Champions Cup: Ronan O’Gara hails ‘fantastic’ win while it’s ‘devastation’ for Leo Cullen and Leinster

·3-min read
Ronan O'Gara Credit: Alamy
Ronan O'Gara Credit: Alamy

La Rochelle head coach Ronan O’Gara hailed an “incredibly special day” as his side retained their Champions Cup crown after beating Leinster.

The French outfit fought back from 17-0 down to win 27-26 at the Aviva Stadium in one of the great European finals, as they sealed back-to-back titles.

O’Gara was understandably delighted with his side’s comeback victory and revealed his team took confidence from last season’s come-from-behind win.

Half-time team-talk key

“It’s fantastic. It’s an incredibly special day at Lansdowne Road, a very special ground. It was a very difficult task that got even more difficult at 17-0!” he told BT Sport.

“There was a bit of me going at half-time ‘is my speech going to be about playing for pride or do we have a chance’? 23-14 felt like a great half-time result for us.

“One of the staff reminded me we were minus eight in Marseille and today we were minus nine, so we built a little story about that to get the boys pumping.

“We had the internal energy and we had a great grip on the second-half. We won the hard way which is very, very pleasing.

“Unfortunately for the opponents, they haven’t got over the line in a long, long time, so that was always going to play.

“Of course it is (a psychological thing for Leinster) but it’s not respectful for me to go there. I was a coach grasping at straws trying to give his team hope at half-time, you have to tap into that.”

Meanwhile, Leinster boss Leo Cullen spoke of his side’s “devastation” as they let slip a 23-7 cushion on the half-hour mark on home soil on Saturday.

Replacement prop Georges Henri Colombe’s late try that was converted by Antoine Hastoy floored the Irish side, with Cullen not hiding his feelings.

Leinster left devastated

“Devastation is probably the word,” Cullen told BT Sport after the Champions Cup loss.

“The occasion, the amazing atmosphere in the crowd, both sets of supporters and two sets of players going full at it – everything you want in a final which goes down to one point. Unfortunately we’re the losers.

“We started the game really well. We could have been further in front. I thought we gave up a couple of softish tries. In the second-half although we had the lead we struggled to get out of that end of the field.

“La Rochelle got over in the end and you’ve got give them a huge amount of credit. Bitterly disappointing.

“It was two really good teams going at it and it was always going to go down to little moments.

“We were so close and at the end we just lacked a little bit of composure. It’s an agonising defeat. All the players were here in front of their friends and family, so it’s hard one.

“It’s painful when you reach this point and you know it means so much to everybody. We just haven’t quite been good enough to finish the job.”

READ MORE: Champions Cup: Five takeaways from Leinster v La Rochelle as Gregory Alldritt leads incredible comeback

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