MATCH REPORT | Lyon 20-28 Saracens Men
Saracens Men ground out a heroic 28-20 victory over Lyon at the Matmut Stadium, showing incredible grit and desire to make it two wins from two in the Heineken Champions Cup.
The Men in Black were down to 14 men for the closing stages and had to defend their line like their lives depended on it, but eventually came away with the win to spark wild celebrations in France.
Sarries started strongly with plenty of intensity in the freezing cold temperatures, and an early penalty from Owen Farrell with just four minutes on the clock settled any nerves.
Lyon then grew in to the game and had a golden chance to score the first try of the match, but Tavite Veredamu couldn’t gather a pass with the try-line at his mercy. A much-needed scrum penalty then allowed Sarries to clear their lines.
The Londoners were galvanised after that and started to dominate proceedings. Ben Earl’s break off the back of a lineout resulted in a penalty, and the following maul was brought down which meant Felix Lambel was sent to the sin-bin.
They made no mistake from the next lineout, using the man advantage to perfection as the maul powered over and Jamie George was at the base to score the first try of the afternoon. The conversion went just wide, but the visitors were now 8-0 up with 15 minutes played.
It got even better five minutes later as Earl powered over for try number two. Elliot Daly’s brilliant kick chase gave them the territory, and then the ball went patiently through the hands from right to left before Farrell put Earl through a gap and he stepped the final man to score in the corner. Farrell’s touchline conversion extended the lead to 15 points.
Lyon got themselves back in to the match on the half hour mark with their first points courtesy of a try from Hamza Kaabeche. A solid scrum on half way gave them the platform to launch an attack, and Alexandre Tchaptchet’s dancing feet took play right up to the line. The ball was then popped up to the loosehead who was never going to be stopped from just a metre out.
The hosts, buoyed on by a vocal home crowd then crossed again just four minutes later and it was Kaabache once again. Baptiste Couilloud broke from a lineout, and then with a huge overlap on the left wing the ball found the prop who galloped over from 10 metres out. Both conversions went wide however, ensuring Sarries had a 15-10 lead as we approached half time.
A big chance then came Saracens’ way as Alex Lewington intercepted and kicked deep in to the Lyon 22, but once they were dragged in to touch a fumble at the maul allowed the hosts to escape and they kicked the ball in to the stands to signal the end of an eventful opening 40 minutes.
Lyon made the perfect start to the second half to complete an impressive comeback as they scored just two minutes after the restart. A pass went to ground and then a late shot sparked significant handbags, however play continued and the ball popped up to Fletcher Smith who had a clear run to the line. He the converted from the touchline to put the hosts 17-15 ahead.
Sarries then had a big chance to regain the lead with Sean Maitland in space on the left after sustained pressure in the 22, but as he cut back inside the cover scrambled back and brought him down just short.
Another opportunity then came Lyon’s way with an interception but the ball wouldn’t quite bounce up for them and George’s excellent turnover cleared the danger.
Then came a try for the ages as Sarries went back in front in sensational style. A goal-line drop out meant the visitors had possession deep in their own 22, but Alex Lozowski’s break and inside pass to George saw the hooker charging in to their half. He then brilliantly grubbered ahead and it bounced up to Maitland who raced away from 20 metres.
Farrell’s conversion gave the try the extras it deserved as his side had gone from one end of the pitch to the other in the blink of an eye.
Seconds later Marco Riccioni got over the ball with Lyon playing out from their own 22, and Farrell made no mistake to put the Londoners 25-17 ahead.
Sarries were playing with freedom and confidence which was clear to see for everyone, and Earl’s inside pass to Daly almost had the full-back clear for the bonus point but the pass inside couldn’t go to hand and Lyon intercepted.
Smith then kicked a penalty for Lyon with 15 minutes to go to cut the lead to five, and set up a grandstand finish at the Matmut. Alec Clarey was then red-carded for a high shot, and the Londoners would have to dig in if they were to leave with the points.
A sequence of penalties for the French side meant the pressure was mounting, but once again the defensive discipline was too much and they managed to escape.
Then three penalties in as many minutes took Mark McCall’s men up to half way, and with just one minute left there was time for Daly to land a trademark penalty and secure a famous win for the Men in Black.