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Leinster Rugby will be aiming for a record-equalling fifth European star when they clash with Stade Rochelais in the Heineken Champions Cup final at Stade Vélodrome on Saturday.
The two sides have met just once before in the Heineken Champions Cup, with La Rochelle triumphing 32-23 in last season’s semi-finals.
It will be the fifth time that an Irish team has faced a TOP 14 club in the European Cup final, with Irish sides having won on each of the previous four occasions.
It is Leinster’s sixth European Cup final, with Saracens handing the Irish province their only defeat in the showpiece game in 2019.
Meanwhile, La Rochelle have won two of their previous three games against Irish opposition in the competition, with both those successes coming on French soil.
The game in Marseille kicks off at 16:45 (UK & Irish time) and will be available to watch on BT Sport, Channel 4, Virgin Media, beIN SPORTS, France 2 and Sky Italia.
Leinster: 4th, Pool A
La Rochelle: 3rd, Pool A
Leinster Rugby 40 Stade Toulousain 17
Racing 92 13 Stade Rochelais 20
Heineken Champions Cup head-to-head record
Leinster wins: 0
La Rochelle wins: 1
Leading 2021/22 points-scorers
Leinster: Johnny Sexton (65)
La Rochelle: Ihaia West (67)
Josh van der Flier (Leinster flanker): “There’s a hunger, certainly, in the team to go back there and to win it. I wouldn’t say we feel a huge amount of pressure because obviously it’s such a hard thing to win.
“Looking at the team and the squad, there’s a lot of us on the team who wouldn’t have played in a European final before. It’s certainly not something that we’re used to, so it’s very, very exciting.”
Ronan O’Gara (La Rochelle head coach): “We will have to impose our game on them and after that it will be important to occupy and play in their zone. Because when they get within 22 meters, it’s a tough team to stop. They are very clean in their structure. It’s important to control the ball well.”
It all comes down to this 🏆
Watch @leinsterrugby v @staderochelais live on @francetvsport, @beinsports_FR, @btsportrugby, @C4Sport & @VMSportIE 📺#HeinekenChampionsCup Final tickets ➡️ https://t.co/2uBVJ8RagM pic.twitter.com/4buKAj4I0t
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 23, 2022
Other key stats
- Leinster would equal Toulouse’s record of five European Cup titles should they defeat La Rochelle in Marseille.
- Leinster have won each of their seven matches in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (excl. cancelled fixtures), including their two fixtures against French opposition; the 40 points they scored against Toulouse in the semi-final was the second most by any team at that stage of the competition (Saracens, 46 v ASM Clermont Auvergne in 2013/14).
- La Rochelle will become the seventh side to feature in consecutive European Cup finals (also CA Brive, Leicester Tigers, Stade Toulousain, Leinster, RC Toulon and Saracens).
- La Rochelle have won 11 of their 12 games in the Heineken Champions Cup since the start of last season (L1, excl. cancelled fixtures), with their only defeat in that spell coming in last season’s final (17-22 v Toulouse); they have scored 30+ points in five of their seven games so far this season.
- Leinster boast the quickest average ruck speed of any side in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (2.84s); La Rochelle have recorded the best ruck success rate this season (97%) and have the fifth best ruck speed (3.28s).
- Leinster have averaged the most metres (931), line breaks (10) and passes (184) per game in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, while they also boast the best tackle success rate in the competition (91%); La Rochelle have recorded the third best tackle success rate (89%).
- La Rochelle have spent the highest percentage of time in opposition territory of any club in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (56%), while Leinster have averaged the most 22 entries of any side (15.1) and recorded the most points per 22 entry (3.26).
- Leinster’s James Lowe is the top try-scorer in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (10) and needs just one more try to equal Chris Ashton’s record of 11 tries in a single campaign (2013/14); Lowe has also made more line breaks than any other player in the competition this season (12), while teammate Jimmy O’Brien has made the second most (10).
- La Rochelle’s Gregory Alldritt has made the most carries of any player in the Heineken Champions Cup this season (113), while he ranks second for metres (731), defenders beaten (28), offloads (15) and turnovers won (8) in the competition this season.
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A dramatic, last gasp try from Arthur Retiere saw Stade Rochelais defeat Leinster Rugby 24-21 to lift the Heineken Champions Cup – their first European trophy – at Stade Vélodrome on Saturday.
The TOP 14 side trailed for much of the game but tries from Raymond Rhule and Pierre Bourgarit kept them in touch before replacement Retiere squirmed over late on.
It was heartbreak for Leinster, whose search for a record-equalling fifth European crown goes on, after six penalties from Johnny Sexton and another from Ross Byrne looked to have been enough to see them over the line.
In front of a raucous crowd of 59,682 in Marseille, Leinster were firmly in control over the opening exchanges, fly-half Sexton knocking over two penalties in the first eight minutes.
But on their first meaningful visit to the Leinster half, La Rochelle notched the game’s opening try, with Dillyn Leyds getting his arms free in contact and offloading to wing Rhule, who stepped inside and finished superbly.
WHAT AN OFFLOAD, @staderochelais strike first 🥊
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 28, 2022
Fly-half Ihaia West’s conversion put La Rochelle in front, but despite a promising spell, they fell behind again on 22 minutes as Sexton’s third penalty further punished their ill-discipline without the ball.
La Rochelle threatened over the next 10 minutes but couldn’t find the cutting edge required to cross the whitewash again.
Leinster won a scrum penalty against the head five metres from their own line with three minutes to play in the first half, and they went down the other end to put La Rochelle under pressure again.
Another penalty in front of the posts was dispatched by Sexton in the last action of the first 40 minutes, sending Leinster into the break 12-7 up.
The margin was down to two points seconds into the second half as Leinster conceded a penalty from the kick off and West slotted from the tee.
But Sexton hit back with two more efforts over the next 13 minutes as La Rochelle continued to concede penalties around their 22m.
La Rochelle would cross again on 61 minutes, however, as a maul rumbled over the line and allowed hooker Bourgarit to dot down, West’s conversion moving them to within one point.
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) May 28, 2022
Moments later, La Rochelle lock Thomas Lavault was sent to the sin bin for tripping Leinster scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and replacement fly-half Ross Byrne, who came on after Sexton picked up a knock, kicked the resulting penalty.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, La Rochelle went on the offensive and continued to opt for scrums in front of the Leinster posts as they searched for the try that would put them ahead.
They returned to their full complement with five minutes to go but Leinster’s defence was seemingly unbreachable – that was until the final play of the game when Retiere ducked under a tackle and reached out to plant down.
The TMO confirmed the score was good and West took enough time with the conversion to ensure it was the final act of a thrilling contest.