La Rochelle booked their place in the European Challenge Cup final for the first time thanks to a tightly contested 24-20 win over Sale Sharks.
In a frantic encounter at Stade Marcel-Deflandre, the home side survived a late scare to progress into a major international final for the first time, Gregory Alldritt’s 51st-minute try proving decisive.
Two-time Challenge Cup winners Sale took the lead – referee Nigel Owens awarding the visitors a penalty try after Victor Vito brought the maul down.
La Rochelle soon levelled through a penalty try of their own, however, with TMO deeming that Denny Solomona’s high tackle on Vincent Rattez was also worthy of a yellow card.
And the Top 14 side were ahead in the 26th minute when Kini Murimurivalu raced through a gap in Sale’s lines, though England winger Chris Ashton – back after the calf injury that cut short his Six Nations – ensured the scores were level at 17-17 at the interval.
But La Rochelle would be in front again when Ihaia West teed up Alldritt to score, and though AJ MacGinty pulled Sale within four points with a composed penalty conversion, the visitors could not force themselves over as, despite Jules Favre’s late yellow card reducing their numbers, the hosts held firm to book a final clash with either Clermont or Harlequins.
Late heartbreak for the boys today.
A great performance at an amazing venue, just tipped in the end.
An exceptional contest…
— Sale Sharks (@SaleSharksRugby) April 20, 2019
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