'We were a team of dogs': La Rochelle make most of off week to win Top 14 semi

Ronan O'Gara's side beat Racing 92 in the final game for both Simon Zebo and Donnacha Ryan
'We were a team of dogs': La Rochelle make most of off week to win Top 14 semi

La Rochelle players celebrate winning. Picture: INPHO/Dave Winter

Racing 92 manager Laurent Travers has said that former coaching colleague Ronan O'Gara's La Rochelle were the better side in the Top 14 semi-final at Lille on Friday.

La Rochelle won 19-6 at Stade Pierre Mauroy but the game was effectively over by the end of the opening period. No points were scored after the 53rd minute, and Racing failed to trouble to scoreboard after the 14th minute.

"When you lose [a game] in the first half, it's a failure," the perennially honest Travers said after the match. "You only want to be in the final. We can't afford to say 'we're in the semi-finals, that's enough'.

"If you have ambitions - and Racing has them - we want to be champions.

"We are disappointed tonight, we came across [a side that was] better than us.

"The truth is that, at the start of the match, we had five or six fairly good minutes but we could not capitalise on that. To get out of our camp, we tried to play high balls but we didn't get any back. We were not very good in the scrum."

Travers was not exaggerating in his criticism of Racing's set piece. La Rochelle's pack dominated the game from first whistle until last, forcing error after error from their opponents.

La Rochelle captain Romain Sazy, meanwhile, praised his team's fighting spirit. "Tonight, we were a team of dogs," he told reporters.

"The 'off' week did us a lot of good," he said. "The staff knew how to arrange it correctly to regenerate the bodies. The season unfolded at hellish pace, with matches played during the week just before the Champions Cup final.

"It was important to have a week off, to clear your head, to evacuate the frustration of this defeat in the European Cup final… I had a lot of fun playing tonight."

And he was keen to highlight the work of La Rochelle's backline. "Our three-quarters were very efficient," he said. "We were missing one or two key players, or even three - but we must take our hat off to those who replaced them. We were a team of dogs."

Number 8 Grégory Alldritt, added: “We know what we are capable of up front. All week, we had been working on ourselves, on what we were able to do and we tried to improve it.

"We had a very good scrum, a very good touch, these are two very important sectors against Racing. They shouldn't be given too many good balls to exploit because they have a lot of quality in the backs."

La Rochelle will face either Toulouse or Bordeaux in the Top 14 final at Stade de France on Friday evening.

Meanwhile, Fabien Galthie is due to name his 42-player France squad on Sunday for the July tour of Australia, which features three Tests in 11 days.

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