Monstrous at the end of the match, the forwards of Stade Rochelais were decisive in offering their club a first European title against Leinster.
Special envoy to Marseilles
A regular shelling. A show of brute force. During the last ten minutes of the Champions Cup final, the forwards of La Rochelle literally crushed the Irish of Leinster, multiplying the charges, the pick and go, until the blue wall gave way and scored by the scrum half replacing Arthur Retière. “At the end, you saw a determined group who for nothing in the world would have left the cup to Leinster“, confided Grégory Alldritt, the number 8 of the Maritimes and the XV of France.
A tactic that had its limits for a long time in front of the Irish goal line, before finally finding the fault and scoring the try for deliverance. And Irish manager Ronan O’Gara says: “We have a forwards coach who loves direct play (his compatriot Donnacha Ryan, Editor’s note) and a head coach who likes to score tries haphazardly. The forwards decided to keep the ball, but at one point I said “let’s go”, we need a try! And it was difficult, so it’s wonderful for the group.»
From the start of the match, the La Rochelle pack announced the color: an extraordinary physical challenge, a showdown at all times, without concession. Despite recurring indiscipline and a lack of offensive realism, the Maritimes made players doubt the province of Dublin. Jostled in the scrum, destabilized by the presence of robust forwards in the La Rochelle attack line, the Irish stammered their normally precise and pragmatic rugby.
“It was a big, big showdown. We had worked on that this week, we knew that before looking at Leinster, we had to look at ourselves, that we be at our best individual and collective level. We knew if we were blameless, we could beat ’em“, insists Grégory Alldritt. Who presses:The conquest, the defense, we dominated them on that. And then after there is a line of attack on fire. When you get out of touch and you see the wingers 30 meters ahead, it feels good for the head. It’s a victory at 23 with the contribution of the bench. Everything was together today.»
Impressive physical strength
Stade Rochelais definitely knows how to stop the Leinster machine. Already last year, President Merling’s players had struck a blow by crushing the Dubliners Marcel-Deflandre in the semi-finals. With the same recipe: combat, aggressiveness and impressive physical strength. “We had heard that Leinster were favorites and that we were going to take 40. But we showed that we too can defend ourselves“, had declared at the time the international hooker Pierre Bourgarit. Words he could have repeated this Saturday.
The “difficult” of Charente-Maritime have struck again. At the best time, by offering the scalp of a very large European. A status to which La Rochelle can now claim, the fourth French club king of Europe (after Toulouse, Brive and Toulon). Gone is the image of the small club which ensured its rise to the Top 14 in 2014.They say you can’t learn from your mistakes. We have proven otherwise“, savors Ronan O’Gara, former idol of Munster who applied the old methods of his province (sacred in 2006 and 2008) to bend the hereditary enemy of Leinster. Old rivalry.