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21st May 2023

“At 17-0, you’re not a long way from getting hosed” – ROG and Alldritt on La Rochelle comeback

Patrick McCarry

Gregory Alldritt

In the lead-up to the Champions Cup final, Ronan O’Gara wanted his players to be aware of all possibilities.

La Rochelle, led by their talismanic captain Gregory Alldritt, knew full well what they were capable of but O’Gara wanted to stress that Leinster would be haring out of the gate.

As it turned out, Leinster exceeded even their own expectations in the opening 15 minutes. They scored three tries, forced a La Rochelle sin-binning and looked to be one more score from racing out of sight. Crucially, though, the French side would win that 10 minute period 7-5, when they had a player less.

When Tawera Kerr-Barlow returned to the fray, his team had a foot-hold and were starting to climb back.

Following his team’s incredible 27-26 victory, Alldritt spoke about what he had told his teammates before the game, and under the posts after Dan Sheehan’s second try:

“I said to the guys, even if it is 20-0 after 20 minutes – or 17-0! – just stick to the strategy… As we stood under the posts after their third score, it was either them scoring again or us scoring and getting right back in the game. We did [through Jonathan Danty], and it was 17-7.”

Gregory AlldrittLa Rochelle head coach Ronan O’Gara and captain Grégory Alldritt after the Heineken Champions Cup Final, at Aviva Stadium. (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile)

‘I thought I had reached the top, but it keeps going’ – Gregory Alldritt

“It was an incredible match,” Gregory Alldritt reflected. “We really showed our character.

“To win in this way, it really was tremendous. We have to get back and see our old port, again, packed full of supporters to really believe this has happened. I thought I had reached the top, but it keeps going.”

La Rochelle head coach Ronan O’Gara praised the character and fight shown by his team. “It was incredibly tough,” he commented.

“We were getting steam-rolled by an impressive team… I knew [Leinster backs coach Andrew Goodman] Goody would have something up his sleeve but I was wasn’t expecting that [lineout move for Dan Sheehan’s opening try].

“At 17-0, you’re not a long way from getting hosed… it was easy to jump ship today, but they did the opposite. It was a real 23-man effort. Exceptional. I think these guys are world champions.”

“Especially after one minute, 7-0, is not an ideal beginning!” O’Gara remarked.

“During the week, we looked at different scenarios, even going behind… the Leinster team were possessed. Jamison Gibson-Park coming out of the line with an offensive tackle just showed you that… but we never panic. Just one or two silly mistakes that loosened the pressure… in the second half, that pressure really paid off.”

Beside O’Gara and Alldritt was long-time club captain, now the senior figure and custodian for the side – Romain Sazy.

“I can tell you,” he declared, “I’m playing with friends. I’m playing with brothers.”


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