Heineken Champions Cup – La Rochelle wins the trophy for the first time, with a dramatic last-gasp effort

Hugo Keenan and Jonathan Danty
Hugo Keenan of Leinster takes on Jonathan Danty from La Rochelle
Leinster (12) 21
Pens: Sexton 6, R Byrne
La Rochelle (7) 24
Tries: Rhule, Bourgarit, Retiere Cons: West 3 Pens: West

La Rochelle won Champions Cup in dramatic fashion, as Arthur Retiere's 79th minute try saw them beat Leinster 24-21.

Leinster had heroically defended Marseille in the final stages, but their defenses were ultimately breached when Retiere reached down to touch down.

Six Johnny Sexton attempts and one Ross Byrne try had helped the Irish province lead for a large part of the game.

Pierre Bourgarit and Raymond Rhule crossed the line for the other tries of the victors.

This victory brings La Rochelle a first major trophy. They are now the thirteenth side to win Champions Cup, and the fourth French side.

Leinster had been defeated by the French side in the semi-final stage of last season. Toulouse lost the final.

Ronan O'Gara was their tournament's record scorer in points and joined Leo Cullen to be the only players and coaches to win the championship.

The Irish province was unable to match Toulouse's five-win record in Europe's premier club competition.

Leinster dominated the early stages of the match and was awarded two Sexton penalties. In the next nine minutes, France were penalized for ineligibility, firstly for the hands in the ruck then offside.

O'Gara's response was a moment later, as wing Rhule pushed over the line. Ihaia East converted.

Robbie Henshaw wasn't fast enough to pass the ball, but La Rochelle was able to do so quickly. Rhule weaved past Hugo Keenan before diving under after Dillin Layts' offload.

Sexton scored his third penalty in the 22nd minutes to bring his team back to within a goal. Although the French were penalised by crossing in midfield, the Irish province was put under pressure during the interval.

La Rochelle pushed their opponents by going through the phases, attacking from all sides. However, they could have been more direct because they were unable to keep their composure during crucial stages as they advanced on Leinster.

Leinster won both crucial scrums, one at each end of pitch, before half-time. Sexton took advantage more of their opponents' infractions and added his fourth penalty.

La Rochelle managed to reduce their deficit in the second half. West scored three points, after Caelan Dorian failed to release. But Leinster responded well with solid defence and two more penalties from Sexton to punish Top 14 for lack of discipline.

La Rochelle took in the energy from the partisan crowd at Stade Orange Velodrome and drew their lineout to the point where they had their own lineout. They put together an attacking maul, Bourgarit ran over to touch down and West added the extras.

Referee Wayne Barnes gave Thomas Lavault, French second row, a yellow card for a flagrant off-the ball trip. Ross Byrne replaced Sexton who was hobbling and kicked a penalty.

La Rochelle was numerically disadvantageous, but they were dominant in front. They enjoyed a long period of territorial possession.

They persevered through all phases and were eventually rewarded with Retiere, a replacement scrum-half, stretching out to touch the ball on the line for the crucial score. West contributed two additional points.

Leinster: Keenan; J O'Brien, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; Sexton (capt), Gibson-Park; Porter, Kelleher, Furlong, Molony, Ryan; Doris, Van der Flier, Conan.

Replacements: Sheehan, Healy and Ala'alatoa McCarthy, Ruddock and McGrath. Frawley, R Byrne.

La Rochelle: Dulin; Leyds, Sinzelle, Danty, Rhule; West, Berjon; Priso, Bourgarit, Atonio, Lavault, Skelton; Liebenberg, Haddad, Alldritt (capt).

Replacements: Bosch, Wardi, Sclavi, Sazy, Boureau, Retiere, Botia, Favre.

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