La Rochelle win the war in the trenches to clinch European Rugby Cup

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The match ended with an epic series of battles on the Leinster line as La Rochelle, trailing by four points, went looking for the winning try. The Irishmen defended heroically but La Rochelle stuck to their task and finally broke through the blue barrier to claim their first European title by 24 points to 21. Magnificent!

There have been better matches in this year's European competition. But the closing 15 minutes of this final were very special indeed.

La Rochelle started as underdogs, with several key players absent through injury. And they didn't help themselves by conceding a series of early penalties, duly converted by Leinster's Johnny Sexton.

They were, however, capable of scoring tries.

Springbok winger Raymond Rhule got the first, with Pierre Bougarit notching a second after powerful work by the La Rochelle forwards.

Leinster seemed to take it all in their stride, even when their 18-10 lead was suddenly demolished by Bougarit's try.

Then, with Leinster leading by 21 points to 17, and less than 15 minutes to the final whistle, it got serious. La Rochelle launched a series of attacks on the Leinster line. There were bone-crunching tackles. Desperate defence. Heroic efforts on both sides. It was like the Trojan War without the horse.

In a dour battle of wills, the two packs went at it, toe to toe. before Arthur Retière plunged over in the dying seconds to seal victory for La Rochelle.

They are worthy champions.

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