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Match Report

Will Carpenter

Will Carpenter reports from

Posted Sunday, March 31st 2019

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Report: La Rochelle 39-15 Bristol Bears

Bristol Bears bowed out of the European Challenge Cup at the quarter final stage, as Pat Lam’s spirited side fell to a 39-15 defeat at Stade Marcel-Deflandre on Sunday.

In a compelling clash played at breakneck speed, first-half tries from Gregory Alldritt, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Wiaan Liebenberg and a penalty try left Bristol with a mountain to climb in their first European knockout clash for 12 years, despite Steven Luatua’s 35th-minute score.

The sensational Vincent Rattez glided over for La Rochelle’s fifth eight minutes from time to cap a highly impressive individual display from the full back, and there was still time for a second Bristol score, with Piers O’Conor touching down for a late consolation.

But it was La Rochelle’s day, as Jono Gibbes side avenged their pool stage defeat to Bristol to book their place in the last four.

What happened?

In glorious spring sunshine in southwestern France, La Rochelle had their tales up from the first whistle and raced into a 10-0 lead courtesy of an Ihaia West penalty and Gregory Alldritt’s seventh-minute try, crashing over from a driving lineout.

Madigan got Bristol on the scoreboard with a penalty on 17 minutes after Pisi’s initial bust in midfield – and the visitors could’ve found themselves level soon after, had Uren held on metres short of the line following a trademark sniping break from the number nine.

Jono Gibbes' side were on the front foot in a pacey, harum-scarum encounter and soon had a second try. West’s missile pass sent a steaming Victor Vito through a hole in the midfield, and after the giant Unai Atonio was denied by the TMO, the La Rochelle pack got up a head of steam at the scrum, leaving referee John Lacey to award a penalty try.

West, a former teammate of Bristol’s Steven Luatua at Auckland Blues, was leading the La Rochelle charge and another flat delivery from the fly half released Vincent Rattez, whose inside pass sent Doumayrou over for the hosts’ third inside half an hour.

Madigan kicks a penalty during the first half at Stade Marcel Deflandre.

Bristol eventually climbed their way into the contest, and after a prolonged period of possession inside the La Rochelle 22, Luatua burrowed under a pile of bodies to ground the ball on the base of the post.

But having reduced the deficit, La Rochelle reacted quickly to wipe it away on the stroke of half-time, with Rattez again, at the heart of their attacking flare – Liebenberg this time, the beneficiary, waltzing over untouched after the full back’s surge.

A second long-range West penalty edged La Rochelle further in front early in the second half, while at the other end, Bristol came close to a second try when Randall’s deft kick through just evaded the grasp of the onrushing Daniels.

Replacement scrum half Thomas Berjon should have scored a fifth home try when he darted blind only to spill the ball in the process of grounding. But the fifth did soon arrive, courtesy of the sublime Rattez, stepping and swerving through the hosts’ defence to add a deserved try to a scintillating individual display.

Bristol Bears’ spirit shone throughout this last-eight clash and they finished with a flourish late on, as O’Conor collected Daniels’ offload to grab the visitors’ second.

But it was mere consolation, with La Rochelle deservedly progressing to the last four to set up a semi-final clash with Sale Sharks.

Teams and scorers:

La Rochelle: Tries: Alldritt 13, Penalty, Doumayrou 27, Liebenberg 40, Rattez 72. Cons: West 13, 27, Penalty, Lamb 72. Pens: West 7, 52.

Bristol Bears: Tries: Luatua 35, O’Conor 79. Cons: Madigan 35. Pens: Madigan 17

La Rochelle: Rattez, Roudil, Doumayrou, Sinzelle, Andreu, West, Goillot; Priso, Orioli, Atonio, Sazy, Tanguy, Liebenberg, Alldritt, Vito (c). Replacements:  Bourgarit, Aouf, Joly, Leroux, Kieft, Berjon, Lamb, Botia.

Bristol Bears: O’Conor; Daniels, S Piutau (cc), Pisi, Pincus (Protheroe 62); Madigan (Sheedy 52), Uren (Randall 47); Y Thomas (Ja Lay 59), Thacker (Fenton-Wells 56), Thiede (Armstrong 59), Muldowney (Smith 52), Holmes, Vui, D Thomas, Luatua (cc) (Crane 73). Replacements: Fenton-Wells, Ja Lay, Armstrong, Crane, Smith, Randall, Callum Sheedy, Protheroe.

Key moment:

After finding themselves on the receiving end of a belligerent start from La Rochelle, Steven Luatua's 35th-minute try gave Bristol a route back into the contest. 

But the All Black's score was soon wiped out by Wiaan Liebenberg, who collected Vincent Rattez's offload to coast in for the hosts' fourth try. 

Man of the match: Steven Luatua

In a fast-paced and physical encounter, Luatua put in another huge display for Bristol Bears.

The co-captain burrowed his way to the line for Bristol's first try at the end of the first-half, and was heavily involved in the wide channels as the visitors put width on the ball throughout the 80 minutes. 

Photo of the match:

Tusi Pisi loads up an offload.

Yellow Cards:

Yellow Cards:
  • KO: 12AM
  • Att:
  • Venue:
  • Ref:



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