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06th Apr 2024

Ronan O’Gara and La Rochelle march on after incredible finish in Cape Town

Patrick McCarry

La Rochelle


Ronan O’Gara made a point of seeking out Springbok star Mannie Libbok after his La Rochelle side survived a wild finish in Cape Town.

Stormers, the 2022 URC champions, went into a 16-0 lead against the reigning, back-to-back Champions Cup title-holders. Injuries plagued them throughout, however, and the French side rallied to lead 22-16 in the closing stages.

Antoine Halstoy was wide left with a conversion attempt that would have made it an eight-point lead. Stormers found enough in the tank to surge back up the pitch and put themselves in scoring position.

Dillyn Leyds was sin-binned, leaving O’Gara’s men with 14 men left to batten down the hatches. After La Rochelle drove the South African’s back, it took a delightful Libbok cross-field kick to Suleiman Hartzenberg to get the Stormers back within a point and give Libbok the chance to eliminate the champs.

Libbok was kicking into a strong wind, so why he tried to go for extra height was mystifying. His kick was caught by the wind and hooked wide and left, as Stormers heads dropped and La Rochelle players celebrated.

O’Gara headed out onto the pitch to congratulate his players, and to console some of the more stunned Stormers players. As a former outhalf who made and missed plenty of big, pressure kicks in his playing career, the Cork native could emphatise with Libbok.

La Rochelle are still unbeaten in knock-out Champions Cup rugby since May 2021. Should Leinster defeat Leicester Tigers on Saturday night, they will host La Rochelle at Croke Park in the Champions Cup quarter finals, next weekend.

On Friday night, Harlequins became the first side to reach the Champions Cup last eight as they defeated Glasgow Warriors:

Bulls dismantled Lyon to kick off Saturday in thumping style.

Exeter Chiefs overcame Bath after coming from behind, thanks to two converted second half tries.


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