Champions Cup: La Rochelle steamroll Exeter Chiefs to book another final date with Leinster

·3-min read
La Rochelle wing Raymond Rhule Credit: Alamy
La Rochelle wing Raymond Rhule Credit: Alamy

La Rochelle eased into the final of the Champions Cup after dominating Exeter Chiefs in a seven-try 47-28 win at Matmut Atlantique on Sunday.

A brace apiece from Raymond Rhule and Tawera Kerr-Barlow were added to by crossings from Ulupano Seuteni, Gregory Alldritt and Pierre Bourgarit.

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Antoine Hastoy converted six of those as the reigning champions set up another final date with Leinster, this time at the Aviva Stadium, on May 20.

Sam Simmonds, Josh Iosefa-Scott, Olly Woodburn and Jack Yeandle were Exeter‘s try scorers, with Joe Simmonds converting all four of the crossings.

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Exeter asked all the questions in the early stages in front of a sell-out 41,000 crowd as they looked to counter La Rochelle’s usual fast start, and they were rewarded with an early try.

The Chiefs worked a training ground move from a tap penalty and France-bound Sam Simmonds forced his way over, with brother Joe Simmonds adding the extras.

It was just the start Exeter wanted, but La Rochelle delivered an instant riposte.

Initial good work by captain Alldritt led to fly-half Hastoy chipping the ball over the Chiefs defence for South African winger Rhule to hack the ball on and dot down in the corner, with Hastoy converting to level it all up at 7-7.

The hosts lost influential flanker Levani Botia to a leg injury at the midway point of the half, but they were celebrating their second try moments later.

A period of pressure on the Exeter line saw Alldritt beautifully craft a gap for centre Seuteni to waltz through and score beside the posts, and a simple Hastoy conversion gave La Rochelle a seven-point lead.

Just prior to the half-hour mark, Alldritt had a try ruled out by the Television Match Official for a neck roll, but the Chiefs then suffered a damaging couple of minutes.

First, Scotland international lock Jonny Gray had to be carried off the field with a left ankle injury, and after La Rochelle had kicked a penalty to the corner, hooker Dan Frost was sin-binned by referee Jaco Peyper for pulling down a driving maul.

Alldritt attacked the blindside off the back of a five-metre scrum to get the Champions Cup holders’ third try soon after.

And right on the stroke of half-time, La Rochelle showed their class in attack once again when a superb handling move involving backs and forwards made the most of their one-man advantage and it was finished off behind the posts by scrum-half Kerr-Barlow.

Hastoy slotted the simple conversion and Chiefs were left with a huge mountain to climb after the break at 29-7 down.

The French onslaught continued straight after the interval, and despite the Chiefs being back to full strength, Hastoy’s delicate cross-field kick picked out Rhule to step inside the defender and grab his second try of the game.

Hooker Bourgarit added a sixth touchdown from a driving maul, before Chiefs responded with a try by replacement prop Iosefa-Scott after Sam Simmonds had been tap tackled just short of the line.

Kerr-Barlow grabbed his second try before Exeter’s Woodburn and Yeandle provided late scores for the beaten Chiefs.

READ MORE: Champions Cup: Five takeaways from La Rochelle v Exeter Chiefs as holders power their way to Dublin final

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