Ronan O'Gara guides La Rochelle into Champions Cup final 

Leinster were hot favourites but wilted in the French sunshine
Ronan O'Gara guides La Rochelle into Champions Cup final 

La Rochelle head coach Ronan O'Gara warms up before the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final against Leinster. Picture: Julien Poupart/Sportsfile

La Rochelle 32 Leinster 23

RONAN O'Gara's development as a rugby coach of note continued on Sunday, as his La Rochelle side reached their first Champions Cup final.

A deserved win over Leinster at Stade Marcel Deflandre saw them recover from 7-0 and a man down after eight minutes to crush the Irish side's dreams.

Still in contention for Top 14 honours in France, La Rochelle will contest an all-French final at Twickenham on May 22 against Toulouse, who like Leinster have four European Cups, but hadn't appeared in the decider since 2010.

The Blues' record in France at this stage is poor, just one semi-final victory in the previous four attempts, while the loss of captain Johnny Sexton beforehand through injury didn't help Leo Cullen's charges.

La Rochelle's Raymond Rhule competes in the air with Jordan Larmour of Leinster. Picture: INPHO/Dave Winter
La Rochelle's Raymond Rhule competes in the air with Jordan Larmour of Leinster. Picture: INPHO/Dave Winter

LA ROCHELLE: B Dulin; D Leyds, G Doumayrou, L Botia (P Aguillon, 48), R Rhule; I West (J Plisson, 75), T Kerr-Barlow (A Retiere, 75); R Wardi (D Priso, 52), P Bourgarit (F Bosch, 70), U Atonio (A Joly, 67); R Sazy - captain, W Skelton; G Alldritt, W Liebenberg (V Vito, 61) V Vito (K Gourdon, 52 - blood).

LEINSTER: H Keenan; J Larmour (R O’Loughlin, 75), G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; R Byrne, L McGrath - captain; C Healy (E Byrne, 56), R Kelleher, T Furlong (A Porter, 56); D Toner (S Fardy, 72), J Ryan; R Ruddock (R Baird, 28), J van der Flier, J Conan.

Referee: Matthew Carley (England).

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