The Citizen (KZN)

Leinster coach is very chuffed


Paris – Leinster director of rugby Leo Cullen said he was “delighted” after his side hammered holders La Rochelle 40-13 on Saturday to claim revenge for two Champions Cup final defeats and reach the last four of this season’s competitio­n.

The Irish province crossed for five tries in Dublin, including two for winger James Lowe (above), in a dominant display, to set up a semifinal, on the weekend of 3-5 May, against Northampto­n, who hammered the Bulls 59-22.

Two-time holders La Rochelle beat Leinster in classic finals in 2022 and 2023 but Cullen’s fourtime winners won earlier in the season in the group stages.

“There was a fair bit of hype around the game,” Cullen told RTE.

“Two good teams going hard at it and our guys were delighted to get the win. It’s job done and onto the next one,” he added.

La Rochelle, coached by former Ireland and Munster flyhalf Ronan O’Gara, had spent the week training in Cork following last Saturday’s last-16 victory at the Stormers.

Leinster, who eased past Leicester to reach the quarterfin­als, started youngster Ciaran Frawley at full-back after Hugo Keenan withdrew injured hours before kick-off.

The late change had little impact on Cullen’s team as they led 10-0 after 19 minutes as Lowe scored his first try and Ross Byrne added a conversion and a penalty.

Leinster extended their lead to 23-6 with scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park following Lowe over the whitewash. Byrne slotted a conversion and two penalties.

Fly-half Antoine Hastoy kicked two penalties for the visitors, who were a shadow of the side who won at the same ground in last May’s final.

O’Gara’s side kept slim hopes alive at a packed Lansdowne Road as prop Louis Penverne crashed over and Hastoy converted to make it 23-13 at half-time.

La Rochelle’s chances of victory were dashed by the 56th minute as the Irish side’s flanker Ryan Baird and hooker Dan Sheehan scored.

Lowe added his second with a quarter-of-an-hour to play as Leinster eased into the next round as tournament favourites.

Harlequins reached their first Champions Cup semifinal, edging Bordeaux-Begles 42-41 in a breathtaki­ng game in France.

Both sides scored six tries before France scrum-half Maxime Lucu missed a relatively straightfo­rward late conversion. –

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa