The new European champion will not see the semi-finals of the Top 14. The fault of a completely failed first period.
The euphoria of the past few weeks was certainly misleading. She had forgotten that before the start of spring, La Rochelle was still this team on alternating current, progressing in fits and starts in the Top 14. in Biarritz and Perpignan, the bottom two in the standings, but also on the lawn of the Stade Français, only eleventh on arrival.
This play-off match in Toulouse was a reminder that Ronan O’Gara’s band had struggled to export this season. She again showed great excitement, a lot of inaccuracies and a crippling lack of discipline, especially in the first period, stifled by the rhythm imposed by the Toulouse team, as second line Thomas Lavault admitted: “ In the first half each player made his little mistake and there was no photo. We fished in the commitment, we can only regret it. It wasn’t too hard physically, don’t take that excuse. When we miss forty minutes out of eighty, we pay cash. The Toulouse felt that we were inside in the first half and their game leaders took the game on their own. They played the balls quickly and put us under pressure. We did not manage to get out of our camp cleanly and we played at home, gradually collecting points. »
A return to normal at the worst time when Stade La Rochelais had managed to show great regularity since the start of the final phase of the European Cup. Manager Ronan O’Gara admitted he didn’t recognize his team for the first 40 minutes: “We can’t hide our frustration, our performance is very disappointing. However, our preparation was good. Tonight, we took a lesson in combativeness and aggressiveness in the rucks. There was no comparison, Toulouse was better than us. It may be my fault: the tactic was to displace Toulouse but we neglected the confrontation, and I take it for myself. »
A kick in the butt
This match served as a reminder that Les Rochelais did not have the same mastery or the same success on the European scene as during the Top 14 marathon, like their opener Ihaia West missing a penalty in front of the poles which would have allowed his team to take the score early in the game, before finding a direct hit on the next action.
Small mistakes that made it easier for Toulouse even if Brice Dulin defended his opener: “ I don’t think that penalty would have changed the face of the match. If he had only missed three points… Collectively we were unable to respond to their attacks, we were unable to find the solutions to switch back to a positive dynamic and impose our rhythm […] Our biggest adversary is ourselves. At the break, it took a pat on the back, to be polite, to wake up. »
But the damage was done, as the international full-back still acknowledged: “ We could have made things much more difficult for the opponent, but we were too imprecise, undisciplined. We ensured that Toulouse won this match. » This kick in the back came from Ronan O’Gara who did not hide his irritation: “ At halftime, we are not far from shame. It’s hard to say that because I train champions, European champions, but for the first forty minutes it wasn’t us. It is impossible to have the opportunity to win a game by giving thirty-three points, including twenty-one in the first period. It’s impossible. »
European champions who had the pride necessary to limit damage and not completely miss their outing. “ At halftime, we weren’t down to earthexplained the second line, at 21-7, we thought that if we scored a try, it was over. We had to stop playing ball and face the Toulouse. We try to come back, to fight as best we can, but it’s Toulouse in front. »
The Rochelais would die at five points, even if that did not extinguish their frustration, they who dreamed of returning to the Old Port on June 25. But this hasty departure on vacation should not tarnish the triumph of Marseille. This team marked the history of the club. And it is certain that she will still be hungry next season.