Leinster have made it two wins from two with a narrow 13-6 victory away to Lyon this afternoon.
The win follows up last weekend’s 33-19 victory over Benetton and leaves the boys in blue in a good position in Pool 1.
The four-time champions of the competition got off to the perfect start with captain Johnny Sexton slotting over a penalty eights minutes in, despite Lyon having the better of the possession.
Leinster’s defence was the real star of the show on the day, but in the 22nd minute the Irish province got over for the only try of the game as youngster Max Deegan was sent through with some help from Rhys Ruddock. Sexton converted to make it 10-0 as things looked good for Leinster.
The away side were reduced to 14-men when Jordan Larmour was shown a yellow-card minutes later, however, the hosts couldn’t find a way through as they went in 10-0 down come the half-time whistle.
After the break there were signs that Leinster would extend their lead but they couldn’t make their advantage count on the scoreboard.
It took until the 67th minute for Lyon to register their first points of the game as Jonathan Winsniewski knocked over a penalty to make for a grandstand finish.
However, Leinster and the boot of Sexton put an end to any upset with five minutes remaining as he kicked a penalty of his own.
The Lyon fly-half notched another penalty with a couple minutes left to ensure they left the game with a losing bonus-point, but it was Leinster who went away with the 13-6 win.
Leinster will now face a double-header against the Northampton Saints in rounds three and four of the competition, while Lyon face Benetton, but it is so far so good for the Irish side who are on the hunt for a record fifth European crown.
Double Injury Blow for Leinster
Leinster have been handed two big injuries to two of their key men as they head into the Christmas period
Leinster have confirmed that star fly-half Johnny Sexton has suffered a medial tear in his right knee, while Ronan Kelleher has also had an injury set-back.
Sexton, who went off injured during Leinster’s 43-16 victory over Northampton Saints last Saturday, underwent scans on his knee yesterday and saw a specialist who revealed that he will miss between 6 and 8 weeks of action.
However, his injury causes a slight selection headache for new head coach Andy Farrell, who at this moment is without Sexton and Joey Carbery, but the latter is expected to return from injury later this month.
Although Sexton’s injury is a big blow, it could open the door once again for Connacht’s Jack Carty to get a run in the Irish line-up, while Leinster teammate Ross Byrne will take the reigns at club-level and with the form he is currently in, will fancy his chances of getting a call up to the national team having missed out on the Rugby World Cup squad.
The injury also means that Sexton will miss all three of Leinster’s remaining Champions Cup pool fixtures as well as their three inter-provincial derbies over the coming month, with Byrne expected to be backed up by younger brother Harry and Ciaran Frawley.
Although the bad news for both Leinster and Ireland doesn’t stop there with upcoming star hooker Ronan Kelleher expected to be side-lined for a period with a possible fractured hand, which he is thought to have suffered during last weekend’s game.
It is thought that Kelleher was in poll position to earn his first call-up to the Irish side for the Six Nations after a blistering start to the season, but this may now dampen his hopes.
Sean Cronin is believed to be nearing full-fitness once more, which would be a boost for both club and country as he could slot in seamlessly.
The injuries are piling-up for Leinster, who will also miss centre Joe Tomane for the same period as Sexton through a hamstring injury, while Rory O’Loughlin will miss this weekend’s game with injury.
James Ryan is also making his way through the back to play protocols after taking a knock to the head against the Saints, but could feature this Saturday.
Leinster will hope that their squad can cope with the set-backs as they head into this weekend’s home fixture against Northampton, with younger stars now having the chance to lay a marker as the province look to make it 11 wins from 11 at the start of the season.
Sexton to Miss Northampton Return Game
Leinster fly-half Johnny Sexton is set to miss this weekend’s home game against Northampton Saints and there are further injury concerns for the Irish province
The Irish-star went down awkwardly in a tackle early in the second-half of Saturday’s 43-16 victory over the Saints and was replaced by Ross Byrne immediately and will now see a specialist later today for further scans on the injury.
The 34-year-olds fitness uncertainty will come as a massive concern for new Ireland head coach Andy Farrell, with the Six Nations edging closer and with him set to take charge of his first training camp before the New Year.
As well as his skill-set, many expect Sexton to take over the captaincy from recently retired Rory Best, with his experience being a key component to the Irish side.
The good news for his province is that Ross Byrne has been in fine form so far this season after his Rugby World Cup omission from the Irish squad and has back-up from younger brother Harry as well as Ciaran Frawley, with Ross likely to take the starting spot this weekend.
However, Leinster will be without backs Joe Tomane and Rory O’Loughlin this weekend, with the former set to be side-lined for up to eight weeks with a hamstring injury following a brilliant opening to the season, while the latter is suffering from a shoulder problem.
In the forwards James Ryan is undergoing the return to play protocols after taking a knock to the head during Saturday’s win.
Leinster and Ireland will hope that Sexton makes a speedy recovery, but for the boys in blue their eyes will be firmly set on this weekend’s fixture which could see them all but qualify for the knock-out stages of the competition and they will want to continue their perfect start to the season with an incredible 10 wins from 10.
Diamond in Hot Water for Post-Match Comments
Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond didn’t hold back on his assessment of his team’s defeat yesterday and his remarks after the game could put him in hot water with the EPCR
Diamond was clearly unhappy with referee Mathieu Raynal and his team of officials, citing in particular their decisions not to award penalty tries that he felt were a certainty.
“Our driving maul is good. I’ve got to be very careful how I say it, but how we can turn the corner from a driving line-out nine metres out and a guy comes in and tackles it and it’s not a yellow card, penalty try, I don’t know. I just said, ‘Good game’. I said, ‘You’ve had a fantastic game, your touch judges had a brilliant game’. Hopefully that’ll go through to their assessors – and we’ll never see the b******s again in Manchester. Joke! Joke, joke, joke. I just get this feeling these days people want more character in the room, not just yes and no questions, so we’re only having a bit of fun,” he said.
Although he seems to think his comments are just a bit of fun it remains to be seen how well received they are by the EPCR, who will probably be far from amused.
The former hooker is no stranger to post-match controversy having accused a referee of making up decisions before, as well as pushing opposition staff members and getting into an argument with a journalist last year.
Sale’s loss leaves them third in Pool 2 of the Champions Cup and looking likely to fail to progress to the knock-out stages.
However, there has been talk of a boost coming to the club in the form of recently sacked Racing 92 star Leone Nakarawa, who is reportedly being targeted by the side, but Diamond all but put that possibility to bed, while also making a bizarre claim ahead of next weekend’s reverse fixture against the Chiefs.
“I might just send my kids down, I don’t know yet. That’s what other teams are doing, aren’t they? I might just send my Under-19s down and let Exeter go through. We’ll have a think. We’ll put it to bed, the Fijian lad won’t come to England because the weather’s too cold – it’s not money,” he added.
So, by those remarks it seems as though Nakarawa won’t be joining the Sharks any time soon and that Diamond may chance playing an understrength side next weekend.
However, the latter appears unlikely as Sale still have a chance of progressing as they are only two-points off second-placed Glasgow, but at this stage who knows what Diamond will decide to do? What’s certain is that he may have just opened a can of worms for himself with the EPCR.
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