SEXTON) Leinster 9-7 La Rochelle

Sexton kicks a straightforward penalty from 40 yards. Leinster lead again.

24 minutes – Fascinating period of play; La Rochelle worked up a few phases but their passing was lateral and Leinster had identified Skelton early as he tried to get across the gainline. Some decent defending all round was highlighted by a brilliant tackle by Garry Ringrose. Gibson-Park sent a kick deep into the opposition half and the pressure eased.

Meanwhile, Leinster have a put in to a scrum after Rhule knocked on.

27 minutes – Sexton involved four times in that move; Henshaw carrying twice, Ringrose twice. La Rochelle’s defence was organised, their line speed good, their intent impressive. Sexton was forced to attempt a kick through – it leads to nothing.

30 minutes – Good defending by Leinster initially after carries from Pierre Bourgarit and Thomas Lavault. They then regain possession off a Berjon boxkick. Rhule eventually made a half-break but Leinster scrambled with Jimmy O’Brien saving the day.

Bourgarit then delivered a high tackle on Porter and Leinster have a penalty inside their 22 and have opportunity to clear.

Sexton finds touch on the Leinster 10-metre line.

34 minutes – Sheehan goes short to Ryan at the line out – Gibson-Park boxkicks and West recovers for La Rochelle. Alldritt, Danty both carry – Sheehan penalised for an illegal tackle – and La Rochelle keep the ball alive, Alldritt getting the ball wide. Leinster survive as O’Brien forces the La Rochelle captain into touch.

Wiaan Liebenberg receiving attention as West lines up a kick to touch, five metres inside the Leinster half. He finds touch just at the Leinster 22.

36 minutes – What a passage of play – Bourgarit, Skelton and Alldritt combined brilliantly at the set-piece – some pick-and-goes follow and La Rochelle win a scrum after Leinster go offside.

La Rochelle opt for the scrum interestingly.

Scrum wheels around – Porter holds his own. Barnes asks for another put-in. Big moments these, La Rochelle five metres from Leinster line.

37 minutes – Leinster win a scrum penalty just five metres from their own line.

It appeared as though Barnes was going to award La Rochelle the penalty but Dany Priso is penalised. Leinster have won a huge moment there. Under the cosh, they survived without losing any points. Get to half-time with a lead and they will be buzzing at the break.

38 minutes Meanwhile at the other end of the pitch, Dulin tackled in the end-goal area and Gibson Park nails him.

39 minutes 

Leinster get a free kick off that scrum; Sheehan lines up a tap and go

40 minutes – penalty to Leinster.

La Rochelle offside and Sexton has an easy kick – which will give them a five-point half-time lead. This game has had so many momentum shifts. Great stuff. Hard to predict how the second half will pan out. Advantage, Leinster, though.

PENALTY LEINSTER (Sexton) Leinster 12-7 La Rochelle

And we are off to the break with a five-point lead to Leinster thanks to four kicks from Sexton.

HALF-TIME: Leinster 12-7 La Rochelle

That was such an intense first half, one that began with Leinster in absolute control, camped in the La Rochelle 22, profiting from the opposition’s indiscipline, nudging ahead, first by three points and then six.

The pattern changed when Raymond Rhule scored a fine try, his swerving run another example of his power and balance. West’s conversion made it 7-6 and you just couldn’t confidently predict what way the game would go.

We still can’t. Leinster recovered again to edge ahead – thanks to two more kicks from Sexton – but they have issues. Their scrum was initially under pressure – but has since gotten on top; their defence has been excellent but there is only so long you can survive against a powerful team who have been gifted cheap possession off Leinster’s wayward kicks.

Still, for all that criticism, you have to acknowledge Leinster’s capacity to eke out penalties and convert them. Their resilience under severe pressure near their own tryline on 37 minutes led to a scrum penalty in their favour. Three minutes later they were moving five points ahead when it looked like they could go five points down.

Super stuff. The second half is coming up shortly.

Second half gets underway.

And a penalty for La Rochelle right in front of the posts, Danny Priso gets his hands on the ball at the breakdown. West is going to kick. He can’t miss.

42 minutes – And he doesn’t. The gap is down to two. (Penalty – West)

La Rochelle 10-12 Leinster

43 minutes Wiaan Liebenberg gathers the restart but after a bit of kick tennis – credit James Lowe for his contribution, Leinster get a line out on half-way.

44 minutes – Another maul penalty for Leinster – Priso guilty again. Sexton kicks down the touchline and La Rochelle have coughed up 10 penalties.

Messy attack from Leinster, eventually Leinster win a lineout after Lowe pressurises Rhule. Jimmy O’Brien’s grubber was excellent. Throw to Leinster in the La Rochelle 22.

46 MINUTES – Penalty awarded to Leinster just left of the posts – five metres from the line – after sustained pressure from Henshaw, Gibson-Park and Ringrose. All stemmed from Ryan taking Sheehan’s line-out. Anyway, Sexton lining up the kick. Which he nails.

Leinster 15-10 La Rochelle (Sexton penalty)

48 minutes – Gibson Park gets huge distance off his clearance kick and La Rochelle, via Danty, are running at Leinster again but there’s a knock on from Alldritt and Leinster have a scrum on their 10-metre line.

This reminds you of the 2018 final. Tense, tight, little between them.

50 minutes – Leinster scrum is under pressure off their own put-in. But Gibson-Park gets the ball away. Sexton launches a Garryowen; Conan regathers and Doris and then Henshaw make yards for Leinster. Lowe passes wide to Sheehan. Leinster win a penalty for offside.

52 minutes – Leinster 18-10 La Rochelle (Sexton penalty)

Sexton gets his sixth penalty of the day, a strike from 25 metres from in front of the posts. Questions being asked of La Rochelle’s fitness.

54 minutes – Danny Priso goes off for La Rochelle. Reda Wardi is on. Eight points between them; Leinster seem the likelier winners.

56 minutes – Phew!! Leinster under the cosh there; great carries from Skelton, Danty, Wardi and Rhule – but Leinster’s linespeed is consistently good. A knock on allows them to breathe. That, along with their survival of the five-metre scrum penalty in the first half, could be key.

57 minutes – great scrum from Leinster, clean strike from Sheehan and Gibson-Park clears. Leinster coping with the pressure here.

58 minutes – Wiaan Liebenberg wins a turnover and La Rochelle’s Berjon takes a tap and go. Leinster under pressure as O’Brien touches the ball over his end goal area before it goes out of play – Sexton to take a goalline drop.

59 minutes – Mad period of play; Sexton’s drop was gathered by Dulin who tried a drop goal; Sexton gathered and should have just cleared it. He dithered. Keenan tried to tidy up but was held up in the tackle. The upshot is West is kicking to the corner and Leinster are under pressure five metres from their line.

TRY LA ROCHELLE (Pierre Bourgarit) La Rochelle 17-18 Leinster

Great maul try from La Rochelle and my prediction that Leinster looked home and hosed looks very, very stupid as well as premature. Don’t ask me for your lotto numbers folks. West converts and there is one point between the sides with 18 minutes to go.

63 minutes Sexton off and Ross Byrne on.

Furlong and Porter off; Healy and Michael Ala’alatoa are on.

Nervy start from Ross Byrne, one hesitant pass, one dropped catch.

TMO examining foul play by Thomas Lavault on Gibson-Park. It was an alleged trip.

Clear as day.

YELLOW CARD Thomas Lavault

Ross Byrne, this is your moment.

65 minutes (penalty, Leinster) Ross Byrne

The lead is four again. Leinster 21-17 La Rochelle

That stupid trip on Gibson-Park has just allowed Leinster breathe again.

66 minutes Scrum to Leinster after Alldritt knocked on.

67 minutes Doris heading off, Rhys Ruddock on.

68 minutes Great scrum again from Leinster, clean strike from Sheehan, good carry from Conan and then Byrne knocks on.

69 minutes – High tackle on Alldritt and Dulin kicks it deep into Leinster’s 22.

Another penalty goes La Rochelle’s way after Conan pulls down the maul. La Rochelle are five metres from the Leinster line.

71 minutes – This time the penalty is given in front of the posts as Michael Ala’alatoa is penalised for not rolling away.

73 minutes They go for the scrum – and a reset is called by Barnes after the scrum wheeled around.

75 minutes Great defence from Leinster, van der Flier and Ringrose put in try-saving tackles. Another penalty for La Rochelle who are now back to their full compliment of players. This is it. If Leinster can survive this bit of pressure, they’ll have a fifth star on their shirt.

76 minutes Leinster coughed up three penalties – two for offside – and somehow Leinster survive.

77 minutes – Joe McCarthy is in for Ross Molony.

Another scrum five metres from the line for La Rochelle.

78 minutes – So, La Rochelle’s scrum is solid and Alldritt goes for the line but Ruddock puts in a great tackle. Skelton tries his luck. Ryan makes a big tackle. Reda Wardi and Joel Sclavi make carries. Two metres from the Leinster line. Luke McGrath holds him up. Alldritt goes. Another penalty awarded. Ringrose and Ruddock are the latest heroes in blue and now the TMO is involved. Barnes awards a try after Arthur Retiere gets across

TRY LA ROCHELLE (Arthur Retiere)

La Rochelle 22-21 Leinster

West lines up the conversion.

Clock running down.

West kicks it and La Rochelle have won it at the death, 24-21.

FULL-TIME: La Rochelle 24-21 Leinster

An extraordinary finish with La Rochelle camped in the Leinster 22 for the final 10 minutes. Eventually they got across the line via replacement Arthur Retiere and Leinster, having led for so much of this game, end up short.

For Ronan O’Gara, this is an extraordinary achievement for a rookie head coach. To win a Champions Cup in his first full season as the No1 is testament to his powers of charisma and leadership. This is the first major trophy of the club’s history and no one could have thought it possible with 20 minutes to go.

But they dug in and fought for the trophy. It is theirs now.

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