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17th Jun 2023

“This is madness!” – Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle stunned at the death in Top 14 Final

Patrick McCarry

Romain Ntamack

TOULOUSE 29-26 LA ROCHELLE

Romain Ntamack went from villain to hero in the space of four wild minutes in the Top 14 final at Stade de France.

La Rochelle, coached by Ronan O’Gara, looked set to win the Top 14 title for the first time in their history and, with it, an historic double. Up until the 77th minute, they were looking good for it. Then, an Ntamack line break that left Stade Rochelais stunned.

The first 20 minutes of the game was played at a frantic pace. Antoine Halstoy and Thomas Ramos both missed kicks before trading penalties, with Toulose 6-3 to the good. A costly Jonathan Danty knock-on was snatched up by Romain Ntamack and, a few phases later, Toulouse were over in the corner, with Ramos converting.

Halstoy missed another get-able penalty before La Rochelle’s power pack started to hum. They worked their way up the pitch, won a handy penalty that Halstoy dinked over then piled forward after a Toulouse knock-on inside their 22. There were severals raps at the Toulouse door before Tawera Kerr-Barlow jinked and stretched over from close range.

La Rochelle had levelled it at 13-13 by half-time and hit the front when Uini Atonio ploughed over for a score that Halstoy converted. Spurred on by Antoine Dupont, Toulouse responded and Ramos kicked successive penalties. Halstoy and Ramos traded penalties again and it was 26-22 to the reigning European champions with six minutes to go.

Ntamack blew the chance for an attacking lineout inside to La Rochelle 22 when he put to much on his kick for touch. It looked like it would cost his team dearly and mean Toulouse had to go for broke from all angles.

Just as La Rochelle looked set to clinch the title, Romain Ntamack stepped up with a crucial line break, slipping away from Dillyn Leyds, and a 60-metre dash for the game-winning try.

“Have you ever seen the likes?” declared the commentator. “This is madness.”

There was only time for a restart but Toulouse secured the ball and it was left to Ntamack to hoof it out and secure victory.

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