After 10 minutes of play, the "Here, Here, is La Rochelle" shake the Reale Arena in San Sebastian. The match is, already, almost folded. Stade Rochelais has just scored its first try and Bordeaux-Bègles will not return. In the end, the Maritimes advanced to the Top 14 final, defeating UBB 24-13. They will meet Toulouse, easy winner of Racing 92 (41-14) in the other semi-final, Friday night. This two-time European champion team exudes an impression of omnipotence that never ceases to amaze. And the confrontation with Stade Toulousain, in the final next Saturday at Stade France, is already dreaming.
This Saturday in the old Anoeta stadium and its 40,000 seats again full to the brim, the Stade Rochelais first did like Toulouse the day before. Crushing his opponent, dominating him in all areas of the game, and scoring on almost every action in the first half. At the crossroads of Bordeaux, the internationals Lucu and Jalibert struggled, their precise footwork or their attempts to accelerate the pace were useless.
An example of this La Rochelle superiority? In the 25th minute, when UBB finally had a good ball in the Rochelle camp, the Girondins stumbled on Danty's tackles, looked for solutions in front of the defence, fumbled and moved back. Behind, the Stade Rochelais, ball in hand, easily gains ground around its monster Skelton. The three tries of the first half, by Leyds at the end of the line, Bourgarit after a penalty, and Boudehent at the level of a grouping, coldly sign on the scoreboard the domination of La Rochelle.
Fear of gambling
The serenity of the La Rochelle steamroller transpires throughout the stadium. And the second period starts like the first. Bis repetita? The return of Tameifuna in the Bordeaux pack still hurts the Rochelais. UBB were rewarded with a penalty try, and spent 10 minutes at 15 against 14 after Paul Boudehent's yellow card. Back to 8 points of the European champions (21-13, 49th), Bordeaux can hope again, and La Rochelle worry. Hence a curious exchange of play at the foot between Jalibert and Hastoy, the two openers. Nobody wants to lose, so nobody wants to play...
The public then wakes up the people of Bordeaux. The "UBB, go go" still raise the temperature a notch in the wetness of San Sebastian. The organizations suffer, the internationals come out (Falatea on the UBB side, Danty on the Rochelle side). But Bordeaux, too shy, missed his chance. La Rochelle, who are capable of picking up 17 points from Leinster in the Champions Cup final, have seen others. Calmly, Ronan O'Gara's players get their hands on the ball. Hastoy gives air to his family at the foot. La Rochelle is in the final against Toulouse. The shock at the top can take place.
LA ROCHELLE - BORDEAUX-BEGLES 24-13
La Rochelle. 2 tries (Leyds 9th, Bourgarit 21st, Boudehent 39th). 3 transformations (Hastoy 10th, 22nd, 40th). 1 penalty (Hastoy 71st).
Bordeaux-Bègles. 1 try (penalty, 49th). 2 penalties (Jalibert 4th, 44th). 1 yellow card (Boudehent 49th).