Two-time Champions Cup winners La Rochelle have had a rather inauspicious start to their Top 14 campaign.
Currently sitting in 9th on the table with 4 wins and 5 losses, Ronan O’Gara’s side have been one of the surprises of the season so far this season.
Falling just short in last season’s final as Toulouse Romain Ntamack broke their hearts with an out-of-this-world individual try in the dying moments of the match. Many expected La Rochelle to kick on this season and add the Top 14 to their two European crowns.
Yet, inconsistent play has seen the Atlantic Coast team drop some very winnable matches against opponents they would have fancied beating.
Yet in perhaps their most impressive showing of the season yesterday, O’Gara’s charges put away Perpignan with ease 35 – 6 to find some form just in time for what will be a titanic opening Champions Cup clash with Leinster next weekend.
Facing the side, they narrowly beat in the past two Champions Cup finals in round one which means the French team has no room for complacency or silly errors.
Thus, yesterday’s clash will have laid a solid foundation from which to build on this week against the team that are currently topping the United Rugby Championship table.
In a match that had several highlights for La Rochelle, one try in particular had O’Gara smiling as giant secondrow Thomas Lavault scored a try most forwards dream of.
Camped on the Perpignan line, La Rochelle looked set to batter their way to a score, and as such, their rival’s defence was ready with set pillars on either side of the ruck.
What Perpignan didn’t expect, however, was that the 6’6″ French international would transform into a leaping gazelle.
Instead of taking the hard route around the edges, Lavault leapt straight over the middle of the tuck in a move that combined athleticism with opportunistic brilliance.