Head to Head
This will be only the second fixture between Lyon and Cardiff following the fixture in October last year when the home team ran out 29-19 winners. At home, Lyon are a formidable outfit, having lost only twice at home this season, narrowly to La Rochelle and Toulouse. They sit mid-table in the Top14, having finished 10th last season following promotion from ProD2 where they spent a year during the 2015-16 season.
Pierre Mignoni played for seven clubs during a long career in French rugby, eventually ending his playing days with Toulon in 2011. He spent four years at the club post-retirement as a coach, before moving to Lyon in the summer of 2015. Since then, he’s brought stability to the club and amassed a very impressive 76% home win ratio. At Cardiff, Danny Wilson is coming to the end of his time with the club, and will want to improve on his overall 48% win rate. In a tight group, his team has only scored 9 tries (and only conceded 8). No other team in this season’s competition has scored fewer tries.
33 year old Matt Carley will referee Cardiff for the third time in his career this weekend, but this will be the first time he will do so in a major fixture. 62% of games in the English premiership this season have resulted in home wins, and that’s also Carley’s overall record of home wins. This will be his 10th game in the Challenge Cup. He’s averaging just under 18.5 penalties per game in the Premiership, pretty much the same as last season. But when it comes to carding teams, Carley has been far from shy this season. So far, he’s doing so at a rate of 1.7 cards per game – with more than twice as many being awarded against the away team.
Cardiff have yet to score four tries in the Pro14 this season. Twelve times last season they scored three tries or more, and only once went on to score a bonus point in three games. Against Toulouse, Cardiff carried the ball 479m – their third highest carry figure this season. Meanwhile, in the Top14, Lyon average around 320m per game. With ball in hand, Cardiff play more of a kicking game than their French opponents – Lyon averaging 19 kicks a game whereas Cardiff’s figure is 20% higher. There is a fairly consistent difference over the last two seasons.
Lyon’s scrum is one of the more impressive in the Pro14 with a 92% success rate. However, in the Challenge Cup, they’ve been less successful, registering only 88%. Cardiff – meanwhile – have lost only one scrum on their put in so far in the competition. Lyon’s lineout success rate of 91% ranks above their visitors who have only managed an 85% in success rate in the competition. In the reverse fixture in Wales, Lyon returned a 100% success rate from 8 feeds to the scrum and the visitors inflicted Cardiff’s only loss against the head in this season’s competition.
Cardiff have the strongest home record of any of the teams featuring in the Challenge Cup this season – having won over 91% of their home games with their last defeat being in November 2015 when they lost to Harlequins. Lyon also have an impressive home record, having only lost twice at home in the competition with their last defeat being to the Ospreys in October 2016. In Lyon’s last four games, the team has recorded a tackle success rate of only around 80%, so they’ll want to improve on this for the visit of Cardiff. As for the Welshmen, their tackle stats reflect the up-and-down nature of their performances. Overall, Cardiff have a completion rate of 89% in the Challenge Cup this season, whereas Lyon’s 85% sees them in the lower half of the table. Missing 28 and 29 tackles in away games against Toulouse and Sale lie behind this percentage. Against Connacht in September, Cardiff completed 233 tackles in the game – the most by any team in any fixture in European pro-rugby this season. They’ll need to replicate that commitment if they want to secure a victory in Lyon.
Only Treviso and Munster have received more cards that Cardiff in the Pro14, and Cardiff’s discipline has deteriorated over the last two seasons. No team has been penalised more than Cardiff in the Pro14 with the team having conceded 138 penalties. Last season, Lyon’s discipline was amongst the best in France in the Top14, though this year, they remain mid-table. Interestingly enough, Lyon can match Cardiff as the most penalised team in France in the Top14, so it would seem that Carley is set for a busy evening.
Last season, the visitors lost eleven games away from home – already this season, the figure stands at seven. However, in the Challenge Cup, Cardiff have won three out of their last five away games, with the failure to perform in Salford a real blight. When it comes to France, Cardiff have the best record of away wins amongst the professional clubs in Wales, but victories still remain a rarity. As with many French teams, they present a different proposition when playing at home. This game represents a dead rubber for both sides, but it will be Lyon’s desire to maintain their home record that will see them come away as victors in a closely fought game, 22-21.