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19th Jun 2023

“The better team lost” – Ronan O’Gara stung after brutal Top 14 defeat

Patrick McCarry

Ronan O'Gara

The Cork native has been criticised, in some quarters, for speaking his mind after a wretched finish.

On Saturday night in Paris, as Toulouse celebrated, we were met with images of Gregory Alldritt’s thousand-yard stare, Dillyn Leyds being led off the pitch in tears and the stoic, stewing face of Ronan O’Gara.

La Rochelle are the best team in Europe but they can not get over the hump in France. In their 2021 Top 14 final against, they could have few complaints after losing. Two years later, now two-time Champions Cup winners, they could have plenty.

They may have fallen 13-3 behind but they pulsed and pushed back into the final and deservedly hit the front, early in the second half. They could have been out of sight had Antoine Halstoy had knocked over a couple of first half penalties that you would usually back him to get.

They were mullering Toulouse at every scrum but Ugo Mola’s side were just about in touch, thanks to the boot of Thomas Ramos. La Rochelle led by four points with 140 seconds to go but Romain Ntamack took matters into his own hands and left UJ Seuteni, Leyds and Brice Dulin in his wake to score the game-winner.

Following his side’s gut-wrenching 29-26 defeat – denying La Rochelle their first league title and delivering Toulouse’s 22nd – Ronan O’Gara complimented the “exceptional” Romain Ntamack but he was criticised by some for his take on the victors.

“There was not much difference between the two teams. Maybe it is okay to say the better team lost.”

Past Ronan O’Gara run-ins with Ugo Mola

What will have stuck in the craw of Ronan O’Gara was the fact that Toulouse head coach Ugo Mola was left with the last laugh.

The pair have clashed in the past , on the sidelines, and when Mola opined on La Rochelle, ahead of the Top 14 semi-finals, O’Gara told the media he was not, and will be, interested in what the Frenchman has to say about his team.

@sportsjoedotie Ronan O’Gara getting into it with Toulouse coach! ? #ronanogara #ROG #toulouse #larochelle #top14 #rugbyunion #rugby #fyp #clash ? @premiersportstv ♬ original sound – SportsJOE

There is a huge, huge degree of truth to what Ronan O’Gara had to say about the final’s deserving winners, but you could tell that sense of shock and brooding had not fully cleared.

While La Rochelle can claim they do not have a true rivalry with Leinster as they are recently 3-0 against them, Toulouse can say the same about O’Gara’s side. Interestingly, Leinster have completely had Toulouse’s number over the past two seasons.

We have a real elite rugby love triangle.

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