European Professional Club Rugby

La Rochelle Overpower Exeter En-Route To Third Straight Champions Cup Final

La Rochelle Overpower Exeter En-Route To Third Straight Champions Cup Final

La Rochelle defeat Exeter Chiefs in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals to set-up a repeat of the 2022 final with Leinster Rugby in Dublin.

Apr 30, 2023 by Philip Bendon
La Rochelle Overpower Exeter En-Route To Third Straight Champions Cup Final

 La Rochelle laid down a marker in their bid to retain the Heineken Champions Cup with a dominant 47 – 28 defeat of 2019/20 champions Exeter Chiefs in Bordeaux. 

Ruthlessly efficient, dominant in the forward exchanges and on another level at set piece time, Ronan O’Gara’s side will face Leinster for the second year running in the final. 

Now clearly one of the foremost teams in European Rugby, La Rochelle’s appearance in a third successive final is a remarkable feat given the club was in the French second division as recently as 2014. 

Dominant from the off, La Rochelle flexed their muscles with seven tries, with former All Black scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Springbok wing Raymond Rhule each nabbing a brace. 

Exeter showed their spirit in continually fighting back and scored four tries of their own but were clearly overpowered by their hosts. 

Speaking post-match, La Rochelle secondrow Will Skelton said: “We are extremely proud, the fans brought us home. We knew what Exeter would bring, and we had a tough week in training, but we're extremely proud. 

"We try to play to our strengths, and a lot of people say we are not the fittest team, so to put 40 points on the board is a nice feeling." 

Having the last word for the Chiefs was winger Jack Nowell who has signed for La Rochelle for next season. 

"They are an unbelievable team; it was tough to come here, but we have no excuses. We should not have had that yellow card; we have to work on our discipline. 

"I am devastated (being so far behind), but it shows the belief in this team. When you give such a big lead, it is hard to come back from.

"We will talk about finishing on a high, we have been so much together, we want to finish on a high and put some smiles in a few faces," Nowell concluded. 

With just one round of games remaining the English Premiership season, Exeter can no longer qualify for the semi-finals. Thus, the loss today will sting that bit more for a side set for a major overhaul this season. 

For La Rochelle, the prospect of completing a historic double with another win over Leinster remains on the cards. Yet, this season they will travel to Dublin for the final rather than having it played in France. Based on the evidence of this weekend’s action, the final promises to be an absolute cracker.