Leinster underpinned their tag as the Champions Cup favourites as they made it two from two in Europe with a seven-point away win over Lyon.
Max Deegan’s try in the opening half, together with a penalty and conversion from Johnny Sexton, handed the visitors a 10-0 lead at the break while the Leinster captain added a subsequent penalty in the second period.
However, Leinster’s win wasn’t as dominant as the scoreline would suggest as Lyon had numerous opportunities throughout the game though their lack of disciplined coupled with a high error count prevented them from scoring until the 66th minute. Jonathan Wisniewski slotted a late penalty to ensure the losing bonus-point for the Top 14 side.
In the damp conditions, Leinster made an early error when Luke McGrath failed to control a high ball, gifting Lyon a scrum just inside their 10-metre line. The home side retained pressure and attempted to move the ball. However, with a lack of attacking options, Jonathan Wisniewski opted for a drop goal which drifted wide to relieve the pressure on Leinster.
Josh van der Flier was lively early on and the flanker made a number of carries as Leinster looked to gain territory. Leo Cullen’s side opened the scoring in the eighth minute through a Johnny Sexton penalty after a high tackle on Garry Ringrose.
Leinster continued to settle into the game with strong carries from Rónan Kelleher and Rhys Ruddock. Their captain was handed the opportunity to double their lead minutes later, however, Sexton was denied by the post and a decent clearance kick pinned Leinster deep inside their own half.
Momentum continued to shift from one side to the other with both teams leaking unforced errors. Tadhg Furlong was penalised in the scrum which handed a major boost to the home side. However, in the resulting phases, Scott Fardy produced a monster turnover at the breakdown with referee Luke Pearce awarding a penalty. Much to the Leinster frustration, Lyon stole the subsequent lineout.
Lyon’s possession was short-lived as van der Flier charged down an attempted clearance kick from Jonathan Wisniewski. James Ryan produced a strong carry to leave the province in an opportunistic position which set up Max Deegan for the game’s opening try. Sexton added the conversion to open up a 10-point win.
The back-and-forth nature of the game continued as Leinster were soon reduced to 14-men when Jordan Larmour was sent to the bin for an infringement five metres from his own try line. Lyon once again scuppered their chance to get points on the board when the ball was knocked on in the scrum, much to the frustration of the home crowd.
Lyon continued to go on the attack as game ticked towards the halfway point. Leinster were repeatedly penalised which brought play right back to their own five-metre line and from the lineout, Lyon pushed for their opening try. The ball was moved wide to Noa Nakaitaci but he was denied by a superb tackle from Luke McGrath. Leinster defended magnificently to maintain their 10-point lead at the break.
The scrappy, stop-start nature of the game continued in the second period with neither team fully finding their footing. The physicality certainly increased and there was a lengthy stoppage in the opening quarter as the TMO reviewed an apparent shoulder charge on Sexton by Mickael Ivaldi. Much to the home supporters’ annoyance, Leinster were awarded a penalty.
The game was slow to spark back to life as the referee repeatedly penalised both sides while the number of scrums also increased. The first clear scoring chance of the second half fell to Lyon who set up a driving maul from a lineout. Leinster were pinged for collapsing it and the French side again went to the corner. As was the story of the match, however, Lyon coughed up possession at the breakdown with Max Deegan and Andrew Porter receiving the plaudits for the turnover.
Lyon eventually got on the scoreboard in the 67th minute through a Wisniewski penalty as Leinster received a final warning for their ill-discipline. That score gave the game a badly needed lift and it was Leinster who next went on the attack. The impressive Deegan made a powerful break before James Low made a typical run. However, the winger’s attempted offload to van der Flier was intercepted by Jonathan Pélissié.
Sexton appeared to have sealed the win in the closing minutes of the game when he crept in behind to touch down between the posts for his side’s second try. However, the TMO was consulted and Ringrose was deemed to have impeded the Lyon defence, ruling out the try. Leinster had been playing with advantage and Pearce went back for the penalty which Sexton slotted.
Lyon had the final say in the game with a three-pointer from Wisniewski to ensure the losing bonus-point, though they remain at the bottom of the pool table.
Lyon: Toby Arnold, Xavier Mignot, Thibaut Regard, Charlie Ngatai, Noa Nakaitaci, Jonathan Wisniewski, Baptiste Couilloud; Xavier Chiocci, Mickael Ivaldi, Demba Bamba, Virgile Bruni, Hendrik Roodt, Julien Puricelli, Liam Gill, Carl Fearns.
Replacements: Jeremie Maurouard, Raphael Chaume, Francisco Gomez Kodela, Etienne Oosthuizen, Loann Goujon, Jonathan Pélissié, Jean-Marcellin Buttin, Rudi Wulf.
Leinster: Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Scott Fardy, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan.
Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Josh Murphy, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Dave Kearney.