Leinster Rugby suffered a three-point defeat to La Rochelle in the final of the Heineken Champions Cup at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome.

It was heartbreak for the Irish province as replacement scrum-half Arthur Retiere’s 80th-minute try nudged La Rochelle in front with seconds remaining. Ihaia West’s conversion would be the last action on the day.

Leinster, who had led from the 23rd minute until Retiere’s try, would not score a try throughout the 80 minutes while the French side would run in three.

Captain Johnny Sexton opened the scoring for Leinster in the fifth minute and would make that a six-point advantage before the contest was 10 minutes old.

However, the lead would be wiped out when winger Raymond Rhule blitzed home in the almost immediately after the restart from Sexton’s second penalty.

Leinster would soon lose Rónan Kelleher to injury and La Rochelle were finding a foot hold, Jimmy O’Brien called into action more than once to snuff out attacks.

Just after the midway point in the half, Sexton restored the lead for Leinster.

The rest of the first half was a nervous affair with O’Brien, again, forcing La Rochelle into touch when danger was abound.

A scrum penalty on Leinster’s own five metre line that was quickly turned into three points at the other end was a positive note to end the half.

That three-pointer was wiped out within 90 seconds of the restart as West penalised Leinster for indiscipline at the breakdown as they plotted an exit from the kick-off.

However, Sexton again restored the five point advantage, taking his, and Leinster’s, tally to 15 points for the day.

And it was eight points after three minutes when Sexton found his range again.

La Rochelle were still threatening and, only for some resolute defending, would have crossed for their second try.

They weren’t made to wait though as a powerful lineout maul ended with Pierre Bourgarit dropping over the Leinster line giving West the chance to make it a one-point game and he obliged.

A Josh van der Flier strip and a yellow card for Thomas Lavault looked to have swung the game in the favour of Leo Cullen’s men.

Ross Byrne’s penalty from the Lavault trip on Jamison Gibson-Park had Leinster four ahead once more but a nail-biting finish was to follow.

La Rochelle spent the majority of a 10-minute spell camped in the Leinster 22, picking and going, often with advantage and meeting a blue wall time after time until Retiere stole in to claim the title.

After the game, flanker van der Flier was awarded with the European Player of the Year award, recognition for his stellar performances all year for both Leinster and Ireland.