[Sport] Heineken Champions Cup: La Rochelle win trophy for first time with dramatic last-gasp try
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Leinster's Hugo Keenan comes up against Jonathan Danty of La Rochelle
Heineken Champions Cup final: Leinster v 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 the Champions Cup for the first time in hugely dramatic fashion as Arthur Retiere's 79th-minute try saw them edge out Leinster 24-21.
Leinster had to defend heroically in the latter stages in Marseille but their defences were eventually breached as Retiere stretched to touch down.
The Irish province had led for much of the game thanks to six Johnny Sexton tries and one from Ross Byrne.
Raymond Rhule and Pierre Bourgarit crossed for the victors' other tries.
The triumph delivers a first major trophy for La Rochelle, who become the 13th side to win the Champions Cup and the fourth from France.
The French side had beaten Leinster at the semi-final stage last season but went on to lose to Toulouse in the final so this will go some way to make up for that disappointment.
Their coach Ronan O'Gara, the tournament's record points scorer, joins his Leinster counterpart Leo Cullen as the only men to win the championship as a player and a coach.
The Irish province were frustrated however in their bid to equal Toulouse's record of five wins in Europe's premier club competition.
Leinster enjoyed the better of the early stages and were rewarded with two Sexton penalties in the opening nine minutes, the French side being punished for their indiscipline, firstly for hands in the ruck and then offside.
O'Gara's team responded a minute later when wing Rhule powered over the line, with Ihaia West converting.
Robbie Henshaw was too slow to roll away from a tackle but advantage was played and La Rochelle passed the ball quickly through the hands. Dillin Leyts' offload set Rhule on his way to weave past Hugo Keenan and other defenders before diving over.
Sexton restored his side's lead with his third penalty in the 22nd minute after the French outfit were penalised for crossing in midfield but the Irish province had to endure a period of pressure in the run-up to the interval.
La Rochelle stretched their opponents, going through the phases and attacking from side to side but they could have been more direct as they suffered from a lack of composure at vital stages as they advanced on the Leinster line.
Two vital scrums before half-time, one at either end of the pitch, both went in Leinster's favour, and Sexton took advantage of more infringements from their opponents by knocking over his fourth penalty in added time.
La Rochelle reduced their deficit two minutes into the second half as West landed three points after Caelan Doris failed to release but Leinster responded with robust defence and two further penalties from Sexton to punish the Top 14 side for a lack of discipline.
Feeding off the energy of the partisan crowd at Stade Orange Velodrome, La Rochelle drew themselves to within a point when they won their own lineout, put together an attacking maul and Bourgarit rumbled over to touch down, West adding the extras.
Five minutes later however French second row Thomas Lavault was shown a yellow card by referee Wayne Barnes for a blatant off-the-ball trip and replacement Ross Byrne, who had just come on to replace a hobbling Sexton, punished his offence by kicking a penalty.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, La Rochelle proved dominant up front and enjoyed a sustained period of territorial possession, earning a series of penalties but repeatedly frustrated in their efforts to score as they kicked for the corner and then taking a scrum.
Their patience in going through the phases was eventually rewarded when replacement scrum-half Retiere stretched and dotted the ball down on the line for the crucial score. West contributing the additional two 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, Ala'alatoa, McCarthy, Ruddock, McGrath, R Byrne, Frawley.
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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