Ronan O'Gara standing in Leinster's way again after La Rochelle destroy Exeter
STADE ROCHELAIS 47-28 EXETER
Ronan O'Gara and his La Rochelle side are off to their third successive Champions Cup final, after shredding Exeter Chiefs at Matmut Stadium, in Bordeaux.
Just like Saturday's other Champions Cup final, the underdog started with a big try then got pulled apart for most of the remaining minutes. Sam Simmonds boshed over for an early Exeter try but the reigning champs responded with a Raymond Rhule score.
That was the beginning of the end for a game but limited Exeter side.
By half-time, O'Gara's side were 26-7 to the good, after further tries from UJ Seuteni, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Gregory Alldritt. It was reminiscent to Leinster conceding the first try to Toulouse, on Saturday, and roaring back to lead 27-7, late in the first half.
Ronan O'Gara standing in Leinster's way
Exeter Chiefs, who won the Champions Cup back in 2019, would have known how crucial the first score of the second half would be. La Rochelle were well aware, too.
When Antoine Halstoy's excellent kick found Raymond Rhule in oceans of space, it was a second try try for the South African and effectively game over. Pierre Bougarit crashed over after a rolling maul move and, when Halstoy converted, it was 40-7 after 54 minutes.
Exeter showed some spirit to score three more tries but they were merely consolation efforts. Kerr-Barlow added a second try and it was all said and done.
For the second season in a row, Ronan O'Gara and his La Rochelle side stand in the way of Leinster, Champions Cup glory and that fifth star.
WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY:
- Jack Conan and Dan Sheehan star as Leinster thump Toulouse to set up dream final
- Antoine Dupont answered question about Wayne Barnes the only way he could
- James Lowe pens new contract with Leinster after staggering 18-month stretch
- Brian O’Driscoll puts into words what whole nation is feeling about Johnny Sexton
- The Jacques Nienaber team talk that had Munster players straining at the leash