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O'Gara's La Rochelle maintain Top 14 lead with Montpellier win

They were 22-9 winners in spite of playing an hour with 14 men.

A file photo of O'Gara in charge of La Rochelle.
A file photo of O'Gara in charge of La Rochelle.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

RONAN O’GARA’S La Rochelle beat Montpellier 22-9 on Sunday to preserve their Top 14 lead despite playing an hour with 14 men.

Racing 92 gained a little ground later in the afternoon with a 45-10 win over bottom side Agen to collect a bonus point and climb to second.

In La Rochelle, Ihaia West kicked the home team into a fifth minute lead but Will Skelton conceded a penalty two minutes later to allow Montpellier’s Anthony Bouthier to level.

The Australian’s afternoon got worse in the 19th minute when he tackled Montpellier’s own hulking lock, Paul Willemse. Skelton’s shoulder made contact with the South African’s head, resulting in a red card. 

Bouthier added further punishment by kicking the penalty to give Montpellier the lead.

West replied with a penalty three minutes later and kicked another on half time to give La Rochelle the lead at the break.

In a match played in rain and gusty wind, dominated by the packs and marred by handling errors and lost lineouts, the only try came when Montpellier made a mess of fielding the second-half kick off under their own posts. The bounce helped La Rochelle number eight Kevin Gourdon who pounced to score. 

West converted and added two more penalties while Montpellier, even with a man advantage, could only manage a penalty by Alex Lozowski in reply.

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“We had to work hard to fill the gap left by Will Skelton’s red card,” said La Rochelle flanker Mathieu Tanguy. 

“We had more desire than they did.”

Montpellier captain Arthur Vincent agreed that his team had failed to compete, calling it a “non-match.”

“In a match like this, rugby is about values,” he said.

The victory, in the opening match of the round, ensured La Rochelle would remain the top of the table after what the Top 14 calls its ‘Boxing Day’ round of games. Montpellier remain mired in 12th.

Racing responded by running in six tries in the sheltered environment of their indoor La Defense Arena to chip one point out of La Rochelle’s advantage. 

Victor Moreaux gave visiting Agen an early lead with an 11th minute try. Louis Dupichot, Teddy Baubigny and Kurtley Beale replied before half time. Teddy Thomas, Jordan Joseph and Ibrahim Diallo touched down in the last 19 minutes to ensure an emphatic victory.

© – AFP, 2020

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