European Rugby Champions Cup: Harlequins 27-34 La Rochelle

Geoffrey Doumayrou
La Rochelle's Doumayrou made more metres than any other player, with 98
European Champions Cup - Pool One
Harlequins (17) 27
Tries: Matthews, Marchant, Collier Con: Smith 3 Pen: Smith 2
La Rochelle (24) 34
Tries: Forbes, Doumayrou 2, Priso Cons: Lamb 4 Pen: Lamb 2

Harlequins are playing catch-up in their Champions Cup pool after suffering a home defeat to a free-running La Rochelle at The Stoop.

The Londoners were still in touch at half-time after Joe Marchant ploughed over from Mike Brown's break to leave them seven points adrift.

But visiting centre Geoffrey Doumayrou crossed for his second shortly after the break from a Ryan Lamb burst.

Kevin Gourdon's yellow card gave Quins hope but simple errors cost the hosts.

Harlequins pushed hard in the final 10 minutes, but took just one bonus point instead of attempting two as Marcus Smith chose to kick a 79th-minute penalty over the posts rather than going for the corner.

Missed chances cost Quins

Victor Vito
Former All Black Victor Vito was part of a powerful visiting pack

La Rochelle may be making their debut in Europe's elite, but, as they proved by finishing top of the last season's Top 14 table, they are formidable opposition.

With a more clinical edge though, Harlequins could have won.

Captain James Horwill called his team together on the pitch to start what will be a long debrief into an error-strewn performance with ball in hand.

Horwill was industrious throughout, but without the suspended Kyle Sinckler and injured Jack Clifford the Australian lacked the support to stem the momentum of a powerful opposition pack.

La Rochelle freshened up their forwards with five replacements in the 66th minute with minimum disruption and once they saw off the pressure in the wake of Gourdon's sin-binning, victory was close.

Harlequins face a massive meeting away to Wasps next weekend as they attempt to recover from this opening setback.

Analysis

Former Saracen and Champions Cup-winning flanker Will Fraser on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra:

La Rochelle were very impressive on debut, but the opportunities and space were there for Harlequins to win.

Too often they were trying to force things. You don't have to score in two phases.

I'm not a Harlequins fan, but, even for me, it is so frustrating.

Too often they shot themselves in the foot with basic errors either too close to their own line to give La Rochelle a foothold or to waste an attacking platform.

Lamb rolls back the years at 10

Ryan Lamb
Ryan Lamb has had previous spell at Gloucester, London Irish, Northampton, Leicester and Worcester

While much attention has been focused on Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith since the 18-year-old was called up to England's training squad last month, it was his opposite number who caught the eye.

Lamb, now 31, knows all about the hype associated with being England's next big thing. His mercurial skills never quite found a home in England after his breakthrough as a teenager at Gloucester, but La Rochelle have clearly given him a licence to create.

He threw the ball around with flair and a lack of fear, and Doumayrou's first score sprung from Lamb's decision to run from under the shadow of his own posts.

But Lamb saved his finest moment for Doumayrou's second on the other side of the break.

A delicious show-and-go was swallowed whole by Smith and Danny Care before Lamb drew Brown and put his centre in under the posts.

The weaker side of Lamb's game was clear when Brown brushed him aside to set up Marchant's try, but he ended the game well in profit.

When Smith chose to chance his arm it invariably came off, with one flat pass to put Ben Glynn into space particularly notable.

But, with his forwards toiling and some poor handling outside him, he could not wrestle the match away from Lamb and La Rochelle.

'You're having a laugh.' - coach quotes

Harlequins director of rugby John Kingston on whether his team are already under pressure in their bid to make the knock-out stages: "You're having a laugh.

"We're right in this, I've already told the players exactly that in the changing rooms.

"We've got to go up to the Ricoh now to play Wasps again and we'll be at it, don't you worry.

"La Rochelle took their chances, we didn't take our chances. Our effort and commitment was outstanding, but if you don't quite take those chances you'll come up short."

Harlequins: Brown, Yarde, Marchant, Roberts, Visser, Smith, Care, Marler, Ward, Collier, Matthews, Horwill, Glynn, Robshaw, Luamanu.

Replacements: Saili for Roberts (63), Lewis for Care (71), Swainston for Collier (77), Merrick for Matthews (54). Not Used: Elia, Lambert, White, Swiel.

La Rochelle: Murimurivalu, Rattez, Jordaan, Doumayrou, Sinzelle, Lamb, Bales, Priso, Forbes, Atonio, Eaton, Nailiko, Gourdon, Kieft, Vito.

Replacements: Lacroix for Murimurivalu (57), Aguillon for Doumayrou (66), Goillot for Bales (73), Corbel for Priso (51), Bourgarit for Forbes (66), Pelo for Atonio (66), Lamboley for Eaton (66), Amosa for Kieft (66).

Sin Bin: Gourdon (55).

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