Leinster are out of this season’s European Champions Cup following a 32-23 defeat to La Rochelle at Stade Marcel-Deflandre on Sunday.
The home side were deserved victors in the first ever meeting between the two sides.
Leinster began the game with real intent and wasted no time in applying the pressure against the French side.
A deserved yellow card for Wiann Liebenberg after a fifth penalty concession in the opening eight minutes followed an early missed penalty by Leinster fly-half Ross Byrne.
With Ronan O’Gara’s side down to 14 men, Leinster immediately took advantage of having the extra man when Tadhg Furlong, making his 112th appearance for the province touched down for the eight try of his Leinster career. Byrne duly converted to give his side an early 0-7 lead.
La Rochelle responded well and finally got into the game after a sluggish start. Fly-half Ihaia West converted his first penalty of the afternoon following a collapsed maul by Leinster inside their own 10 metre-line.
They continued to mount pressure and a beautifully struck drop goal from West just after the 20-minute mark left one-point between the two sides, 6-7.
Four-time winners Leinster cancelled out La Rochelle’s six points as two penalties from the impressive Byrne extended Leo Cullen’s sides lead to seven points.
Ryan Baird replaced the injured Rhys Ruddock after 30 minutes and the last ten minutes of the first half saw La Rochelle have their strongest period of the game.
Ill-discipline from Leinster allowed the French side to once again eat into the Pro14 champions lead. Two penalties from West left the smallest possible margin between the two sides, 12-13 to Leinster as referee Matthew Carley signalled for half-time.
La Rochelle continued from where they left off at the beginning of the second half as West took advantage of a high tackle from Robbie Henshaw to score his and La Rochelle’s 15th point of the game and in doing so, gave his side the lead for the first time.
Leinster centre Garry Ringrose won a penalty following a tackle off the ball. The ever-reliable Byrne slotted between the posts for his 11th point of the game and pushed Leinster back into the lead at 15-16 after 48 minutes.
Ireland winger James Lowe was given a yellow card with 30 minutes remaining due to a failure to role away from the breakdown and West hit his penalty straight between the posts to give La Rochelle a two-point advantage.
Carlow prop Ed Byrne replaced Cian Healy on the 52nd minute. Despite Byrne’s introduction, Leinster were constantly forced into defending and conceded another penalty soon after Byrne entered the fray. Thankfully for Leinster, West missed his kick for the first time in the match, coming agonisingly close as he hit the post from just beyond the halfway line.
The crucial moment of the game came with 15 minutes left on the clock. Leinster finally failed to stem the La Rochelle tide as Gregory Alldritt squeezed over the line almost immediately after the TMO had disallowed a try for the team that sit second in the Top 14 table. West converted to leave the game at 25-16.
Leo Cullen’s men were simply outclassed for the entirety of the second half and the final nail in the coffin came with 5 minutes to go as Will Skelton crossed to all but seal a famous victory for the French side. West converted to make it a three-score game, 32-16.
Ross Byrne crossed for a try of his own and he added the two points from the tee to reduce the deficit to 9 points.
It was too little too late for Leinster, however, as La Rochelle deservedly progress to a mouth-watering all French encounter with Toulouse in three weeks’ time at Twickenham.
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