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Rugby

20th May 2023

Ronan O’Gara puts rivalries to one side with class full-time gesture

Patrick McCarry

Ronan O'Gara

It was a raw, personal moment after an utterly mad game.

As the full-time whistle sounded at Aviva Stadium, Ronan O’Gara was mobbed by his backroom staff inside the coach’s box.

O’Gara had just masterminded La Rochelle’s second straight Champions Cup triumph – their first two major trophies in rugby – and all from as deficit of 17 points after a brilliant Leinster start.

La Rochelle conceded three quick tries and had a man in the sin-bin with the Dublin stadium pulsing and heaving. From that 17-0 hole, the reigning champions climbed free. By the final whistle, they had won 27-26 to claim back-to-back trophies.

“YES,” O’Gara roared, as he was joyously set upon. “F**KING YES!”

Class gesture from Ronan O’Gara

Leinster had been reduced to 14 men for the closing stages, after Rónan Kelleher was sin-binned, but they did well to roar back and get within scoring range in the final minutes.

Ross Byrne elected not to take a distance penalty so Leinster went for touch and went through the phases. Just as it looked like La Rochelle might crack, Leinster prop Michael Ala’alatoa did.

The Television Match Official alerted referee Jaco Peyper to a no-arm Ala’alatoa clear-out attempt that sparked out a La Rochelle player. From a promising attacking position, the tighthead had a penalty awarded against him and was red-carded. With less than two minutes left on the clock, it was effectively game over.

Leinster’s players were crestfallen at the final whistle, but Ronan O’Gara made it his purpose to go and shake hands with each and every one of them – before he went to celebrate with his team. Having lost European Cup finals as a player, he will know all too well of the gnawing heartache the

Notably, he spend several moments speaking with Michael Ala’alatoa. The pair embraced and the Leinster forward was left with a consoling slap on the back. It was a genuine moment between the pair as sporting rivalries were put aside, with Ala’alatoa asking after the injured player. Following the game, O’Gara told us:

“It’s very unfortunate for Michael Ala’alatoa. You’ve got to come in at pace to shift the body… he just came in at the wrong angle. It is desperately disappointing for him as he’s a really good guy. He plays with a bit of aggression but not like that.”

There was plenty of time to celebrate, though.

As O’Gara spoke, pitch-side, with RTE, his La Rochelle players showered him in beer before high-tailing it:

Four European/Champions Cup trophies as a player and coach. Some going.

WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY ON THE CHAMPIONS CUP FINAL

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