Lyon 20-28 Saracens: The visitors survive the shock and take two wins out of two in the Champions Cup
The Christmas market at Place Carnot in Lyon was packed with festive shoppers on Friday night as locals braved the frigid French temperatures to shop for festive gifts.
Saracens aren’t usually known for giving their rivals generously, but after Mark McCall’s men gave away a 15-0 lead and dropped to 14 men, it looked like they were dying to hand out a gift of their own at Matmut Stadium. In the end, the Premiership team had to win this twice.
Doing it was no easy task. The Champions Cup is clearly not what it used to be. She has been rightly criticized this week. But this was a classic Anglo-French European clash. It ebbed and flowed.
The Saracens defeated Lyon 28-20 away – with Owen Farrell adding 10 points for his side
Saracens were dominant and then in reverse. As temperatures in the stands dipped to minus two degrees, their rugby director McCall lived and breathed at every stage.
He knew how big this one was. A win here means the Saracens are now two out of two and in a box seat for qualifying.
Two late line-out steals by the standout Theo McFarland after backup Saracens base Alec Clarey was sent off were pivotal moments.
Theo McFarland impressed in Saracens’ important 28-20 away win against Lyon
It was the same with a long shot from the visitors that was stopped by Sean Maitland but created by Alex Lozowski and an outrageous Lionel Messi-esque kick from Jamie George.
“The fighting spirit we showed in the last 15 minutes got us over the line,” said McCall.
“We started very well, controlled the game and then lost control. It was pretty chaotic.
“That’s what this competition should be about. We were under a lot of pressure and it feels good to have won the game. I am happy about a very important victory.”
Ben Earl (pictured with the ball) scored one of the Saracens’ three tries in the game as they won away
That’s how McCall should be. After limping past Edinburgh this was always a tougher test for Saracens and it proved it. You would never have it easy here.
But in the first quarter, the Saracens easily moved into a comfortable advantage. Their strikers were outstanding. Owen Farrell kicked an early penalty. Ben Earl charged forward.
When the away side’s mighty slugger was illegally sacked, referee Frank Murphy correctly yellow-carded Felix Lambey but, bizarrely, did not award a penalty try. Doesn’t matter.
Saracens immediately stepped back into the corner and George slammed over. Her second was even better, Farrell threatened to pass long but delivered short to Earl rolling over.
At 15:0 it was one-way traffic. It was the hallmark of the Saracens, powerful and ruthless.
Then out of nowhere came the French resistance. Lyon also faced many dangers with the injury of former Saracen lockout Joel Kpoku.
Prop Hamza Kaabeche scored from close range on his team’s first attack, then added a second after going wide. Kaabeche showed impressive pace.
Hamza Kaabeche scored from close range on Lyon’s first attack and soon added a second
Suddenly the French audience had something to cheer about. “No, no, no,” McCall yelled as his wing caught Alex Lewington but then kicked the ball away.
At the break, the Saracens should have been more than five points ahead.
As French fans sipped their pinot noir and munched foie gras and brie in the hospitality suites, they would have known their team were lucky to still be in touch. Lyon took the lead for the first time, with the majority of their supporters still enjoying the break refreshments. It was a controversial trial with Farrell at the center.
England’s captain was smashed late by Yanis Charcosset. Farrell got up smiling as the ball sailed down the field, but his grin soon faded as a brawl escalated.
Meanwhile, Lyon’s wing had collected Noa Nakaitaci and sent Fletcher Smith to score for a try only given after Murphy consulted his TMO Leo Colgan.
Saracens endured some jitters in the game as Lyon got back into the game
Saracens suddenly looked nervous. But their risky tactics of playing in dangerous areas trumped Maitland’s decisive result. Lozowski created the first break, English hooker George assisted and stepped forward brilliantly, and Maitland finished it off. It was a fantastic try.
George has already shown his footballing talent at Soccer AM and here it showed again.
Farrell’s boot continued to clear Saracens but they produced an impressive bottle to stay ahead after Clarey was rightfully red carded for a high tackle on Arno Botha. A man easy, Saracens were under the pump.
But McFarland’s setwork helped ease the pressure somewhat as McCall jumped and jumped with nervousness on a brutally cold evening.
Elliot Daly’s long-range effort with the last shot of the game made it safe for Saracens.
Saracens held on to victory despite being dead after Alec Clarey was sent off
Lyon vs Saracens Game Facts
Try: Kaabeche (2), Smith
Try: George, Earl, Maitland
Disadvantages: Farell (2)
pencils: Farell (2), Daly
referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
starman: Theo McFarland (Saracens)
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/article-11549547/Lyon-20-28-Saracens-Visitors-survive-scare-make-two-wins-two-Champions-Cup.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Lyon 20-28 Saracens: The visitors survive the shock and take two wins out of two in the Champions Cup