La Rochelle edge past Sale to book Challenge Cup final berth

La Rochelle edge past Sale to book Challenge Cup final berth

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.

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