Dan Sheridan/INPHO

As it happened: La Rochelle v Leinster, Champions Cup

Europe’s top two meet again at the home of the champions, with kick-off at 3:15pm.

Good afternoon!

Alright, here we go. It’s the big one.

How’re we getting on? Gavan Casey with you here and, if you’re not in France or you can’t make a TV, I’ll have live updates for you here from Leinster’s Champions Cup pool opener with La Rochelle at Stade Marcel Deflandre (3:15pm).

The finalists from the last two years meet again in the most eagerly anticipated rugby fixture of the weekend. Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle hold the bragging rights in this rivalry, having broken Leinster hearts in their last three meetings.

Okay, the stakes aren’t quite so high today, but the eventual winners will have sent a major statement across the continent and the losers will certainly feel it where it hurts.

uini-atonio-arrives Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO


joe-mccarthy-arrives Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

Brace yourselves for another special game between these two sides!

What do you reckon?

It’s the first time these sides have met in La Rochelle’s backyard.

Can a Jacques Nienaber-infused Leinster lay down a marker? Or will ROG’s back-to-back European champions extend their hoodoo over the eastern province?

The bookies have it for La Rochelle by a solitary point which, eh, has kind of been the story over the last couple of years.

But what say you?

Poll Results:

Leinster by 1-7 (128)
La Rochelle by 1-7 (52)
La Rochelle by 8+ (44)
Leinster by 8+ (30)
Draw (4)

It’s piddling down in La Rochelle this afternoon.

On paper, you’d suspect that would suit the hosts. But who knows, really?


I’m sure you know the scéal here, but just a reminder:

Tadhg Furlong, Jack Conan and James Lowe all ruled out for Leinster. Will Connors gets the nod at openside — it could be a real horses for courses matchup for him.

And Leo Cullen and Jacques Nienaber have opted to start Harry Byrne at out-half with brother Ross also out injured.

What a massive game for the 24-year-old.

For the champions, Teddy Thomas misses out through suspension but it’s otherwise as you’d expect.

La Rochelle

  • 15. Brice Dulin
  • 14. Dillyn Leyds
  • 13. Ulupano Seuteni
  • 12. Jonathan Danty 
  • 11. Jules Favre
  • 10. Antoine Hastoy
  • 9. Tawerra Kerr-Barlow
  • 1. Reda Wardi
  • 2. Pierre Bourgarit (captain)
  • 3. Uini Atonio
  • 4. Thomas Lavault
  • 5. Will Skelton
  • 6. Paul Boudehent
  • 7. Levani Botia
  • 8. Yoan Tanga 


  • 16. Sacha Idoumi
  • 17. Joel Sclavi
  • 18. Georges-Henri Colombe Reazel
  • 19. Ultan Dillane
  • 20. Rémi Picquette
  • 21. Judicaël Cancoriet
  • 22. Teddy Iribaren
  • 23. Hugo Reus.


  • 15. Hugo Keenan
  • 14. Jordan Larmour
  • 13. Garry Ringrose (co-captain)
  • 12. Robbie Henshaw
  • 11. Jimmy O’Brien
  • 10. Harry Byrne
  • 9. Jamison Gibson-Park
  • 1. Andrew Porter
  • 2. Dan Sheehan
  • 3. Michael Ala’alatoa
  • 4. Joe McCarthy
  • 5. James Ryan (co-captain)
  • 6. Ryan Baird
  • 7. Will Connors
  • 8. Caelan Doris


  • 16. Rónan Kelleher
  • 17. Cian Healy
  • 18. Thomas Clarkson
  • 19. Jason Jenkins
  • 20. Josh van der Flier
  • 21. Ben Murphy
  • 22. Ciarán Frawley
  • 23. Charlie Ngatai.

Referee: Matthew Carley (RFU).

Solid eye contact…

james-ryan-matthew-carley-and-pierre-bourgarit-during-the-coin-toss Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Ronan O’Gara, by the way, is serving his fifth ban as La Rochelle coach for this game.

Donnacha Ryan has been running the show on the pitch during La Rochelle’s warm-up.

Speaking to TNT Sports pre-game, Leo Cullen has said the wet conditions are going to have a massive impact on the game. He stressed that Leinster will need to be mindful of the weather in how they approach the game.

donnacha-ryan Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

It’s almost time!


1′ – LAR 0-0 LEI: Antoine Hastoy gets us underway at Stade Marcel Deflandre.

La Rochelle 3-0 Leinster

2′ – LAR 3-0 LEI: Big carry up the middle by Pierre Bourgarit, who punches a hole in the Leinster defence.

The visitors scramble but Joe McCarthy flies over the top of the ruck and concedes a penalty.

Bourgarit points to the sticks and Hastoy opens the scoring.

A faster start by La Rochelle than was the case at the Aviva in May, anyway!

10′ LAR 3-0 LEI:Some titanic hits being put in around the place.

Leinster win a penalty in a messy scrum on the La Rochelle 22′ and they go to the corner. Harry Byrne prods them to within five.

It’s a solid lineout launch — they had made a bags of one earlier — and they win another penalty advantage for offside.

Into a huddle to decide what to do from here.

11′ – LAR 3-0 LEI:They tap and go through Sheehan, who carries straight and hard.

He’s stopped a yard shy. Uini Atonio is pinged for going off his feet — and it’s all kicking off!

A lot of pulling and dragging and Matthew Carley’s whistle is being universally ignored.

Leinster should have another penalty here — but Carley must also adjudicate on the kerfuffle. He’s asked the TMO to have a look.

12′ – LAR 3-0 LEI: After all that, Joe McCarthy and Jonathan Danty are sent to the bin — but Leinster retain their penalty.

Matthew Carley is dishing out a proper bollocking to captains James Ryan and Pierre Bourgarit, here.

Try for Leinster! La Rochelle 3-7 Leinster


They tap and go again but are stopped short. Gibson-Park goes wide, and after a nice interchange between Byrne and Jimmy O’Brien, the latter floats a huge pass out to Jordan Larmour who strolls over in acres of space.

Superb response by Leinster to a strong La Rochelle start.

Harry Byrne nails the extras.

It’s 7-3 to last year’s beaten finalists!

16′ – LAR 3-7 LEI:Harry Byrne goes up for a high ball and seems to be taken out in the air, somersaulting forward onto his shoulder/back. But it was actually Will Connors who collided with him.

La Rochelle fly-hack forward and, as Larmour dots it down over his own line, he takes a high hit from Atonio.

There was serious mitigation as Larmour was almost horizontal, stepping forward. Just a penalty. And Leinster escape.

High-octane, vicious stuff here.

16′ – LAR 3-7 LEI: Matthew Carley has just informed Leinster co-captain Garry Ringrose that he will no longer be listening to James Ryan, and that “we will be working together now.”

Carley says Ryan was just too lippy in the opening quarter hour, so the referee has basically elected Ringrose captain for the game.

An interesting development but probably one that would have been proposed to Leinster even pre-game; if you’re going to name two captains, then the referee also gets options.

21′ – LAR 3-7 LEI: Ryan Baird hoofs downfield and gives a great chase. Jules Favre returns the favour and Gibson-Park totally misjudges the kick, spilling it forward unforced, deep in Leinster territory. The crowd goes nuts.

Poor error by the Ireland nine, albeit there was an awkward flight on the ball and it’s still teeming rain.

21′ – LAR 3-7 LEI:La Rochelle win a penalty as Leinster stray offside from the scrum, which was an even contest.

They go to the corner through Hastoy.

First big chance for the hosts.

McCarthy and Danty both back on.

23′ – LAR 3-7 LEI: Strong maul ‘D’ initially by Leinster but they eventually concede a penalty, with McCarthy nuking the second surge only moments after his reintroduction.

Hastoy chips it to within five again.

24′ – LAR 3-7 LEI: Good pressure at the front of the lineout by McCarthy, but La Rochelle claim their own ball.

No maul this time — just a one-by-one assault on the line!

Over goes Levani Botia! But did he have two goes at that?

Matthew Carley will check with his TMO…

No try! Penalty Leinster! A huge escape for the visitors.

It’s been exactly what you’d expect it to have been so far.

tempers-flare-between-the-sides Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

26′ – LAR 3-7 LEI: Unbelievable banana kick, left to right, by Harry Byrne comes within an inch of earning Leinster a 50-22′. Instead, it’s La Rochelle ball.

They go to the maul inside their own 22′ — and they spill it forward! Big territorial gain for Leinster off the back of that wonderful Byrne kick.

Scrum. Blue ball. Right-hand side of the hosts’ 22′.

29′ – LAR 3-7 LEI:Leinster go up the middle through Henshaw but, on next phase, a La Rochelle tackle forces a loose pass by Gibson-Park and Leinster are forced to scramble back to halfway.

They gain back some territory and eventually win a lineout back where they started.

Leinster building phases, now, on the La Rochelle 22′ — and in comes Jonathan Danty with a huge jackal penalty win!

Savagery by the France 12, and Hastoy takes the European champions into the Leinster half.

31′ – LAR 3-7 LEI: La Rochelle botch the lineout which leads to a spot of pinball. Leinster eventually win a lineout 10 yards further back and clear through the boot of Gibson-Park.

32′ – LAR 3-7 LEI: Andrew Porter has what can only be described as a boxer’s injury on his left eyebrow. It’s a bad, bad cut. He’ll have to go off for a blood sub but I’d be surprised if we see him again today — that’s a proper gash.

On comes Cian Healy for the moment at least.

34′ – LAR 3-7 LEI: A stray kick by Byrne on his own 10′ comes off his instep and flies down the middle, bouncing dead. A first error by the out-half, but a costly one.

La Rochelle scrum on the Leinster 10′.

As much as it’s been fairly monstrous in terms of the physicality and intensity, it’s been a low-quality game so far — totally because of the conditions, of course.

Cian Healy concedes a penalty in the scrum and Hastoy signals to the posts.

La Rochelle 6-7 Leinster

37′ – LAR 6-7 LEI: A fine kick by Hastoy from 40-odd yards and La Rochelle are back to within one.

38′ – LAR 6-7 LEI: Superb, driven kick by Ringrose bounces the right side of line and pins La Rochelle back inside their own 5′.

They win the lineout cleanly and clear, but after Hugo Keenan claims a Gibson-Park box kick in the La Rochelle half, Will Skelton is pinged for going off his feet and playing the Leinster nine.

Harry Byrne is down injured, meanwhile, after a big impact. He may have taken a knock to the head.

I think we’re going to have to see Ciarán Frawley here — and his first action will be to kick for goal.

It’s pretty central, halfway between the La Rochelle 10′ and 22′.

Half-time: La Rochelle 6-10 Leinster

Frawley replaces Byrne and, with his sole involvement of the half, he splits the upright.

That takes us to the break — and Leinster will be pretty happy with that so far.

harry-byrne-receives-medical-attention Harry Byrne receiving treatment. Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

A couple of scum issues aside, they’re giving as good as — if not more — than they’ve gotten and La Rochelle have only had one real chance at their line.

Chat to you in a few minutes’ time.

41′ – LAR 6-10 LEI: Ciarán Frawley — still on — gets us back underway.

And Leinster take his restart deep inside the La Rochelle 22′!

But La Rochelle steal it in a loose ruck and funt it clear.

42′ – LAR 6-10 LEI: La Rochelle win a penalty just inside the Leinster half: deliberate knock-on by Sheehan as La Rochelle were in transition.

Too far in these conditions to kick three, so Hastoy prods the hosts into the Leinster 22′.

43′ – LAR 6-10 LEI:La Rochelle go quickly with the lineout but Leinster instantly bundle them into touch. Cue big celebrations from the men in blue. That’s a significant defensive stand by Leo Cullen’s side.

46′ – LAR 6-10 LEI: Hint of obstruction about it but Tawerra Kerr-Barlow pokes a hole in Leinster’s defence and charges deep into their 22′!

Leinster spill it forward — I think — in the resulting breakdown. La Rochelle then win a scrum penalty.

They tap and go quickly and Botia has another go at the Leinster line! BUT IT’S HELD UP!

Sensational goal-line defence by Leinster, who celebrate it as though it was a try.

49′ – LAR 6-10 LEI: Josh van der Flier on for Will Connors, who’s been outstanding.

I’ll tell you who’s also having a great game, while we’re at it, is Ryan Baird.

La Rochelle have a scrum on the Leinster 22′ here after a Hugo Keenan knock-on in an aerial contest.

La Rochelle 9-10 Leinster

50′ – LAR 9-10 LEI: Another scrum penalty to La Rochelle.

They’re beginning to really dominate Leinster in that facet now, particularly without Furlong.

Hastoy points to the posts.

Tricky enough kick, 35 yards out and 15 yards in from the right-hand touchline. He nails it.

One-point game!

53′ – LAR 9-10 LEI: Audible cries of ‘Leinster! Leinster!’ as Yoan Tanga spills forward under pressure off the Leinster restart.

Really nice platform for the Irish province, now, just inside the La Rochelle 22′.

54′ – LAR 9-10 LEI: Leinster lock out the scrum but can’t make any inroads, eventually spilling the ball backwards only for it to be regathered by La Rochelle.

Also, apologies, but I forgot to mention that Andrew Porter is back on, despite that gruesome cut to his left brow. His head is strapped. I’m probably too soft myself for suggesting that the cut might have been bad enough to have kept him off. Few staples, bit of masking tape, be grand!

56′ – LAR 9-10 LEI: Charlie Ngatai on for Jordan Larmour.

Scrappy enough period of play, not much happening.

58′ – LAR 9-10 LEI: Hastoy is pinged for clipping Gibson-Park in the air. Not especially dangerous, thankfully, but a soft and silly penalty to concede.

Frawley brings Leinster up to the La Rochelle 22′, and they win their own ball.

Nice burst by Ngatai up the middle, and he’s up to within 10 of the French line! He’s stopped but La Rochelle are penalised for offside.

No advantage, and Frawley has a gimme here to stretch Leinster’s lead back out to four.

La Rochelle 9-13 Leinster

61′ – LAR 9-13 LEI: Easy work for Frawley from in front of the sticks.

Leinster by four with 20 minutes to play.

61′ – LAR 9-13 LEI: Huge response by La Rochelle!

They win a jackal penalty through Bourgarit off the restart!

And with three points on offer, they turn it down. Hastoy goes to the corner…

62′ – LAR 9-13 LEI: La Rochelle knock on in their own lineout! Leinster clear!

And the French club’s players are furious. They feel Leinster infringed on that lineout… And yeah, they definitely have a point, ha! Should have been a clear penalty for the European champions. Leinster get away with one.

It’s in the balance.

joe-mccarthy-with-will-skelton Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

64′ – LAR 9-13 LEI: Leinster are pinged on the ground on halfway — think it was McCarthy again — and La Rochelle this time opt for the three.

And Antoine Hastoy from just over 40 yards, dead central, slices it ever so slightly. Wide right!

Still Leinster by four, just under a quarter of an hour to go.

66′ – LAR 9-13 LEI: Another jackal pen for La Rochelle on halfway.

Hastoy puts his foot through it and takes his side into the Leinster 22′.

67′ – LAR 9-13 LEI: Leinster halt La Rochelle in the maul and, as the French side go wide right, Dulin attempts to chip in behind Keenan. Foolish: that’s literally impossible.

Great scramble by Keenan to gather the ball and Leinster eventually clear.

Very stout defence by Leinster so far.

Ultan Dillane on for La Rochelle among several replacements in the last few minutes.

70′ – LAR 9-13 LEI: Andrew Porter with a big chargedown in La Rochelle territory but the ball winds up dribbling dead, and La Rochelle launch it from their own goal-line.

Leinster in possession on the French 10′ — and they tee up Frawley for a drop goal! Ohhhhh it’s just wide. What a strike by the replacement 10! He apologises to his teammates but it was a good option and a great effort!

74′ – LAR 9-13 LEI: Ohhh dear.

Gibson-Park takes a ball over his shoulder and calls a mark but Matthew Carley says ‘no’ — he didn’t think Gibson-Park was quite in his 22′ when he caught it.

And then Gibson-Park kicks directly into touch! But technically, he carried it back. So, after all of that…

It’s a La Rochelle put-in to the lineout inches outside the Leinster 22′.

75′ – LAR 9-13 LEI: Leinster offside from the lineout. La Rochelle put it back into touch, and they’ll throw in from about seven shy of the Leinster line.

Huge moment.

La Rochelle win it, they go the maul… AND IT’S KNOCKED ON! Big celebrations again by Leinster.

Have to say, La Rochelle should have taken the easy three there.

77′ – LAR 9-13 LEI: Leinster lock out the scrum and Frawley clears to near halfway.

Just under three minutes to go and La Rochelle need a try from downtown, here.

78′ – LAR 9-13 LEI: Huge break by Danty down the left! La Rochelle up to the Leinster 10′.

Crowd going nuts here but Leinster have slowed the attack once more.

La Rochelle go wide right…

AND IT’S JOSH VAN DER FLIER WITH A JACKAL PENALTY! What an intervention by the replacement! That could be it!

80′ – LAR 9-16 LEI: Incredibly, Leinster opt for the posts from well inside their own half.

It’ll run down the clock — but will the ball go dead???

Frawley steps up with the clock red.


Full-time: La Rochelle 9-16 Leinster

Well, how about that?

Leinster earn their first victory over Ronan O’Gara’s back-to-back European champions — and how sweet it will be to have done it at Stade Marcel Deflandre.

That’s a really significant result for Leo Cullen and Jacques Nienaber’s side, who were well worth that result.

Keep an eye on The 42 for a full report, reaction and analysis from my colleague Murray Kinsella.

Catch you next week! Take care.

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