Toulouse wins the fifth European Rugby Champions Cup with a victory over La Rochelle

Toulouse broke the resilience of French club La Rochelle and claimed a record-breaking fifth Champions Cup title with a 22-17 victory after their opponents played more than half the 14-man game at Twickenham on Saturday.

Juan Cruz Mallia, who was centered for the injured Zack Holmes, scored the decisive shot the hour after La Rochelle took on a fierce challenge, despite Levani Botia being sent off for a dangerous tackle in their first last appearance.

Flyhalf Romain Ntamack, whose father Emile won three European titles with Toulouse, kicked 17 points while La Rochelle scored through Ihaia West’s shoe and found some belated hope with Tawera Kerr-Barlow’s attempt.

It is Toulouse’s first Champions Cup title since 2010, completing a French double after Montpellier beat Leicester Tigers in the Challenge Cup final on Friday.

“It’s huge for Toulouse, for the city and all our fans. We made them proud. The first half was tough, three points here and there, but the second half was better and turned it into a nice final,” said winger Matthis Lebel. .

La Rochelle captain Romain Sazy, like most of his teammates, was left in tears after what was only his side’s 19th European game.

“I’m frustrated. It’s a big failure and losing this way is hard to swallow. We stayed together after the red card. But it’s hard to end the campaign like this,” he said.

Commercial penalties

Ntamack and West exchanged penalties when the match quickly turned into a forward battle that did little to the 10,000 fans of Twickenham, which hosted an audience for the first time this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Botia was booked for a high tackle on Maxime Medard, but the latter turned red after referee Luke Pearce consulted the video assistant.

La Rochelle still managed to move up three points thanks to a new West penalty after Rynhardt Elstadt fouled, leaving both teams with 14 men until the break.

In a game full of bad discipline, Ntamack tied the score with another penalty, but West added three more points right before half time.

Cheslin Kolbe was denied an attempt early in the second half by a last gasp from Geoffrey Doumayrou, before Ntamack’s fourth penalty brought Toulouse to 12-12.

Toulouse eventually pierced their opponents’ defenses when Mallia took a bee line for the first try after being set up by Selevasio Tolofua.

Ntamack added another penalty in a flawless kick performance, giving his team a 10-point lead with 10 minutes to go, leaving La Rochelle with little hope of a comeback.

But scrum half Kerr-Barlow cleverly ducked from a maul to cut the gap to five points, only for West’s conversion attempt to hit the post, the fly half had missed eight points with his shoe.

(REUTERS)

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