Monday 23 September 2019

La Rochelle show devastating attacking potential to beat Harlequins and Ulster are up next

La Rochelle's French centre Geoffrey Doumayrou dives over the line to score a try
La Rochelle's French centre Geoffrey Doumayrou dives over the line to score a try Newsdesk Newsdesk

England's prodigal son Ryan Lamb outfoxed rising star Marcus Smith as La Rochelle edged past Harlequins 34-27 at The Stoop.

Former Gloucester fly-half Lamb booted 14 points and just about bested Quins teenager Smith as La Rochelle registered a bonus-point win on their Champions Cup debut.

Lamb did everything but win a senior cap amid frustrating flirtations with England during a five-year Gloucester career that ran from 2004 to 2009.

Quins sensation Smith, meanwhile, has already been earmarked for Test stardom by England boss Eddie Jones, though the 18-year-old will not be rushed into frontline international action.

But in west London it was the itinerant playmaker Lamb, not the new-school outside-half Smith, who won the day.

Geoffrey Doumayrou's brace and further scores from Hikairo Forbes and Dany Priso sealed La Rochelle's victory, with Quins replying through tries from Charlie Matthews, Joe Marchant and Will Collier, along with 12 points from Smith.

Smith oozes poise, but in what somehow proved a decisive moment, the teenager fell for a classic show-and-go from Lamb, who put Doumayrou home for his second try.

The Philippines-born Smith will thrive for both Quins and England for years, and could be forgiven for wondering how the hosts did not claim the last laugh here.

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Quins battered away at La Rochelle for the majority of the second half, yet still came up short.

The Aviva Premiership side had only themselves to blame for trailing 24-17 at the break. Forbes capped a lineout maul to set the visitors rolling after Tim Visser had conceded a cheap high-tackle penalty.

Roberts then bulldozed the gain-line in vintage fashion, offloading out of the tackle for Matthews to score.

Smith's conversion levelled the game at 10-10, only for La Rochelle to pull away again.

Doumayrou traded passes with captain Jason Eaton to bisect the Quins defence and power home, before prop Priso sneaked home after the home side knocked on at a lineout in their own 22.

The Londoners' riposte was immediate however, with fit-again Mike Brown scything through the line before sending Marchant leg-pumping through the cover tackles and across the whitewash.

Smith's conversion had Quins trailing by seven at the break. And on the teams' return Lamb cut loose - bamboozling Smith - to push La Rochelle back into a two-try cushion at 31-17 with the visitors' bonus-point score.

The former Gloucester and London Irish playmaker sold Smith a cute dummy, raced through the line and sent Doumayrou home for his second try with a neat inside ball.

Quins gained impetus from La Rochelle flanker Zeno Kieft's yellow card, only for Brown to knock on over the line from Marchant's grubber.

Lamb lost concentration and knocked on trying to clear from the five-metre scrum however, and the hosts gobbled up that gift with glee.

Prop Collier capped an obdurate attack, with Smith's conversion cutting La Rochelle's lead to 10 points at 34-24.

Lamb then struck the crossbar with a long-range penalty, but despite a last-gasp Smith penalty, Quins could not turn the tide.

The French side entertain Ulster next week.

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