Lyon seal play-off place after beating La Rochelle

Date published: May 18 2019

Lyon made sure of their place in the Top 14 play-offs and strengthened their position in third after overcoming La Rochelle 29-19 at the Matmut Stadium de Gerland.

They are now five points clear of the two teams directly below them and, as a result, are on course for a home game in the barrages.

Pierre Mignoni’s men controlled much of the first half, opening up a 16-9 advantage at the break thanks to Liam Gill’s try and Jonathan Wisniewski’s three penalties.

The visitors did well to remain in the contest via the boot of fly-half Maxime Lafage before they upped the intensity in the early stages of the second period and superbly levelled matters via Eliott Roudil.

However, Lyon were the better outfit and won the game via Charlie Ngatai and the accuracy of their fly-half off the tee.

Jono Gibbes decided to name a weakened team for this encounter following their Challenge Cup exertions and they struggled to get on the front foot against a remarkably obdurate Lyon team.

With Deon Fourie and Liam Gill in their pack, Mignoni’s charges are tough to move at the breakdown and the away side initially had difficulties at going through the phases.

The hosts duly controlled matters and deservedly went 10-0 ahead as Wisniewski kicked a penalty and Gill crossed the whitewash. La Rochelle had struggled at the maul against Clermont Auvergne and they were once again exposed as Lyon sent them into reverse and their Australian flanker touched down.

To the visitors’ credit, they got themselves into the contest and reduced the arrears at the interval as Lafage kicked three penalties to Wisniewski’s two to leave them seven points in arrears going into the final 40 minutes.

They then immediately cancelled that deficit out, levelling matters with an outstanding move. It was the most fluent either team had been as Tawera Kerr-Barlow took a quick tap and a fine attack ended in Roudil scampering across the line.

Gibbes’ men were back in the contest but they proceeded the hand the initiative back to Lyon as a poor error allowed Noa Nakaitaci to pounce and kick through. Although the wing was brought down just short, Ngatai picked up and scored to regain the lead for his side.

Wisniewski and Lafage then traded three-pointers, leaving the match finely poised going into the last 10 minutes, but Mignoni’s outfit sealed the victory through the boot of their pivot.

Elsewhere in France’s top-tier, both Castres and Racing 92 improved their play-off prospects by overcoming strugglers Agen and Perpignan respectively.

The defending champions were tested by Philippe Sella’s men, who confirmed their Top 14 status two weeks ago, but they eventually came out on top, winning 17-10 after Wilfrid Hounkpatin and Loic Jacquet touched down.

It was much easier for Racing, however, after they thrashed the already-relegated Catalans 52-14 at the Stade Aime Giral. They ran in eight tries in total, with Louis Dupichot and Simon Zebo both scoring hat-tricks, while Dominic Bird and Finn Russell also scored.

Finally, it was a good day for Pau’s defence, who kept Grenoble scoreless at the Stade du Hameau. They had conceded 83 points in their previous match but produced a vastly improved rearguard effort to overcome the 13th placed team 22-0.

They crossed the whitewash three times via Marvin Lestremau, Quentin Lespiaucq and Clovis Lebail, while Colin Slade kicked two conversions and a penalty.