West books La Rochelle's date with Leinster
MATCH REPORT: New Zealand import Ihaia West scored right on the full-time hooter to seal a 20-13 win for La Rochelle over Racing 92 in their Champions Cup semifinal in Lens on Sunday.
West failed miserably with the boot – landing just one kick at goal, but scored the try the put the result beyond doubt.
Stade Rochelais outscored their opponents by three tries to one – including a penalty try that resulted in Racing being reduced to 13 players, with Camille Chat and Yoan Tanga being sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements.
The result will see La Rochelle face-off with Leinster at Stade Vélodrome, Marseille, on Saturday, May 28, in the Final.
* To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!
La Rochelle, who have now reached successive Champions Cup finals, were 10 points down to their Top 14 rivals in the first half, but Grégory Alldritt’s score and a penalty try, in addition to the eight points from West, turned things around.
Racing led through Virimi Vakatawa’s try, with two penalties from Nolann Le Garrec initially helping to keep La Rochelle at bay, before a sloppy second half display saw them overhauled.
There was little to separate the two sides during the opening exchanges, with Racing marginally ahead for much of the opening 25 minutes thanks to the first of scrumhalf Le Garrec’s penalties.
La Rochelle threatened but were unable to put points on the board as flyhalf West shanked a penalty wide before wing Raymond Rhule had a score ruled out by the TMO.
Racing then notched the game’s first try as centre Vakatawa danced through the La Rochelle defence and reached out to plant down, Le Garrec’s conversion moving the hosts 10 points clear.
West narrowed the gap with a penalty on 32 minutes, and La Rochelle would go into the break just two points down as No.8 Alldritt powered over off the base of a scrum following an extended period of pressure from the visitors at the end of the half.
West was unable to level the scores with the conversion, and he was off target with another effort from the tee five minutes into the second half as he struck the posts with a penalty from a good position.
Le Garrec then added his second three-pointer of the game to extend Racing’s lead on 50 minutes, but they would endure a disastrous few minutes after that score as they were reduced to 13 men and conceded a penalty try.
Replacement hooker Camille Chat was shown a yellow card for an accumulation of offences, and when a La Rochelle maul was brought down metres from the Racing line, the penalty try was awarded, with No.8 Yoan Tanga also sent to the sin bin.
But Racing survived the remainder of the period without conceding, with Le Garrec sending two long-range penalties wide as they ran down the clock.
The home side then went on the offensive and got over the whitewash on 66 minutes, only for them to be held up amid some excellent La Rochelle defence.
Replacement flyhalf Pierre Popelin was well short with a penalty attempt from inside his own half as La Rochelle looked to widen the gap, but it would prove insignificant.
The away side ended the game in the ascendancy as they ran down the clock on the Racing line, with West then capping a terrific day for his team as he dived over to dot down in the corner.
For Racing 92
Con: Le Garrec
Pens: Le Garrec 2
For La Rochelle:
Tries: Alldritt, Penalty try, West
Cons: Penalty try does not require a conversion
Yellow cards: Camille Chat (Racing 92, 52 – repeated infringements, playing the scrumhalf without the ball), Yoan Tanga (Racing 92, 53 – repeated infringements, illegally collapsing the maul)
Racing 92: 15 Max Spring, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Gael Fickou (captain), 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Nolann Le Garrec, 8 Yoan Tanga, 7 Ibrahim Diallo, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Bernard Le Roux, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Teddy Baubigny, 1 Guram Gogichashvili
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Cedate Gomes Sa, 19 Baptiste Pesenti, 20 Boris Palu, 21 Maxime Machenaud, 22 Antoine Gibert, 23 Henry Chavancy
La Rochelle: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Jules Favre, 13 Jérémy Sinzelle, 12 Jonathan Danty, 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 Levani Botia, 23 Pierre Popelin
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Luke Pearce (England) & Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
TMO: Ian Tempest (England)