Leinster gain revenge on holders La Rochelle to reach Champions Cup semis

rugby13 April 2024 18:55| © AFP

Ireland winer James Lowe scored twice as Leinster hammered holders La Rochelle 40-13 on Saturday to claim revenge for two Champions Cup final defeats and reached the last four.

The Irish province crossed for five tries in Dublin in a dominant display to set-up a semifinal, on the weekend of May 3-5, against Northampton or the Bulls, who meet in England later in the day.

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

La Rochelle, coached by former Ireland and Munster fly-half 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 Leo Cullen's team. Leinster 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 halftime.

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