In European rugby, all roads now lead to a match between Stade Rochelais and Leinster. For the fifth time in four years, the two teams met in the Champions Cup on Saturday April 13, in Dublin, this time for a place in the last four of the competition.

The two previous editions had been won by the Marimtimes, each time defeating… Leinster in the final. Except that the tide ended up turning. And the reigning double European champions have fallen from a height in this new remake. Final score: 40-13.

“It’s not that we don’t like them, but every time we met them, it was them or us,” said La Rochelle third row and captain Grégory Alldritt before the meeting about this budding rivalry of the oval ball. This time, it was them. In front of their home crowd, the Irish mastered their subject, inflicting five tries on the men of Ronan O’Gara, legend in the green jersey, today coach of the Maritimes.

The pressure is put on from the start in front of the visitors’ goal line: at the end of a long offensive sequence, James Lowe – author of four goals during the last Six Nations Tournament – ​​has free rein to flatten after a volleyed pass by opener Ross Byrne (10-0, 19th). What followed was a ping-pong of penalties, converted by Antoine Hastoy for Stade Rochelais and Ross Byrne for the locals.

Second one-sided act

Shortly before half-time, the Irish continued the percussions along the touchline, James Lowe framed the last defender and delivered an assist to Jamison Gibson-Park on the closed side. Ross Byrne widens the gap by successfully transforming into a corner (23-6, 39th).

Hit, but not (yet) sunk, the Maritimes went up against the entire opposing camp in added time, caused fouls and ended up flattening a ball carried into the goal (23-13, at the break). This will be their last stand. The second act is one-sided. The Irish added three tries through third row Ryan Baird, hooker Dan Sheehan and the relentless James Lowe, who showed his speed and flair (40-13, 63rd).

On arrival, the bill is steep for the reigning double European champions. Let us remember, however, that since the beginning of April, the Rochelais have let loose a few feathers by traveling from France to South Africa, then to Ireland. They now have to eye the Brennus Shield: last year, the trophy rewarding the French champion passed under their noses at the Stade de France.

After the thrilling match lost by one point by Union Bordeaux-Bègles earlier in the day, there is only one French representative left competing in the Champions Cup. Stade Toulouse has a meeting with the English Exeter Chiefs on Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Ernest-Wallon stadium.