The Guinness Six Nations’ all-time leading points scorer Ronan O’Gara will lead La Rochelle into their second successive Heineken Champions Cup final after a 20-13 win over Racing 92.
Director of rugby O’Gara will renew his battle with his former rival for Ireland’s No.10 shirt, Johnny Sexton, in the final against Leinster, who beat Toulouse 40-17 in Saturday’s semi-final.
O’Gara toppled Leo Cullen’s side in last year’s semi-final before losing to eventual winners Toulouse in the 2021 showpiece, but the 45-year-old now has the chance to go one better after New Zealander Ihaia West’s late score secured victory in Lens on Sunday.
The game was relocated to the Stade Bollaert-Delelis with Racing’s La Defense Arena occupied with a music concert and former France Under-20s captain Nolann Le Garrec kicked the Parisians in front.
Virimi Vakatawa’s strength enabled him to burst through a couple of tackles and stretch out to score the first try of the game, with Le Garrec’s conversion putting Racing 10-0 to the good inside half-an-hour.
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However, after West’s penalty opened La Rochelle’s account, 2022 Guinness Six Nations Player of the Championship nominee Gregory Alldritt scored off the base of a powerful scrum with the clock in the red at the end of the half to reduce the gap to just two points at the break.
Le Garrec struck from the tee again to make it 13-8 but two minutes later La Rochelle were awarded a penalty try after Racing illegally brought down a rampaging rolling maul by coming in at the side.
And it was left to West, who had missed three kicks at goal, to acrobatically dive in at the corner with just seconds left to seal their place in the final in Marseille on 28 May.