Date Time Competition Season
20 May 2023 4:45 pm European Champions Cup 2022/23

Match Report

La Rochelle Fightback To Claim Back To Back Champions Cup Crowns

La Rochelle are European Champions for the second successive season as in a monumental final, they recovered from 17-0 down to snatch victory by one precious point, 26-27.

This final was eagerly awaited by any rugby fan for the sheer quality of both sides, and it lived up to its hype in the first forty minutes alone, a helter-skelter half comprising of 37 points on both sides!

Within a minute, an already adrenaline-fuelled Aviva was on its feet in delight, Dan Sheehan sprinting in after jack Conan freed him, Ross Byrne converting as La Rochelle were caught cold.

It was an unrelenting sea of blue shirts attacking and they profited once again with an emphatic try.  Jimmy O’Brien finishing fabulously in the corner after the forwards did the grunt work to free half backs Jamison Gibson-Park and Byrne to send O’Brien scampering in.

Visiting scrum half Tawera Kerr-Barlow then saw yellow by referee Jaco Peyper and less than a minute later, instigated by a rapid Gibson-Park penalty tap and go, Sheehan scorched across for his second try of the game, with only twelve minutes played!

Byrne’s two conversions struck the post in the only early luck La Rochelle were afforded.

The defending Champions soon found their feet though and with a dominant scrum, always had a platform to attack.  Inside Centre Jonathan Danty finished ferociously from the twenty-two, Antoine Hastoy bringing it back to ten points, 17-7 after twenty minutes.

A spout of handbags ensued in-between two ruthlessly slotted penalties from Byrne as Leinster threatened to run away with the score.

Yet, it was Ronan O’Gara’s men on top as the break loomed, Hastoy freeing their other Centre, Ulupano Seutini, who tidily trotted over, the French fly-half converting to leave it 23-14 after a breathlessly fun first half.

Hastoy and Byrne exchanged penalties early in the second half before Hastoy’s second nudged La Rochelle within striking distance at 26-20.

If the first half could (debatably) be deemed ‘Leinsters’, the second, undoubtedly, belonged to Ronan O’Gara’s defending Champions, who just like last year, patiently chipped away at Leinster’s lead and demonstrated ultimate courageous confidence by repeatedly choosing the corner, the try, instead of straightforward three points.

And fortune finally favoured their bravery, in the seventy-second minute, replacement Prop, George Henri-Colombe etched himself into the Champions Cup history chapters, stretching out superbly after a big surge, backed up by his buoyant (sensing blood) teammates. 

Even more important was to come as Hastoy lined up the pivotal conversion.  Pressure?  What pressure?  Hastoy struck it sweetly and for the first time, from the brink of oblivion at seventeen points down, La Rochelle led with seven minutes left.

Rubbing salt in the wound was Sheehan’s replacement, Ronan Kelliher, getting sin binned himself, it only illuminated Sheehan’s importance to Leinster.

As the Aviva crowd, apart from the disbelieving gleeful section of La Rochelle fans, slumped back in stunned silence, Leinster won a penalty with five minutes to go and kicked to the corner, with Byrne feeling it was too far out to kick at goal.

From there what ensued was a barrage of blue shirts piling into yellow before Peyper made a decisive, and fully correct to his credit, call.

Michael Alaatoa spotted by the TMO to have led with an elbow, an atrociously dangerous act and worthy of the red card brandished his way. 

The stark contrast of the impact between the respective substitute Props was undeniable.

With that, La Rochelle manged a nerve-shredding spell professionally and booted it out to spark the ultimate contrast of emotions.

Leinster players in tears at their second last-gasp, agonising one-point knockout rugby defeat in two weeks that has abruptly curtailed their (previously) undefeated season to leave them, to general astoundment, trophyless again.

La Rochelle retain their crown and with the guts, game-management and everything else they displayed in their fantastic fightback, deservedly are 2023’s Rugby Kings of Europe, Leinster looking certain but ultimately unable to dethrone them.


15Hugo Keenan Full-Back
14Jimmy O’Brien Winger 7'
13Garry Ringrose Centre
12Robbie Henshaw 23 Centre
11James Lowe Winger
10Ross Byrne Fly-Half 2'
24', 31', 47'
9Jamison Gibson-Park 21 Scrum-Half
1Andrew Porter 17 Prop
2Dan Sheehan 16 Hooker 1', 12'
3Tadhg Furlong 18 Prop
4Ross Molony Lock
5James Ryan 19 Lock
6Caelan Doris Flanker
7Josh Van Der Flier Flanker
8Jack Conan 20 No. 8
16Ronan Kelleher 2 Hooker 72'
17Cian Healy 1 Prop
18Michael Alaalatoa 3 Prop 79'
19Jason Jenkins 5 Lock
20Ryan Baird 8 Lock
21Luke McGrath 9 Scrum-Half
22Ciaran Frawley Fly-Half
23Charlie Ngatai 12 Centre

La Rochelle

15Brice Dulin Full-Back
14Dillyn Leyds Winger
13Ulupano Seuteni Centre 38'
12Jonathan Danty Centre 20'
11Raymond Rhule Winger
10Antoine Hastoy Fly-Half 21', 39', 73'
44', 50'
9Tawera Kerr-Barlow Scrum-Half 11'
1Reda Wardi 17 Prop
2Pierre Bourgarit 16 Hooker
3Uini Atonio 18 Prop
4Romain Sazy 19 Lock
5Will Skelton Lock
6Paul Boudehent 21 Flanker
7Levani Botia Flanker
8Gregory Alldritt No. 8
16Quentin Lespiaucq 2
17Joel Sclavi 1 Prop
18George-Henri Colombe 3 Prop 72'
19Thomas Lavault 4
20Remi Bourdeau
21Ultan Dillane 6 Lock
22Thomas Berjon
23Jules Favre

Past Meetings

21 - 24
European Champions Cup
Stade Velodrome, Marseille

Leinster v La Rochelle


Aviva Stadium
Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Sandymount, Pembroke West ED, Dublin, County Dublin, Leinster, D04 CA43, Ireland