La Rochelle end 13-man Saints' Champions Cup season
MATCH REPORT: Northampton Saints exited the Champions Cup as they fell to a 13-31 defeat at the hands of defending champions Stade Rochelais in their Pool B meeting at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.
A Fraser Dingwall red card in the dying embers of the first period put Saints behind the eight ball, with Tom James notching the hosts’ only try midway through the second period. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was then given his marching orders late in proceedings.
La Rochelle, who have won four from four in the pool stage, securing a home tie in the Round of 16, notched five tries in the contest, Quentin Lespiaucq scoring a brace in addition to solo efforts from Levani Botia, Grégory Alldritt and UJ Seuteni.
Saints flyhalf Fin Smith was the first man to put points on the scoreboard when he dissected the uprights from close range with nine minutes played.
However, the lead would not last long as La Rochlle made the most of a kick to the corner. Botia was the man to benefit as the visitors ran through the phases before he dotted down from a close-range pick-and-go.
La Rochelle were by then dominating the scrum, winning a number of penalties, but Northampton were holding their own with large spells of territorial dominance.
Prior to the break, however, Northampton were dealt a crucial blow as Dingwall tackled Dillyn Leyds with head-to-head contact, referee Andrea Piardi left with no option but to send the Saints outside centre for an early bath.
La Rochelle, unsurprisingly, opened the second-half scoring with a try ten minutes after the break. Lespiaucq took the ball off a lineout and trundled over the line, dotting down with ease to open the lead up to eight points.
La Rochelle scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow was then shown a yellow card for a penalty for not releasing Northampton wing Courtnall Skosan after he broke the visitors’ defensive line.
That gave Northampton a glimmer of hope, and they produced arguably the try of the contest as Smith lofted a kick to the left flank for Rory Hutchinson, who in turn found Mike Haywood. He offloaded to James who scampered over.
Northampton’s joy was short lived as La Rochelle notched a pair of tries from rolling mauls. Firstly, Alldritt benefitted first before Lespiaucq notched his second of the contest.
La Rochelle continued to press in the final 20 minutes, Seuteni crossing after a well-worked scrum on the left, the wing scampering over untouched in the corner.
In added time, Northampton were reduced to 13 men as Salakaia-Loto was given a red card for an elbow to the head in the tackle.
For Northampton Saints:
Pens: Smith 2
For La Rochelle:
Tries: Botia, Brettes 2, Alldritt, Seuteni
Cons: Hastoy 3
Yellow card: Tawera Kerr-Barlow (La Rochelle, 51)
Red cards: Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints, 39); Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (Northampton Saints, 80)
Northampton Saints: 15 George Furbank, 14 Tommy Freeman, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Lewis Ludlam (captain), 7 Aaron Hinkley, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 David Ribbans, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Ehren Painter, 2 Robbie Smith, 1 Ethan Waller
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, 18 Alfie Petch, 19 Alex Coles, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Tom James, 22 Ollie Sleightholme, 23 James Ramm
La Rochelle: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 UJ Seuteni, 12 Jules Favre, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Antoine Hastoy, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Grégory Alldritt (captain), 7 Remi Bourdeau, 6 Levani Botia, 5 Rémi Picquette, 4 Romain Sazy, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Samuel Lagrange, 1 Reda Wardi
Replacements: 16 Quentin Lespiaucq Brettes, 17 Joel Sclavi, 18 Georges Henri Colombe, 19 Thomas Lavault, 20 Ultan Dillane, 21 Paul Boudehent, 22 Thomas Berjon, 23 Teddy Thomas
Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Eoghan Cross (Ireland), Dan Carson (Ireland)
TMO: Joy Neville (Ireland)