La Rochelle, winner of Racing 92 (20-13) after a tough match in the semi-finals on Sunday in Lens, will replay a second European Cup final in a row, on May 28 in Marseille, against the province Irish from Leinster. The Maritimes will have a hard time facing Leinster, four-time European champions and who will have only one objective at the Vélodrome stadium: to equal the five continental titles of Stade Toulousain, which the Irish crushed on Saturday in Dublin (40-17) in the other semi-final. But until then, back to the Top 14, with the reception of the French Stadium for La Rochelle next Saturday and the trip to Montpellier for Racing 92.
The meeting, disjointed, even muddled, chopped up by numerous faults (nearly 31 penalties in all!) and time outs, was not at the level of the semi-final the day before at Aviva Stadium. The two teams, both in search of a first European star on their jersey, do not have the same pedigree: if the Ile-de-France club is a regular, three times finalist (2016, 2018, 2020), the Maritimes only live their second Champions Cup campaign. Last year, the club at La Caravelle, finalist of the European Challenge in 2019, had climbed to the final of the European Cup, lost to Stade Toulousain, before failing again against the Rouge et Noir in the final. of the Top 14.
On May 28 in Marseille, the Rochelais will therefore have a new opportunity to concretize their impressive dynamic for a few seasons, because as their New Zealand third line Victor Vito said again this week, it’s all well and good all these finals, but “we has never won anything yet!”. However, the Rochelais are hungry, very hungry to obtain a title. And since this year in the league, it’s less than last season (7th, 62 points), why not believe in Europe?
The meeting, which was not full, only 15,522 spectators having made the trip to the half-empty Bollaert-Delelis stadium, took place in hot and moist weather which marked the bodies, causing cramps and slowing the game. It was not until the 26th minute that, against the course of the match, Racing 92 scored the first try of the match, through its international center Virimi Vakatawa (10-0).
The Rochelais, after several scrums in the five meters Ile-de-France, ended up being rewarded for their domination, thanks to a try from their captain, the third line Grégory Alldritt, just before the break (10-8). Returning from the locker room, while Racing 92 was outnumbered following the yellow card of its hooker Camille Chat, the Maritimes benefited from a penalty try whistled by the English referee Matthew Carley, doubled by a second yellow card sent to Racingman Cedate Gomes Sa.
The Ile-de-France, reduced to 13 and led (13-15) for the first time in the meeting, could have regained the advantage if their scrum half Nolann Le Garrec had not missed two penalties in quick succession. The second half, disjointed, even messy, was only saved by this last-minute try from the New Zealand opener from La Rochelle, Ihaia West, unhappy in front of the poles (two penalties and a failed conversion), relieved to end his performance in this way.