La Rochelle are the 2023 Heineken Champions Cup winners, after a 27-26 win over Leinster on Saturday evening in Dublin.

Leinster exploded to life from the first lineout, Jack Conan haring up the right to put Dan Sheehan speeding to the line for Ross Byrne to convert.

Conan took off again from the restart bumping prop Reda Wardi out of the way and James Lowe’s immaculate 50-22 put Leinster five metres from glory where flanker Paul Boudehent ruined another move.

No matter, Leinster ripped through three quick phases, oiled by Jamison Gibson-Park’s delivery, Hugo Keenan’s angle onto a flat ball and Jimmy O’Brien’s flashing finish on the right for 12-0 in the seventh minute.

The one-two punch of Conan on the restart and Lowe’s big boot preceded a bout of La Rochelle pressure which was disabled by a double-tackle from Sheehan and James Ryan, O’Brien’s ankle-low takedown and Josh van der Flier’s collection of a penalty on the floor.

It triggered yet another Leinster attack, Tadhg Furlong rescuing a lost lineout before Gibson-Park sent an arrow of a pass for Sheehan to pick up his second, Byrne’s conversion hitting the upright for a second time.

A crazy passage occurred when Leinster stole a maul, Lowe spilt the ball near his line and Boudehent lost the ball forward too.

It was the first sniff of a rebound by La Rochelle, Caelan Doris corralling Gregory Alldritt over the line, albeit on a penalty advantage.

A reset scrum enabled Jonathan Danty to bump Garry Ringrose and re-accelerate to the whitewash for Antoine Hastoy to convert, bringing a pulsating first quarter to a conclusion.

The failure of Levani Botia to release Conan at the back end of the tackle enabled Byrne to slot the penalty.

Wing O’Brien’s recovery of Gibson-Park’s high ball and Danty’s refusal to retreat offered Leinster even more territory

The manic ruck aggression of Leinster’s mob was simply overwhelming, bodies flying into contact, led by Ringrose’s capture of Brice Dulin, to carve out a second penalty for Byrne on the half hour.

Pierre Bourgarit was spotted playing Josh van der Flier off the ball. But, Botia snapped up a turnover from Doris.

A frantic period of play augmented by Boudehent’s knee of the ball was defused by the cover of Keenan.

Slowly, La Rochelle was generating go-forward, Skelton taking two in the tackle, Dulin surging and centre Ulupano Seuteni scything through for a try, Hastoy’s conversion making it 23-14 at the interval.

A fine line by Seuteni was dealt with by Gibson-Park and Leinster’s scramble defence for the concession of three points to Hastoy.

The pressure applied by Doris at the restart forced a knock-on out of Bourgarit ahead of a scrum penalty which Byrne posted for 26-17 in the 47th minute.

A ball out on the full from Gibson-Park invited La Rochelle to maul from a lineout, Sheehan’s hammer of a hit on Botia undone by Henshaw’s hands on the ground for Hastoy to strike a penalty.

Leinster were spending too much time on defence, suffering at the maul until van der Flier and Andrew Porter caused a turnover.

The agility of Henshaw at the breakdown finally allowed Byrne to kick long. O’Brien’s contest on Raymond Rhule in the air was, somehow, deemed a penalty.

Again, La Rochelle came through the maul. Again, Leinster stood firm. They needed territory badly.

A scrum buckled. Doris conceded a penalty. Hastoy sought the corner. Once. Twice. The maul came. Aldritt was held up over the line.

Another lineout. Another maul. Georges-Henri Colobme burrowed under Michael Ala’alatoa for the try. Ronan Kelleher was binned as Hastoy’s conversion put them in front for the first time in the 73rd minute.

A high tackle by Danty on Doris produced a yellow card for the centre and, at last, Leinster were able to move inside the 22.

A flurry of furious phases was met with equal doses of desperate defence, Ala’alatoa red-carded for a direct hit to the head of Colombe in the 78th minute.

La Rochelle were able to see it out with back-to-back lineouts to the tail to condemn Leinster to heartbreak again.