Botia fires La Rochelle to thrilling win over Wasps
CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Fijian flank Levani Botia scored a brace of tries to help La Rochelle cement their place atop Pool One of the European Champions Cup with a thrilling 49-29 victory over Wasps on Sunday.
The win left the Top 14 leaders with three wins from three and 15 points, seven ahead of second-placed Ulster, who beat Harlequins 17-5. Wasps are third with six points.
La Rochelle's attractive style of play was there for all to see in the first half, and not many clubs will fancy having to travel to western France for a potential away quarterfinal match.
The French club enjoyed 73 percent of possession and 72 percent territory, covering more than 400 metres peppered with 16 offloads and 20 Wasps defenders beaten.
It all meant for a 30-12 lead after a helter-skelter first 40 minutes.
An early Brock James penalty for the hosts was nullified by a fine Rob Miller try for the English visitors despite for Welsh flank Thomas Young picking up a yellow card for a spear tackle.
However, La Rochelle responded immediately, Pierre Aguillon charging down a Danny Cipriani clearance kick for an easy riposte.
Making their numerical advantage clear, hooker Pierre Bourgarit was next name on the scoresheet, breaking clear after a botched line-out by Wasps.
The returned Young went over in the corner, Jimmy Gopperth converting to make sure Wasps were well in the game before centre-cum-flank Botia notched up La Rochelle's third in a great display of running rugby at a packed-out Marcel-Deflandre stadium.
Vincent Rattez touched down early in the second period for La Rochelle to guarantee an attacking bonus point.
But Wasps hit back when British and Irish Lions back Elliot Daly crossed after a great flick by Young.
With kicking a scarcity and holes beginning to appear in both defences, first an inch-perfect Ryan Lamb crosskick found Rattez in space for the wing to dot down for his second.
And then Wasps ensured their own bonus point when Daly latched on to a Cipriani kick and offloaded to Joe Simpson for an easy run-in, after which fellow replacement Martin Moore was driven over shortly after.
The outstanding Botia had the last word, however, fending off Joe Launchbury to sprint in from 40 metres.
For La Rochelle:
Tries: Aguillon, Bourgarit, Botia 2, Rattez 2
Cons: James 3, Lamb 2
Pens: James 3
Tries: Miller, Young, Daly, Simpson, Stuart
Cons: Gopperth 2
Yellow Cards: Thomas Young (Wasps), Juan de Jongh (Wasps)
La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Jérémy Sinzelle, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Vincent Rattez, 10 Brock James, 9 Alexi Bales, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Levani Botia, 6 Zeno Kieft, 5 Thomas Jolmes, 4 Jason Eaton, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Pierre Bourgarit, 1 Dany Priso.
Replacements: 16 Jeremie Maurouard, 17 Hikairo Forbes, 18 Mohamed Boughanmi, 19 Romain Sazy, 20 Kevin Gourdon, 21 Jean-Victor Goillot, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Rene Ranger.
Wasps: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Haskell, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Ashley Johnson, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Ben Harris, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Jack Willis, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Marcus Watson, 23 Gaby Lovobalavu.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Kieran Barry (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)