La Rochelle v Glasgow: Warriors come up short in tough Champions Cup opener

A Kyle Steyn try put Warriors ahead with half an hour to go, but hosts had too much power

Jack Dempsey. Image: © Craig Watson -
Jack Dempsey will start for Glasgow against Ulster. Image: © Craig Watson.

La Rochelle 20

Glasgow Warriors 13

A BONUS POINT earned away from home against one of the top sides in France is not to be sniffed at, and it means Glasgow Warriors are still in the hunt to qualify for the knock-out stages of this season’s Champions Cup.

However, such is the cut-throat format of this competition, they are now already drinking in the last chance saloon, with a must-win match against an Exeter Chiefs side, who set out their stall yesterday with a 42-6 demolition of Montpellier, on the agenda at Scotstoun next Saturday.

There will be a sense of frustration within the squad that they got so close to what would have been a fine win here, with several periods when they really had La Rochelle under pressure, but couldn’t maintain the required level of intensity across the full 80 minutes, and ultimately paid a heavy price for several inaccurate moments.

Their cause wasn’t helped by having a set-piece which struggled to cope with La Rochelle’s bulk and raw power.

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After a high-tempo first six minutes, Warriors opened the scoring when a side-entry at a maul by Romain Sazy offered Ross Thompson the chance of three easy points from right in front of the posts.

The visitors then threatened to score the first try, with some excellent play straight off a line-out which saw Kyle Steyn come off his wing to cut through La Rochelle’s defensive line,  initiating a move which saw Scott Cummings galloping in open prairie on the right a few phases later.

The big second-row could perhaps have sent Steyn home on his outside, but went himself and was chopped down, prompting referee Matthew Carley to pull play back for a La Rochelle offside, allowing Thompson to help himself to three more points.

Warriors had the better of the first quarter, playing with intelligence and intensity, to dictate the flow of the game, but when La Rochelle got a sniff on 22 minutes they showed what a dangerous proposition they can be, launching sweeping attack which required an excellent cover-tackle from Sam Johnson on Victor Vito to snuff out the immediate threat.

The hosts kept their foot on the gas, however, marching Warriors back with their powerful scrum, then battering the barricades with wave upon wave of forceful carries – but Glasgow stood firm, and a brilliant clearance from Thompson put them, briefly, back onto the front foot.

An opportunity to move nine points ahead slipped by when Thompson pushed his penalty effort – conceded by La Rochelle for not rolling away – to the left of the posts.

Instead, it was La Rochelle who struck next, with strong running from Brice Dulin and Gregory Alldritt taking play deep into Warriors territory, and after an offside penalty was kicked to the corner, it was Reda Wardi who got the downward pressure when the line-out maul was marched over the try-line. Ihaia West added the conversion.

La Rochelle charged straight back onto the offensive from the restart, with blindside flanker Paul Boudehen leading the charge, supported by Jonathan Danty and Jules Favre among others, and when Glasgow’s under-pressure scrum collapsed it allowed West to open up a four-point gap at the break.

Half-time had arrived at just the right time for Warriors, because La Rochelle were now rampant.


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West had an opportunity to extend La Rochelle’s lead six minutes into the second half when Sione Tuipulotu was called for holding onto the ball on the deck, but his shot at goal floated right of the kindling, and Warriors took advantage of that reprieve by battling the length of the pitch and then mounting a ferocious onslaught on the La Rochelle line.

They turned down three points by opting to run a penalty, with George Turner, Matt Fagerson, Rory Darge and Jack Dempsey all carrying hard, before Ali Price – playing an advantage – chipped over the top to Steyn in the in-goal area, who did well to gather then wrestle the ball to the deck under serious pressure. Thompson added the conversion.

La Rochelle roared back into it, andDarge was sent to the sin-bin for collapsing a maul as it accelerated towards the Warriors try-line, with the visitors lucky to not also concede a penalty try.

The hosts then produced a pulsating passage of play, which eventually led  to Eneriko Buliruarua going over for an excellent try on the right, which West converted.

Glasgow needed to batten down the hatches for the remainder of that sin-bin period, but replacement hooker Johnny Matthews threw a loose pass in midfield with his first touch, and Thompson was penalised for holding on after he scuttled back to gather the hacked ahead ball. West kicked the points.

Warriors threatened briefly, but lost control five metres from the line, and when Gregory Alldritt blasted past Cummings it put La Rochelle back in the driving seat. The visitors had opportunities to get back into the game during the final 10 minutes, knowing that a converted try would grab a draw, but they were twice turned over at the breakdown.


Teams –

La Rochelle: B Dulin (T Berjon 74); J Favre, J Sinzelle, J Danty, A Retiere (E Buliruarua 24); I West, T Kerr-Barlow; R Wardi (D Priso 69), P Bourgarit, U Atonio (R Herrera 69), R Sazy, W Skelton, P Boudehent (T Lavault 55), V Vito, G Alldritt.

Glasgow Warriors : J McKay; K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, S Johnson, C Forbes; R Thompson, A Price© (G Horne 70); O Kebble (J Bhatti 41), G Turner (J Matthews 59), Z Fagerson ( E Pieretto 67), S Cummings (L Bean 67), R Gray (R Harley 62), M Fagerson (A Miller 75), R Darge, J Dempsey.

Referee: Matthew Carley (England)


Scorers –

La Rochelle: Tries: Wardi, Buliruarua; Con: West 2; Pen: West 2.

Glasgow Warriors: Try: Steyn; Con: Thompson; Pen: Thompson 2.

Scoring sequence (La Rochelle first): 0-3; 0-6; 5-6; 7-6; 10-6 (h-t) 10-11; 10-13; 15-13; 17-13; 20-13.


Yellow cards –

Glasgow Warriors: Darge (56mins)



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About David Barnes 3912 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. It was always a tough assignment going to La Rochelle. Warriors battled well to stay in the fight and were close enough to cause an upset at the end. So much so that La Rochelle stayed pretty conservative throughout – kicking a penalty when Warriors were a forward short instead of going for an easy kick to the corner – their maul already had a clear upper hand. Their handling was also suspect in the face of a strong Warriors defence. There are positives to take forward to next week.

    • taking the 3 is a sign of respect for the opposition. Surprised me a bit but there you go! They would remember how the last game between the two went out there

  2. I watched this game on a streamed BEIN sport French channel. The only team playing rugby was LR , Glasgow were playing lets run in to a big yellow wall of giant French guys and try and get something out of that. I would not fault the guys for want of effort , but what ever happened to speed , off load’s , support running , running into space. I watched Finn take apart Northampton on Friday night , Thompson has none of that variety and subtlety to me he is a limited player at the moment. Edinburgh even manged to beat Saracens, a team on the up , we lie in the doldrums capable of beating the Dragons but not much else, Wilson is not the coach we need.

    • Thought Thompson had a good game managed it well made two errors but will only improve further. Second row more of an issue Cummings making to many mistakes & with Gray lacking grunt in the scrum & open play.

    • Glasgow don’t support the ball carrier well enough. Been a weakness all season. Apart from that I think you tuned to the wrong channel.
      Thomson made 2 poor attempted cross kicks which lost us momentum and gave away territory, otherwise did well enough. Is he Finn Russell? of course not and we need to move on, but then neither Johnson and Tuipulotu are exactly Fickou and Vakatawa, which makes a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge difference on what you can can’t do.
      It was a good performance on comparison with norms by an inexperienced and youngish Glasgow against the runners up in both the T14 and HC from last season, who have twice the player budget.
      Yet they are rightly disappointed not to have won it.

  3. Dempsey beginning to look awesome, under the new rules when does he qualify for Scotland? I believe he has Scottish connections. Is it October next year?
    Hard to win when the scrum is destroyed. Next week vs Exeter looks really tough

    • an interesting observation. We got shoved right off our own ball once, think Fagerson got his set up wrong. Otherwise we were under pressure but locked out and really not much bother. Until Priso came on for Wardi. If you know anything about Priso, you will know he is one of those props who is excellent round the park, but a liability in the scrum – to such an extent tha after a few caps he is about 20th on the French LH list!
      First scrum he is on he wings his hips out and the officials conned when its an obvious run around. Second scrum, he is penalised for the millionth time in his career for slipping his bind and hand on the floor as soon as the pressure comes on.
      I was hoping Priso would start, and lots of scrums.

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