Stade Rochelais cruise into semifinal
MATCH REPORT: Stade Rochelais went through to the Champions Cup semifinals after prevailing 31-19 winners over fellow TOP 14 side Montpellier Hérault in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
Dany Priso, Victor Vito and Levani Botia all crossed the whitewash at the Stade Marcel Deflandre, with Ihaia West kicking a further 16 points for the hosts.
Montpellier scored tries through Henry Thomas, Yvan Reilhac and Zach Mercer, as Louis Forsans kicked two conversions for last season’s EPCR Challenge Cup winners.
La Rochelle took the lead in the 13th minute when Priso, playing in his final season for the club, was released by Vito to go over under the posts, with West converting the prop’s try.
After assisting Priso, Vito then dived over for a try of his own when a smart offload from Botia found Jules Favre who sent the 35-year-old over for his first Champions Cup points of the season, with West converting again.
Montpellier, however, managed to cut the deficit to 10 points going into half-time as prop Thomas powered over, before Forsans added on the extras.
The visitors then further reduced La Rochelle’s advantage straight after the break as Reilhac benefitted from a mix up between Pierre Bourgarit and Tawera Kerr Barlow to pick up the loose ball and dive over as Forsans kicked another conversion.
La Rochelle quickly responded minutes later through Botia, with the centre showing his strength to hold off a challenge from Montpellier’s Gabriel N’gandebe to power over in the corner, but West failed to improve the try with his conversion attempt.
It would not be too long until Montpellier scored again, as Yacouba Camara and Benoit Paillaugue combined to release Mercer on the left flank for his third Champions Cup try of the season, with Forsans unable to reduce the deficit further.
The hosts thought they had added breathing space between them and Montpellier when replacement Reda Wardi crossed the whitewash, only for his try to be chalked off by the TMO for an offside in the build-up.
However, the hosts would go on to open up a nine-point advantage when West kicked his second and third penalties of the game, with 10 minutes left to play.
The 30-year-old then kicked another three-pointer in the final stages of the game to cement La Rochelle’s semi-final status where they will now face the winner of Racing 92 and Sale Sharks.
For Stade Rochelais
Tries: Priso, Vito, Botia
Cons: West 2
Pens: West 4
For Montpellier Hérault
Tries: Thomas, Reilhac, Mercer
Cons: Foursans 2
Stade Rochelais: 15 Jérémy Sinzelle, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jonathan Danty, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Tawera Kerr Barlow, 8 Grégory Alldritt (captain), 7 Victor Vito, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Rémi Picquette, 4 Thomas Lavault, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Pierre Bourgarit, 1 Dany Priso.
Replacements: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Reda Wardi, 18 Joel Sclavi, 19 Romain Sazy, 20 Matthias Haddad, 21 Arthur Retiere, 22 Jules Favre, 23 Pierre Popelin.
Montpellier Hérault: 15 Julien Tisseron, 14 Vincent Rattez, 13 Yvan Reilhac, 12 Handré Pollard, 11 Gabriel N’gandebe, 10 Louis Foursans, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Yacouba Camara (captain), 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Bastien Chalureau, 4 Florian Verhaeghe, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Enzo Forletta.
Replacements: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Robert Rodgers, 18 Yannick Arroyo, 19 Kelian Galletier, 20 Gela Aprasidze, 21 Thomas Darmon, 22 Mickael Capelli, 23 Masivesi Dakuwaqa.
Referee: Karl Dickson (England)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Andrew Jackson (England)
TMO: Tom Foley (England)