La Rochelle boss Ronan O'Gara is currently serving a two-game touchline ban. Billy Stickland/INPHO

ROG's La Rochelle underline European credentials with away win in Bordeaux

The Irish head coach was serving a touchline ban as his men took control of their Round of 16 tie.

RONAN O’GARA’S LA Rochelle underlined their credentials as Champions Cup contenders with an impressive 31-13 win away to Bordeaux in the first leg of their Round of 16 match-up.

With captain Grégory Alldritt – France’s Grand Slam-winning number eight – leading the way up front, La Rochelle scored tries through wing Raymond Rhule and centre Jonathan Danty, as well as being awarded a penalty try, while out-half Ihaia West added 13 points off the tee in what was a balanced, powerful, and cohesive display from O’Gara’s side.

Bordeaux – who were missing key man Matthieu Jalibert, among others – notched two tries of their own, finished by the impressive Cameron Woki and Federico Mori, but they were second best in this first leg and weren’t helped by a second-half yellow card for replacement hooker Clément Maynadier.

Les Rochelais were beaten in both the Champions Cup final and Top 14 final by Toulouse last season and are determined to taste trophy success in this campaign, O’Gara’s first as the main man in charge.

Their results in the Top 14 have been up-and-down at times but they are now hitting top form and today’s win at Stade Chaban Delmas was a demonstration of their quality, leaving O’Gara’s side in prime position to confirm their quarter-final spot in next weekend’s second leg at home in Stade Marcel-Deflandre.

La Rochelle are in line to meet the winner of the Harlequins v Montpellier tie in the quarter-finals. Quins would have home advantage in the quarter-final if they get through and face La Rochelle, but O’Gara’s men would be at home if Montpellier qualified.

The performance today in Bordeaux highlighted how difficult a challenge La Rochelle are for any team in Europe. Forwards coach Donnacha Ryan, another former Munster and Ireland man, will have been pleased with much of his pack’s work in the three-try win.

donnacha-ryan La Rochelle forwards coach Donnacha Ryan. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

It was a full-blooded and ferocious encounter at Stade Chaban-Delmas a week on from these sides’ clash at the same venue in the Top 14, a game La Rochelle won and which featured O’Gara and Bordeaux boss Christophe Urios exchanging heated words on the touchline before Urios reached out to give O’Gara a light slap on the face. 

O’Gara had to watch from the stands today – although that’s not exactly unusual for him – as he is currently serving a two-game touchline ban handed out by the Ligue Nationale du Rugby for “challenging the decisions of the match officials” during a recent Top 14 win over Racing 92, rather than his confrontation with Urios last weekend.

O’Gara and Urios will face a disciplinary hearing for that tête-à-tête on Wednesday but it was the Irishman’s side who took a major step towards the Champions Cup quarter-finals today.

Meanwhile, in today’s other early Champions Cup Round of 16 clash, Pat Lam’s Bristol notched a crucial 10-9 first-leg win away to Sale Sharks.

Replacement centre Semi Radradra’s second-half try was crucial for Bristol, whose starting team included Irish hooker Bryan Byrne and former Ireland underage internationals Joe Joyce and Piers O’Conor. 

The Bears will hope their slim advantage can help them get across the line in next weekend’s second leg back at Ashton Gate.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel