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Sexton vs ROG Once More, But Leinster Won't Be Worried After La Rochelle Performance

Sexton vs ROG Once More, But Leinster Won't Be Worried After La Rochelle Performance
By Colman Stanley

One of the great rivalries in Irish sport will once again write a new chapter when Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle meet Johnny Sexton’s Leinster in the Champions Cup final in Marseille on May 28th.

After an imperious performance from Leinster in their 40-17 win over Toulouse yesterday, La Rochelle followed suit with a 20-13 win today over Racing 92, albeit with a much more subdued performance.

The Sexton/ROG relationship has been well documented over the years. From their bitter hatred early on in Sexton’s career, to their player/coach partnership at Racing 92, and finally as great friends.

Leinster vs La Rochelle Final

La Rochelle’s win today was hard fought against Europe’s perennial ‘so near but yet so far’ team, but will not have worried Leinster in the slightest as it was littered with errors and sloppiness.

In the Virgin Media studios, Shane Horgan did not hold back in his assessment of the two sides.

I actually can’t believe how sloppy both sides were in a semi-final of Europe.

“Maybe nerves manifest in different ways. I think there’s an element of fatigue, but there was so many balls just thrown around.

“Just no respect for the ball whatsoever, just toss it around. How many balls went on the deck, out the back. Poor options with kicking, turnover after turnover, not committing to the rucks. It was a really really shambolic performance by both of them. But there was a resilience there from La Rochelle, because the game should have slipped away from them but they got back into it at the start of the second half.”

It is La Rochelle’s second Champions Cup final in a row after last year’s loss to Toulouse, while they also lost to the same side in last season’s Top 14 final, and Matt Williams acknowledged the impressive job O’Gara has done as head coach.

“Hugely impressive. And I think what Ronan really shows is that it takes a special mindset to win in Europe, and if your leader has that mindset and says ‘this is highly valuable to us, I want to win it, it’s good for the club’, and shows that mindset.”

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However, as Rob Kearney alluded to, Leinster will be under no illusions despite La Rochelle’s lacklustre performance, and made the point that it will be a much different side that shows up in Marseille.

Leinster will also have the memory of last year’s semi-final loss to La Rochelle fresh in their minds, and the dominance with which the French side played that day.

See Also: Ridiculous Pass From Tadhg Furlong Before Dupont Breakaway Try

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