- By Phil Cartwright
- BBC Sports
Heineken Champions Cup: La Rochelle against Saracens
Try: Kerr-Barlow 2; Pens: Hastoy 4; Against : Hastoy
To try: Mawi; Pen: Farrell; Against : Farrell
Saracens are excluded from the Heineken Champions Cup after a quarter-final loss to holders La Rochelle.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow’s two tries either side of half-time helped the hosts secure a semi-final against Exeter.
Eroni Mawi dug in for Saracens, who lost Billy Vunipola to injury in the first half, but came too late for the Premiership leaders.
Antoine Hastoy kicked in 14 points for La Rochelle, while Owen Farrell added a penalty and a conversion for Saracens.
La Rochelle won the Champions Cup for the first time in 2022 and are aiming for a third consecutive final.
Their last-four tie against Exeter will be played at Bordeaux, while Leinster take on Toulouse in Dublin in the other semi-final.
Both matches are scheduled for the weekend of April 29-30, with the final at Aviva Stadium on May 20.
As for Saracens, they must now focus their attention on winning the Premiership title. Mark McCall’s team is already assured of a semi-final at home.
La Rochelle improved off Saracens
La Rochelle have been nearly bowled over by Gloucester in the last 16, but it was a much more assured performance from Ronan O’Gara’s side, who defended superbly throughout and took every point offered since the start from the start.
Hastoy kicked three penalties in the first half and scrum-half Kerr-Barlow scored the first of two tries for La Rochelle just before halftime, trading passes from a ruck to a dart from close range.
After a few quick passes created space on the right, the excellent Levani Botia ran flawlessly and set up Kerr-Barlow for his second, which seemed to have put the contest to bed.
La Rochelle ended the game with 14 players after full-back Brice Dulin was sent to the trash for a high tackle, but their 14-point lead was protected by a more remarkable tryline defense.
A downside for the home side was the late injury suffered by former Australia and Sarries lock Will Skelton, who was transported from the pitch on a stretcher in a neck brace. Saracens substitute Tom Woolstencroft was shown a yellow card for touching Skelton’s head as he attempted to clear a ruck.
Sarries will await news of Vunipola’s injury, which forced him to retire midway through the first half and appeared to be a problem with his right leg.
The England international tried to limp off the pitch with the help of the Saracens medical team, but was eventually carried off on a stretcher.
Reflecting on the defeat, McCall told ITV: “Their defense was amazing today. We had a lot of the ball and a lot of time in their end, without looking like they were scoring.
“They were very good at capitalizing on all the positions on the pitch that they got.
“They’re a great team, European champions and back-to-back runners-up. If you want to play against them you have to be incredibly precise and we haven’t been.”
Champions Cup semi-final schedule
- Leinster v Toulouse – Saturday 29 April, 3.00pm BST (Aviva Stadium, Dublin)
- La Rochelle v Exeter Chiefs – Sunday 30 April, 3.00pm BST (Matmut Atlantique, Bordeaux)
La Rochelle: Flax ; Favre, Seuteni, Danty, Rhule; Hastoy, Kerr-Barlow; Wardi, Bourgarit, Atonio, Lavault, Skelton, Dillane, Botia, Alldritt (c).
Replacements: Lespiaucq, Thompson-Stringer, Sclavi, Sazy, Tanga, Bourdeau, Berjon, Thomas.
Saracens: Good ; Malins, Lozowski, Tompkins, Maitland; Farrell (c), Van Zyl; M Vunipola, George, Riccioni, Itoje, Tizard, Isiekwe, Earl, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Woolstencroft, Mawi, Judge, Hunter-Hill, Wray, De Haas, Taylor, Lewington.
Arbitrator: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
#Rochelle #eliminate #Saracens #Champions #Cup #BBC #Sport