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The last time La Rochelle reached the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup they played an Italian club at home in Round 6 to seal the deal.
In 2011 it was Rovigo who were the visitors to Stade Marcel Deflandre and the home side ran in a record 11 tries in a 71-17 triumph. That earned them an away trip to ASM Clermont Auvergne in the last eight.
In order to earn a home game in the quarter-finals Patrice Collazo’s side have to find a way to bridge a one point gap at the top of the Pool 1. Gloucester Rugby lead the way on 20 points and will win the pool providing they beat Bayonne at home with a bonus point.
If both teams end up on the same number of match points then La Rochelle will win the pool on the head-to-head record between the two teams. Gloucester won 35-14 at Kingsholm (5 points to nil) and La Rochelle triumphed in the return 42-13 (5 point to nil) to give themselves the edge 56-48 on points difference over the two games.
So, the key for La Rochelle is to pick up as many points as they can to avoid the top two ranked teams. If they win with a bonus point, and Gloucester go on to win the pool, then they will be ranked sixth.
The success of the French side this season was reflected in the selection of two of their props Uini Atonio and Mohamed Boughanmi, in Guy Noves’ 32-man RBS 6 Nations squad. La Rochelle are currently sitting in second place in the TOP 14, one point behind Clermont, and looking to stay on course for a first final appearance.
Benetton Treviso are seeking a third win in the Pool having completed the double over Bayonne, 28-15-28 at Stade Jean Dauger and 21-17 at home. They were beaten 37-8 and 41-0 by Gloucester and went down to a 41-10 home defeat to La Rochelle.
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Benetton Treviso made La Rochelle struggle for every inch and every point and led the high-flying TOP 14 side until the 57th minute.
The home side new they were through to the quarter-finals thanks to results earlier in the day and eventually took the highest ranking of the three best runners-up as they eventually came up with four second half tries.
Home skipper Jason Eaton picked up the first of four yellow cards in the game after only eight minutes, but the next three all went to the visitors. Andrea Buondonno and Ornel Gega both went to the sin-bin in the pace of a minute at the start of the second half and then Samoan lock Filo Paulo followed them midway through the second half.
That put intense pressure on battling Benetton and they eventually cracked after taking the lead through an Eduardo Gori try and an Ian McKinely penalty in a tight first-half. That 8-0 lead last until the end of the third quarter, although La Rochelle made the most of 15 v 13 to notch their first try through Hikairo Forbes that Zach Holmes converted to cut the gap to a single point.
Then it was just a question of time as to how long the Italians could hold out. La Rochelle eventually took the lead through Holmes’ penalty that punished Paulo’s yellow card.
After that Afa Amosa and Arthur Retiere twice crossed the Treviso line and Holmes maintained his 100 per cent conversion rate.