Bok wings run riot as La Rochelle cruise into semifinals
EUROPEAN CUP MATCH REPORT: Springbok wings Raymond Rhule and Dillyn Leyds scored half of La Rochelle’s tries, as the French club advanced to the Champions Cup semifinals for the first time.
La Rochelle easily brushed the Bok-laden Sale Sharks aside – outscoring them by six tries to two, to win 45-21.
Apart from the tries they scored – two by Rhule (two) and one by Leyds – the Bok duo also set up centre Geoffrey Doumayrou for his two tries.
Rhule was named the Man of the Match for his contribution.
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“It’s a reward for the players – to create a little bit of history for themselves and write a new chapter in this proud club’s history,” said La Rochelle coach Jonno Gibbes.
“Going into the semifinal for the first time will be a massive challenge.”
La Rochelle, who are currently second in the Top 14, are guaranteed to be joined by two other French teams as Sunday’s ties see Bordeaux-Begles host last year’s beaten finalists Racing 92, while four-time champions Toulouse travel to Clermont.
Sale struggled to play the ‘heavy metal rugby’ that coach Alex Sanderson had promised.
“It’s a learning curve and you’ve got to lose them to win them,” said Sanderson at the end.
The hosts pulled away in the early stages of the second half to secure their maiden spot in the last four, having led 18-16 at the break.
The opening half-hour saw the two sides trade a pair of three-pointers through Ihaia West and AJ MacGinty, before La Rochelle grabbed the opening try through Gregory Alldritt.
It came from West who kicked wide left with advantage being played and found the former All Black Victor Vito who spun away and releases Alldritt for a beautiful score.
MacGinty slotted over a penalty to cut the gap but Dillyn Leyds soon scored a try to again stretch the lead out to nine before Sale hit back on half-time.
It was delightful work from Byron McGuigan, who beat his man on the outside, stepped back inside and found Sam James who could stroll over and score a pivotal five-pointer.
La Rochelle took full control at the start of the second half, with Raymond Rhule scoring a brace of tries to nudge the hosts’ lead out to 14 points.
Rhule then turned provider with a wonderful run and pass inside to Geoffrey Doumayrou who would escape the final man and score at the posts to push La Rochelle further in front.
The centre then added his second of the afternoon as Leyds found Doumayrou after a nice line break and he sprinted all the way to the line ahead of a tiring Sale defence.
Byron McGuigan scored a consolation try for Sale with two minutes to play, but it is the French side who take their spot in next month’s Champions Cup semifinals.
for La Rochelle
Tries: Alldritt, Leyds, Rhule 2, Doumayrou 2
Cons: West 3
Pens: West 3
For Sale Sharks
Tries: James, McGuigan
Pens: MacGinty 3
La Rochelle: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Tawera Kerr Barlow, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Grégory Alldritt, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Romain Sazy (captain), 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Pierre Bourgarit, 1 Reda Wardi.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Arthur Joly, 19 Thomas Lavault, 20 Wiaan Liebenberg, 21 Thomas Berjon, 22 Jules Favre, 23 Pierre Aguillon.
Sale Sharks: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Sam James, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 Josh Beaumont (captain), 4 Jacobus Wiese, 3 Willgriff John, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Bevan Rodd.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 James Phillips, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Raphael Quirke, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Luke James.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Pierre Brousset (France), Thomas Charabas (France)
TMO: Brian MacNiece (Ireland)
- Additional reporting by @ChampionsCup