Challenge Cup: Lyon dominate Toulon to win first-ever European title

Colin Newboult

Lyon won their first European trophy as they proved to be far too strong for a lacklustre Toulon side in the Challenge Cup final, claiming a 30-12 victory at the Stade Velodrome.

Lyon were by far the better team throughout but they could only open up a three-point advantage at the interval thanks to Baptiste Couilloud’s converted try and Leo Berdeu’s three-pointer.

Toulon were lethargic by comparison but, having seen their opponents butcher several opportunities, Baptiste Serin’s effort kept them in contention in the first half.

The three-time European champions did not learn from their mistakes, though, and Pierre Mignoni’s men went 24-7 ahead through a penalty try and Pierre-Louis Barassi’s score.

Berdeu and Charlie Ngatai then added a penalty apiece in the final quarter to rubberstamp a momentous win, despite Cheslin Kolbe’s consolation.

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Lyon, in their first ever European final, were hugely impressive in the opening 10 minutes, almost creating an early try for Couilloud before the scrum-half touched down moments later.

Their first effort was ruled out due to a knock on from Jordan Taufua, but those two but would eventually be rewarded for their endeavour when the France international half-back scored.

Taufua, who had been magnificent in the early stages, intercepted Sergio Parisse’s pass and Couilloud was in support to finish it off.

Parisse’s error was symptomatic of Toulon’s performance, with Franck Azema’s men surprisingly lacklustre, but they had quality throughout the XV and did burst into life once during the encounter.

They managed to punch a hole in the opposition defence and Charles Ollivon made the decisive surge, taking play to within inches of the line, which allowed Serin to cross the whitewash.

Lyon responded, however, and regained their lead through a Berdeu penalty as they remained on the front foot.

The Stade de Gerland-based outfit should have gone into the break further ahead when Couilloud’s quick-thinking, pace and well-timed pass gave Davit Niniashvili a seemingly simple score. All the teenage wing had to do was place the ball down but somehow he managed to graze the deadball line, leaving them just 10-7 ahead at the break.

That mistake could have been very costly but it is to Lyon’s great credit that they merely reset and finally finished the chances their play deserved in the early part of the second period.

Mignoni’s charges ripped Toulon apart and good work down the left-hand side led to a penalty try and yellow card for Aymeric Luc.

With Luc off the field, Lyon turned on the style when Josua Tuisova went down the right and brilliantly off-loaded to Berdeu, whose deft grubber through enabled Barassi to touch down.

Toulon struggled to respond, butchering a couple of excellent positions, and when Berdeu added another three-pointer, Lyon were within touching distance of the title.

Toulon were a shadow of the team that defeated Saracens in the semi-finals and they just couldn’t break through a stubborn rearguard, even after Berdeu’s yellow card, and Ngatai made their task even harder by kicking a penalty.

Kolbe did cross the whitewash for Azema’s men late on but it was very much Lyon’s evening, who celebrated their first Challenge Cup title.

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