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Leinster dreaming of fifth star as they take on La Rochelle again

Thursday 18th May 2023

12:00 pm (GMT)

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Leinster dreaming of fifth star as they take on La Rochelle again

Leinster scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park

Leinster Rugby will again go in search of a record-equalling fifth Heineken Champions Cup title when they take on reigning champions Stade Rochelais in the final in Dublin on Saturday.

The Irish province were defeated by La Rochelle in last season’s showpiece game in Marseille but have bounced back in style to reach the final for a seventh time.

Leinster have lifted the coveted trophy on four occasions –2009, 2011, 2012 and 2018 – but they face a La Rochelle team playing their third successive Heineken Champions Cup final and a fourth EPCR final in five years.

Both teams are unbeaten in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup, with Leinster finishing top of Pool A and La Rochelle achieving the same feat in Pool B.

This year’s final is the sixth between Irish and French clubs, with the Irish currently leading the way with four victories to one.

The game kicks off at 16:45 (UK & Irish time) at the Aviva Stadium and is available to watch on RTE, BT Sport, France TV, beIN SPORTS, SuperSport and ITV.

Route to the final: Leinster Rugby 

Round 1: Racing 92 10 Leinster Rugby 42 

Round 2: Leinster Rugby 57 Gloucester Rugby 0 

Round 3: Gloucester Rugby 14 Leinster Rugby 49 

Round 4: Leinster Rugby 36 Racing 92 10 

Leinster finished top of Pool A on 20 points 

Round of 16: Leinster Rugby 30 Ulster Rugby 15 

Quarter-finals: Leinster Rugby 55 Leicester Tigers 24 

Semi-finals: Leinster Rugby 41 Stade Toulousain 22 


Route to the final: Stade Rochelais 

Round 1: Stade Rochelais 46 Northampton Saints 12 

Round 2: Ulster Rugby 29 Stade Rochelais 36 

Round 3: Stade Rochelais 7 Ulster Rugby 3 

Round 4: Northampton Saints 13 Stade Rochelais 31 

La Rochelle finished top of Pool B on 18 points 

Round of 16: Stade Rochelais 29 Gloucester Rugby 26 

Quarter-finals: Stade Rochelais 24 Saracens 10 

Semi-finals: Stade Rochelais 47 Exeter Chiefs 28 


Key facts

  • Holders La Rochelle have reached the Heineken Champions Cup final for the third season in a row, and having qualified for the 2019 Challenge Cup decider, the club’s appearance at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday will be their fourth EPCR final in five years.
  • Stade Toulousain (2003, 2004, 2005) and RC Toulon (2013, 2014, 2015) are the only other clubs to have qualified for three consecutive Heineken Champions Cup finals.
  • If Cian Healy is selected in Leinster’s match day 23 for the final, and if the Irish province are victorious, he will become the first player in history to win the tournament five times.
  • Prop Healy could also set a new tournament record of seven final appearances, surpassing his total of six which he shares with Leinster teammate, Johnny Sexton, and Cédric Heymans of CA Brive and Stade Toulousain.
  • La Rochelle captain Grégory Alldritt has made the most carries this season with 112 from his seven matches to date.
  • La Rochelle fly-half Antoine Hastoy is the leading scorer in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup with 85 points, four ahead of Leinster counterpart Ross Byrne on 81. Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier is the top try scorer with six, while La Rochelle scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow has crossed for five.
  • If they are named in their respective match day 23s, both Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong and La Rochelle’s Brice Dulin will make their 50th Heineken Champions Cup appearances on Saturday.
  • Players from eight different countries – Argentina, Australia, Fiji, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Samoa and South Africa – are likely to feature in Saturday’s showpiece match which will be watched by TV viewers in close to 200 countries worldwide.
  • Leinster back Jimmy O’Brien is the tournament’s top metre maker on 449 and he also has made the most line breaks with 13.

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La Rochelle stun Leinster to retain Heineken Champions Cup

Saturday 20th May 2023

7:09 pm (GMT)

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La Rochelle stun Leinster to retain Heineken Champions Cup

Stade Rochelais lift the 2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup

Stade Rochelais retained the Heineken Champions Cup in dramatic fashion in Dublin on Saturday as they recovered from 17 points down to beat Leinster Rugby 27-26.

Leinster looked on course for a record-equalling fifth crown when Dan Sheehan (2) and Jimmy O’Brien crossed inside the first quarter of an hour.

But they could only add three Ross Byrne penalties from that point and La Rochelle battled their way back into the contest in an incredible and gripping turnaround.

Jonathan Danty, UJ Seuteni and Georges Henri Colombe all went over for the TOP 14 side, in addition to 12 points from the boot of Antoine Hastoy.

51,711 fans contributed to a pulsating atmosphere inside the Aviva Stadium, and the game delivered on all its promise as the battle for glory between two of the best sides on the planet went down to the wire.

Leinster sent their supporters into delirium when they grabbed three tries in a sensational start.

Sheehan was over inside the first minute as a brilliant lineout move released Jack Conan, allowing the No.8 to send his hooker clear down the right, fly-half Byrne adding the extras.

O’Brien would then cross on five minutes amid relentless Leinster pressure, the wing finishing out wide after a perfectly timed pass by Byrne, whose conversion drifted just wide.

It went from bad to worse for La Rochelle when scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow was shown yellow for stopping a quick tap, with Sheehan splashing over again moments later after another slick Leinster move.

Byrne was off target with the conversion again, though, and La Rochelle found a foothold in the game and notched their first try while still down to 14 men, centre Danty crashing over in a powerful finish, fly-half Hastoy’s extras reducing the margin to 10 points.

Momentum swung back in Leinster’s favour momentarily after Kerr-Barlow returned, and allowed Byrne to slot two penalties before the half hour mark, though the Irish province would lose captain James Ryan to injury.

But La Rochelle ended the first half in the ascendancy and when centre Seuteni glided across unchallenged and Hastoy converted again, the gap was down to just nine points.

The nerves began to set in following the restart as two Hastoy penalties either side of one from Byrne saw La Rochelle move to within six points by 49 minutes.

Ronan O’Gara’s side continued to pile on the pressure, but it wasn’t until 71 minutes that they found their decisive third try, replacement prop Colombe squeezing over from close range to stun the Dublin crowd.

Hastoy converted to hand La Rochelle the lead, and Leinster replacement hooker Ronan Kelleher was sin-binned for an accumulation of offences to leave the Irish province with a monumental task to turn things back around.

The final nine minutes were electrifying, with Danty then shown yellow for a high shot on Leinster flanker Caelan Doris, boosting their hopes of a late score.

But replacement prop Michael Ala’alatoa sent off for an illegal clear-out close to the La Rochelle line with two minutes to play, all but ending Leinster’s dreams of a fifth star for another year.

La Rochelle would see the game out to make it successive Heineken Champions Cup crowns, captain Grégory Alldritt scooping the 2023 EPCR Player of the Year award.

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