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Leinster crush treble dreams of O’Gara’s La Rochelle

Leinster emphatically ended La Rochelle’s bid for a hat-trick of Investec Champions Cup titles by beating them 40-13 at the Aviva Stadium, setting up a Croke Park semi-final date in the process.

Ronan O’Gara’s team defeated Leinster in the last two finals by a combined margin of just four points.

But La Rochelle’s quest for silverware ended at the quarter-final stage this time around as Leinster marched on in pursuit of a record-equalling fifth tournament triumph.

Wing James Lowe (2), scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park, flanker Ryan Baird and hooker Dan Sheehan scored tries, while fly-half Ross Byrne kicked three conversions and three penalties as Leinster never looked in danger of suffering another loss to their fierce rivals.

La Rochelle saw prop Louis Penverne go over for a try on the stroke of half-time, with Antoine Hastoy adding two penalties and a conversion.

But they were blown away during the second period, failing to score a point, as Leinster stormed into yet another Champions Cup semi-final.

Byrne opened the scoring with an eighth-minute penalty from 45 metres, and Leinster dominated the early exchanges, which was underlined when they scored their opening try just nine minutes later.

The La Rochelle defence was stretched in all directions before Lowe touched down and Byrne converted, before Byrne and Hastoy kicked penalties and a second Hastoy three-pointer made it 13-6.

Another Byrne strike restored a 10-point lead before Leinster struck again following clever interplay between Lowe and Gibson-Park that ended with the scrum-half sprinting over unopposed.

Byrne’s conversion left Leinster in charge of the contest, but they were unable to close out the opening 40 minutes before their opponents dragged themselves back into contention.

Leinster infringed inside their 22 and La Rochelle’s powerful driving lineout game was graphically illustrated when Penverne touched down and Hastoy converted to make it 23-13 at the break.

But La Rochelle were dealt a double blow early in the second period, conceding another try and seeing scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow carried off.

Tempers rose in the final moments

Baird was the beneficiary of a poor attempted tackle from Hastoy – build-up play had included a superb pass from prop Tadhg Furlong – and Byrne converted after a lengthy delay while Kerr-Barlow received treatment before leaving the field.

La Rochelle knew they had to score next or there was no way back, but they conceded two tries in four minutes.

Sheehan claimed the first following flanker Josh van der Flier’s powerful surge, then Lowe added his second when he finished impressively after chasing a kick into space.

It was ruthless rugby from the home team and La Rochelle had no answer as they found themselves dominated in all departments.




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