Ulster stun La Rochelle monsters

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 12:30
Large ulster v la rochelle action 800

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Ulster pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season when they beat French giants La Rochelle 20-13 at a packed Kingspan Stadium on Saturday.

Not only did the Irish province outscore their French opponents by three tries to one, but the win also put them at the top of Pool One.

Despite the dominance of the monstrous French pack, Ulster found enough heart to tackle La Rochelle into submission.

Ireland and Ulster captain Rory Best led from the front with 12 carries, six tackles and a try, while Jacob Stockdale and Nick Timoney also graced the scoresheet as hosts kept the race for quarter-final berths wide open with a crucial triumph, as Alexis Bales scored all the points in a losing effort from La Rochelle.

The northern province's European campaign teetered on a knife-edge entering this contest.

Out of form and apparently low on confidence and ideas in the Pro14 they came into the contest as underdogs.

First half tries from veteran hooker Rory Best and star wing Jacob Stockdale had the hosts ahead at the break, before Nick Timoney's second half score secured the four points.

Ulster are now one ahead of La Rochelle at the top of the pool ahead of their trip to Wasps next Sunday.

The opening exchanges provided nothing but ominous signs from the team who swept five tries past Ulster in October.

Levani Botia was breaking tackles, Alexi Bales had an endless array of angles and runners to choose from and for 20 long minutes Ulster could barely escape their half.

The best setup the first quarter had to offer the hosts was a penalty inside Rochelais territory.

With a sharp wind deterring kickers, Christian Lealiifano - on his last outing at Kingspan Stadium –  was directed to touch, but his kick fell horribly short. A scrum was a welcome return for Ulster. Unfortunately, that went awry. And soon so too did the line-out 40 metres from their own posts. A litany of errors, missteps and mistimings helping to set up Bales' second penalty of the day.

A six-point deficit began to look remarkably steep. When the hosts put multiple phases of possession together midway through the first half, they found themselves running down black and yellow alleys and were continually dumped on the back foot by a solid defence led by Geoffrey Dumayrou, Kevin Gourdon and Botia

Ulster got the first try, however, after Paul Jordaan was yellow carded for taking Charles Piutau out in the air, and Rory Best carried a maul over the line, spinning over and dotting down in the corner.

That became two just before the break as Jacob Stockdale shrugged off the interests of Vincent Rattez to dance his way over in the tightest of angles at the corner.

The fear of a comeback was very real, and two minutes after the break La Rochelle struck, Victor Vito picking and going from a ruck and bursting through before sending Bales the rest of the way for the score.

Immediately Ulster responded, Darren Cave pounding on a loose ball and feeding Nick Timoney, who held off two tacklers to get the touchdown from the restart.

La Rochelle had a dominant pack, and their scrum set to work by taking over up front, however they couldn't force a penalty try after several set pieces on the five-metre line and, when Vito broke off the back, his offload went loose and the chance was gone.

That allowed Ulster to hang on, and arguably they squandered a bonus point try when they had several chances towards the end to get a fourth try, but ultimately their destiny is still in their own hands as they travel to Wasps next Sunday knowing a win will have them in the last eight.

The scorers:

For Ulster:
 Best, Stockdale, Timoney
Cons: Cooney
Pens: Cooney

For La Rochelle:
Cons: Bales
Pens: Bales 2

Yellow card: Paul Jordaan (La Rochelle, 23 - foul play, taking out the man in the air)


Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Alan O'Connor, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Rory Best (captain), 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Dave Shanahan, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Darren Cave.

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Gabriel Lacroix, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Jérémy Sinzelle, 9 Alexi Bales, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Levani Botia, 5 Mathieu Tanguy, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Pierre Bourgarit, 1 Dany Priso.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Vincent Pelo, 18 Mohamed Boughanmi, 19 Gregory Lamboley, 20 Afa Amosa, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Benjamin Nobles, 23 Paul Jordaan.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Matthew O'Grady (England)
TMO: Geoff Warren (England)

Source: @ChampionsCup

There are currently no matches being played
Fri, 23 March 2018
Connacht v Edinburgh 22h00 Sportsground
Munster v Scarlets 22h00 Thomond Park
Dragons v Cheetahs 22h00 Rodney Parade
Ospreys v Leinster 22h00 Liberty Stadium
Cardiff Blues v Ulster 22h00 Cardiff Arms Park
Glasgow Warriors v Zebre 22h00 Scotstoun
Kings v Treviso 22h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Crusaders v Bulls 06h35 Christchurch
Rebels v Sharks 08h45 Melbourne
Bath v Exeter Chiefs 19h45 Recreation Ground
Sat, 24 March 2018
Sunwolves v Chiefs 04h15 Tokyo
Hurricanes v Highlanders 06h35 Wellington
Saracens v Harlequins 15h00 London
London Irish v Gloucester 15h00 Madejski Stadium
Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors 15h00 AJ Bell Stadium
Stormers v Reds 15h15 Newlands
Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints 17h30 Kingston Park
Jaguares v Lions 21h40 Estadio Jose Amalfitani
Sun, 18 March 2018
Waratahs v Rebels 51 | 27
Sat, 17 March 2018
Jaguares v Reds 7 | 18
Wales v France 14 | 13
Lions v Sunwolves 40 | 38
England v Ireland 15 | 24
Stormers v Blues 37 | 20
Italy v Scotland 27 | 29
Brumbies v Sharks 24 | 17
Highlanders v Crusaders 25 | 17
Fri, 16 March 2018
Cardiff Blues v Treviso 31 | 25
Edinburgh v Munster 12 | 6
Chiefs v Bulls 41 | 28
Sun, 11 March 2018
Wales v Italy 38 | 14
Sat, 10 March 2018
Jaguares v Waratahs 38 | 28
France v England 22 | 16
Pool 1
Team P W D L Pts
La Rochelle 6 4 0 2 20
Wasps 6 3 0 3 17
Ulster 6 4 0 2 17
Harlequins 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 2
Team P W D L Pts
Clermont Auvergne 6 5 0 1 22
Saracens 6 3 1 2 18
Ospreys 6 2 1 3 15
Northampton Saints 6 1 0 5 6
Pool 3
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 6 6 0 0 27
Exeter Chiefs 6 3 0 3 15
Montpellier 6 2 0 4 13
Glasgow Warriors 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 4
Team P W D L Pts
Munster 6 4 1 1 21
Racing Metro 6 4 0 2 19
Castres 6 2 1 3 12
Leicester Tigers 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 5
Team P W D L Pts
Scarlets 6 4 0 2 21
Toulon 6 4 0 2 19
Bath 6 4 0 2 18
Treviso 6 0 0 5 4