Two late London Welsh tries set up a grandstand finish at the Kassam Stadium on Sunday afternoon, but ultimately the Exiles came up just short against the Top 14 opponents.
Lyon looked to be coasting to a comfortable victory thanks to first half tries from Thibaut Regard and Lachie Munro, and then Damien Fitzpatrick’s 60th minute touchdown. But Rob Lewis’s try 12 minutes from time looked like it might be more than just a consolation when Koree Britton then forced his way over.
That set up a grandstand finish in the five minutes that remained, but the Exiles couldn’t conjure a third try that would have given them the chance to end their winless run.
Lyon were on the front foot from early on in this Round 6, Pool 4, clash. Chris Elder was forced to concede a five-metre scrum from one nicely weighted kick through and Eugene Nzi touched down only for the try to be ruled out for a double movement.
The reprieve would be short, as a chip over the top took a wicked bounce and Regard collected to touch down and give the visitors the lead. Lyon extended that lead four minutes later as they turned defence into attack from turnover ball – Steevy Cerqueira led the break out before a lovely floated pace found Munro on the left wing and he ghosted over in the corner.
That sparked Welsh into life and the home side would lay siege to the Lyon line, forcing a succession of penalties which they pushed into the corner, but to no avail. Finding a way through the Lyon defence would prove difficult for the Exiles until those final 12 minutes.
Welsh would have to settle for a ten-point deficit at the break, although their domination of possession in the second quarter suggested the scoreline should have been far closer.
The home side came out keen to force the pace in the second half but errors would thwart them and Lyon slowly began to get on top, keeping Welsh pinned in their own 22. The stalemate was finally broken when hooker Fitzpatrick accepted an offload at pace and burst through to score. Munro converted and with 20 minutes to go the Top 14 side lead 17-0.
The arrival of Elliot Kear injected some new life into the Exiles and his quickly taken mark gave Lyon something to think about in defence, and the former Rugby League star then found a gap before releasing James Lewis. It was a break that would eventually lead to the home side’s opening try, complete with Eddie Aholelei’s through the legs pass to Rhys Crane, and the winger had Rob Lewis on his inside shoulder.
Roberts converted and Welsh had renewed purpose about them, and with five minutes to go a grandstand finish was ensured when the way to the tryline suddenly opened up for Aholelei and the prop put his head down and went for it. Although Aholelei was hauled down short, Welsh went wide and Britton had the power to force his way over in the corner.
Welsh galvanised themselves for one last assault and in final minute worked their way up to the Lyon 22, only for the visitors to be awarded a scrum. The away side’s reaction to a subsequent penalty, as arms were thrust into the Oxford air in celebration, told the story as Welsh’s brave late effort fell short.
London Welsh scorers:
Tries: Rob Lewis, Britton. Cons: Roberts.
Tries: Regard, Munro, Fitzpatrick. Cons: Munro.
Referee: Vlad Iordachescu (Rom)
Touch Judges: Radu Petrescu & Cristian Raduta