Skip to content

Leinster V La Rochelle: Champions Cup Final – Live!

69 min: A high tackle by Gibson-Park in midfield. Dulin drills a fantastic touch-finder for the right corner. A try for La Rochelle now and Leinster will need another score to win their fifth Champions Cup.

Squeaky Bum Time.

@LukeMcLaughlin SBT(Squeaky Bum Time)for both sets of fans! Leinster look like they have more left in the tank but this will test the nerves.

— John McEnerney (@MackerOnTheMed) May 28, 2022 Penalty! 66 min: Leinster 21-17 La RochelleByrne, on for Sexton, cracks over the kick. Serious damage done for La Rochelle, who had done so well to force themselves back into things. O’Gara will be furious with that. But Leinster fans will suddenly be liking the look of the scoreboard a bit more, not to mention the fact that they have a man extra for 10 minutes now.

65 min: Yellow card for La Rochelle: LavaultThis is so, so, so stupid. The French second row, Lavault, trips Gibson-Park as the scrum-half darts past chasing a kick ahead. The TMO has a look and the second row is sent to the bin. And rightly so.

64 min: Sexton has gone off, seemingly injured, Byrne on for Leinster. Liebenberg on for La Rochelle.

Try! 60 min: Leinster 18-17 La Rochelle (Bougarit)They’re over! La Rochelle nail a lineout drive and Bougarit flops over with Leinster unable to deal with the French side’s short-range power. West, with incredible coolness, drills the penalty through the posts from a fairly demanding angle. It’s a one-point game and we have an insanely tense final 20 minutes in the offing.

58 min: Time is off for a TMO check. Rhule was sprinting on to a kick down the left wing and Keenan looked like he may have touched the ball as it went out in the in-goal area. But he gets away with it. Dulin then tries a massively long drop-goal, gets it wrong, but there is good chasing by La Rochelle and they win a penalty for their troubles. A good attacking platform …

57 min: The knock on by Atonio gives Leinster the put-in at the scrum. Leinster kick for territory and there is now an exchange of tactical kicking from hand. As we approach the final quarter, given their relative lack of discipline, it is really hard to see La Rochelle getting back into this.

56 min: A good spell of passing and pressure for La Rochelle, which ends when Atonio accidentally runs in front of a pass from a teammate as they were moving into the 22.

Penalty! 54 min: Leinster 18-10 La Rochelle (Sexton)That’s now 12 penalties that La Rochelle have given away. Leinster have given away four. That looks very much like it’s going to be the difference.

50 min: Danty, who is a fearsomely powerful carrier when he gets going, slams into an attempted tackle by Sexton. Sexton bounces off him. Now, Leinster have the put-in at a scrum in their own half. Gibson-Park starts off another attack, Sexton sends up a high kick, and the ball finds its way to Henshaw, who produces a brilliant step to beat the first tackler. Cullen’s side move the ball from left to right, but their progress is interrupted and Barnes brings it back for yet another easy penalty for Sexton to mop up.

Penalty! 48 min: Leinster 15-10 La RochelleThat is five from five kicks for Sexton. Metronomic.

47 min: Leinster keep working through the phases, and shove over the try-line, but Barnes says it’s held up. They will come back for – you guessed it – another penalty conceded by La Rochelle.

45 min: Leinster work their way into the opposition half after winning yet another penalty. Lowe tries to get on the end of an angled grubber kick by Sexton but Rhule does well to cover and bundle the ball into touch.

Penalty! 42 min: Leinster 12-10 La Rochelle (West)An easy kick is sent through the posts by the La Rochelle fly-half. If Cullen and team were hoping for a less stressful second half, it’s doesn’t look like they are going to get it.

41 min: Straight from the restart and La Rochelle win a penalty as Doris is penalised at the breakdown after fine work by Priso.

Leinster’s Josh Van der Flier celebrates winning a penalty. Photograph: László Gecző/INPHO/ShutterstockSecond-half kick-off!Here we go.

“We haven’t been at our best,” admits the Leinster forwards coach, Robin McBryde, speaking to Channel 4. “We need to put that doubt back in La Rochelle’s heads.”

Half-time reading:

Penalty and half-time! Leinster 12-7 La Rochelle (Sexton)Sexton slots an easy kick. Leinster lead by five at the break. That could very easily have been a half-time lead for La Rochelle instead but that is a big, big swing in Leinster’s favour after they won that scrum penalty, ran it down to the other end and made Dulin pay for a high-risk piece of defending near his own line. Still, all to play for in the second half …

40 min: A free-kick for Leinster, then a penalty for offside as they try to find a gap in the La Rochelle line. Barnes lets them play for a couple more phases and then brings it back for the penalty. Sinzelle is complaining to Barnes but he says, and he’s got a point, that he’s made his decision … Sexton will kick.

39 min: Leinster stream down to the other end, making speedy progress along the right wing. A kick is sent over the top of the defensive cover – Dulin comes to tidy up but lets the ball bounce, picks it up, and tries to run out of trouble but he is scragged on the try-line by eager Leinster chasers. Big attacking platform for Leinster now!

37 min: A scrum for La Rochelle a couple of metres from the line after Barnes brings it back for the earlier penalty … Alldritt takes the ball from the base of the scrum, but as he does so, Barnes blows his whistle and he’s penalised La Rochelle at the set-piece! Priso, the prop who was penalised for going to ground, shakes his head in disbelief. They were big celebrations from Leinster there when that penalty arrives. Big relief for Cullen’s men after an intense attempt at the try-line from their opponents.

35 min: Action stations for the Leinster defence as La Rochelle nip down the blindside, through Bougarit, after a lineout in the 22, Alldritt offering a nice little offload to his hooker. Bougarit is brought down and they bash away by the line a few times, with a penalty advantage, before spinning the ball out wide to the right wing but a pass from Sinzelle, intended for Dulin, goes to the floor off the full-back’s hand! So close to another try for La Rochelle! That was superb defence from Leinster, too.

32 min: Skelton, with a couple of beefy carries, gets La Rochelle over the gain line more than once and they move ominously towards the Leinster line. Leyds offers up another beautiful offload in contact to Rhule, who is brought down a few metres from the line. La Rochelle then cough up another penalty. La Rochelle are having to play at their limit to live with Leinster, and I fancy the Irish side’s conditioning will play a big, big part in the second half. Rhule, I should mention, is absolutely explosive and you can understand why La Rochelle are looking to feed him the ball at every opportunity.

29 min: Sexton attempts a long-range drop-goal but it doesn’t come off. Henshaw runs it back from deep after the La Rochelle restart. If O’Gara’s men can find a score before half-time and go into the break ahead on the board, it would be a huge psychological boost given the pressure they have been under at times.

27 min: Another scrum in La Rochelle territory. Sexton feeds Ringrose with a smart pop pass and his fellow Ireland international crashes into the 22. A glimpse of Leinster’s well-oiled attacking machine, which is creaking a little as a result of the pressure that La Rochelle are exerting on them. They are rushing up in defence and trying to shut down Leinster’s fluency of running and passing and for the most part, it is working well.

Penalty! 22 min: Leinster 9-7 La Rochelle (Sexton)More indiscipline from the French side, and the pendulum swings back in Leinster’s direction following 10 minutes of superiority for La Rochelle. Sexton sends the ball sweetly through the sticks, if a little bit closer to the right-hand post than he may have liked.

20 min: Another horrible lineout throw for Leinster, this time by Sheehan, who overthrows it. La Rochelle get their hands on the ball but they are immediately pulled up for crossing. Kickable penalty for Sexton.

17 min: A knock-on by Doris in midfield, as things continue to go slightly awry for Cullen’s men. Cian Healy is pictured looking on from the side of the field with a look of some concern. From the scrum following the knock-on, it’s an enormous contest between the packs, but Leinster hold firm this time … La Rochelle attack down their right, then down the left as Danty tries and fails to whip a Hollywood pass off his right hand out to Rhule on the left. It doesn’t come off.

14 min: Rónan Kelleher goes off for Leinster, obviously an injury, and Dan Sheehan comes on.

12 min: Leinster follow up the concession of a try with a horrible misthrow at the next lineout. Moments later, La Rochelle have the Leinster scrum on toast. Dulin is soon trying to escape through the middle on to a cute little kick over the top. He can’t gather the ball but smiles and looks back and gives a thumbs-up anyway. The script was for a Leinster win, but La Rochelle are right in their faces maintenant.

Try! 10 min: Leinster 6-7 La Rochelle (Rhule)A classic case of commentator’s curse, there. A bit of confusion in the Leinster defence, it seems, and there’s an incredible offload by Leyds for Rhule, who roars around the Leinster cover on the blindside, jinks inside and sprints over the try-line! West belts over a fantastic conversion and La Rochelle lead. O’Gara is pictured celebrating with gusto up in the stand. It was a stunning offload by Leyds and an equally good finish by Rhule. Brilliant.

Raymond Rhule of La Rochelle makes a break on his way to scoring his side’s first try. Photograph: Julien Poupart/Sportsfile/Getty ImagesRhule celebrates with teammate Dillyn Leyds after scoring his side’s first try in front of the joyous of La Rochelle fans. Photograph: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile/Getty ImagesPenalty! 9 min: Leinster 6-0 La Rochelle (Sexton)Worrying early signs for O’Gara’s side … and, of course, an impressive, solid start by Leinster, whose superiority is obvious at this stage.

7 min: La Rochelle have coughed up five penalties inside the first seven minutes. Leinster storm down their right wing through Jimmy O’Brien and then move the ball inside where their opponents are penalised for offside. It is Raymond Rhule, this time, who attracts the attention of the referee Barnes. Barnes also tells Skelton to cool it. “You need to calm down, or you’ll be leaving,” says the man with the whistle to the big second row.

5 min: Penalty! Leinster 3-0 La Rochelle (Sexton)Sexton strokes the first penalty of the match through the posts. It was a straightforward kick, and Leinster have something to show for their early pressure.

3 min: Leinster slink into the La Rochelle 22 and nearly to the posts with a smart passing move … The French club are under pressure early, but a stunning turnover by Atonio relieves it. However, Barnes penalises La Rochelle in the next phase of play and Sexton has a kick to get the scoreboard moving.

2 min: A solid early box kick to clear from Berjon. Leinster move forward with a big drive off the lineout and Sexton then puts up a booming garryowen, which Leyds does well to make under serious pressure from three Leinster chasers.

First-half kick off!Johnny Sexton kicks off for Leinster.

There’s a barrage of fireworks out on the pitch, blue and yellow smoke in the middle, and the teams are now striding purposefully out. Wayne Barnes, the English referee, picks a ball up on his way out to the playing surface. The crowd wave blue and yellow flags, depending on who they are shouting for, and we are ready to go.

It’s pyrotechnic time. Photograph: David Davies/PA“Bullied the bejeepers.” Nice.

@LukeMcLaughlin LaR bullied the bejeepers out of us last season if we can match them at the set piece & the scrums then it could be a beautiful blue day with JS driving that electric back line around the park. James Ryan will need to front up big time against Skelton he owes him

— John McEnerney (@MackerOnTheMed) May 28, 2022 The lads.

La Rochelle head coach Ronan O’Gara (left) and Leinster head coach Leo Cullen. Photograph: David Davies/PAIs this going to be little more than a coronation for Leinster? There are some shots of La Rochelle in a pre-match huddle – and guess what – they look fired up.

Robert Kitson

The surest sign of consistent quality in European club rugby is visible just above the heart. Those four little gold stars woven into Leinster’s jersey might not immediately catch everyone’s eye but if you know, you know. Each of them denotes a European Cup title and adding another on Saturday will gain the Irish province entry to the most rarefied of clubs.

It’s now 15 minutes until showtime.

Here is Ugo Monye on Stuart Lancaster, and Leinster’s synchronicity:

Did you catch Lyon v Toulon in the Challenge Cup final last night?

Robert Kitson certainly did:

“Hi Luke, I’ve a ringside seat in the Dubliner Bar in Salou,” emails Martin Kelly. “Let the game begin!”

Enjoy it, Martin. Sounds lovely.

I had to Google to check where Salou is, and I can reveal it’s in Spain, a little way down the coast from Barcelona.

We are 25 minutes from kick-off.

Ronan O’Gara, the La Rochelle chats to BT and is asked about those two lost finals last season: “We’ve learned hugely. But it’s probably a bit early to say. Controlling emotion is going to be big for us … in the last 12 months, we’ve faced similar situations [going down to 14 men], and we’ve dealt with them better.

“We’re aware of the team we are playing against but we’ll look to put them under pressure, and we’ll look to keep the ball … I hope we’ll ‘play’.

“At this stage it’s out of your control, as a coach … our mindset is good, the boys are pumped for today … every coach in Europe wants to be here. I’m lucky to be here.”

Austin Healey is sporting a marvellous outfit of off-white and beige, offset by a pair of blue loafers. No socks – but you already knew that.

Dallaglio: “Leinster have the best attack and best structure in the competition … they are a possession-based team, and what La Rochelle must do is deny them the ball, and I believe they can do that at the breakdown.”

Leo Cullen chats to Sarra Elgan Easterby of BT Sport: “It’s amazing … the tournament is very, very special for lots of people. It’s a huge honour to be here again and now it’s about producing a decent performance.

“For us it’s just trying to focus on what makes the team good, against a very tough opponent … Everyone has to sacrifice and work hard … both teams are desperate to win, but it’s who is more accurate on the day.”

Leo Cullen and Ronan O’Gara, the opposing coaches, are pictured having a quiet chat out on the turf.

O’Driscoll opines that it is going to take an ‘outrageous’ performance from La Rochelle to win this.

Robert Kitson

Strangely it is 10 years since an Irishman was last crowned European Player of the Year. The list of past winners is impressive – Antoine Dupont, Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, Jonny Wilkinson – but an Anglo-French duopoly has existed since 2012 when Rob Kearney, the Leinster, Ireland and Lions full-back, collected the award.

BT Sport have pushed the boat out, quite literally, by letting Craig Doyle loose on the water in a very warm-looking Marseille.

Now the live coverage has started, the pundit lineup for BT alongside Doyle is O’Driscoll, Healy, Monye and Dallaglio. They’ve gone large. The match is also on Channel 4, for those needing, but naturally you have to keep reading this MBM too.

What’s going to happen, then? What’s the mood among fans? Leinster supporters, La Rochelle ultras, and even neutrals are all encouraged to email me or tweet with thoughts on today’s showpiece.

Robert Kitson

Forget the Cannes film festival which has been running all week. If people want to enjoy absorbing, character-heavy drama they need only venture down the Mediterranean coast to the Stade Vélodrome where a brooding, Shakespearean-style duel awaits. For Romeo and Tybalt, read Johnny Sexton and Ronan O’Gara.

TeamsLeinster are unchanged from the quarter-final and semi-final, which seems like a testament to their fitness and conditioning – one of the many things they’ve got right this season. Tadhg Furlong and James Lowe both passed fitness tests to make the starting lineup.

For La Rochelle, the No 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow and flanker Victor Vito miss out with injury. Thomas Berjon and Matthias Haddad come in for Kerr-Barlow and Vito, respectively. Australia’s Will Skelton returns in the second row and Brice Dulin comes back in at full-back.

Leinster: Keenan, J. O’Brien, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe, Sexton, Gibson-Park, Porter, Kelleher, Furlong, Moloney, Ryan, Doris, Van der Flier, Conan. Replacements: Sheehan, Healy, Ala’alatoa, J. McCarthy, Ruddock, McGrath, R. Byrne, Frawley.

La Rochelle: Dulin, Leyds, Sinzelle, Danty, Rhule, West, Berjon, Priso, Bourgarit, Atonio, Lavault, Skelton, Liebenberg, Haddad, Alldritt. Replacements: Bosch, Wardi, Sclavi, Sazy, Bourdeau, Retiere, Botia, Favre.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)

PreambleCan anyone stop Leinster? The progress of Leo Cullen’s well-rounded side in the later rounds of the Champions Cup has been serene. They outclassed the Gallagher Premiership leaders Leicester in the quarter-final before dominating Toulouse in the last four. Their campaign had been characterised by some crushing victories before that, too, with many a team trying and failing to contain what is at times a perfect balance between power and precision. Leinster’s scrummaging power, the speed of ball they are capable of generating at rucks, and the unmatched intelligence and accuracy of Johnny Sexton’s distribution from fly-half has often proved an irresistible combination.

On the other hand, if there is one coach you would choose to try and derail the Irish province, it is Ronan O’Gara of La Rochelle, who knows Leinster intimately and, as a proud Munsterman, will approach today’s encounter with an extra helping of determination. His personal rivalry with Sexton is another factor to fire him up even further. The players on the pitch will be pretty useful, too, with grand slam-winning Grégory Alldritt, Jonathan Danty and Brice Dulin of France among the starting XV. The French team are highly likely to deal with the near-30C heat in Marseille better, into the bargain.

So here we go. A season of high-speed collisions and high-class skills in the Champions Cup comes down to 80 minutes at Stade Vélodrome on the south coast of France. Team news, pre-match reading and more coming right up.

Kick off: 4.45pm

Featured News