Lyon OU 24 Northampton Saints 36: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

On the way down to the press room after the game at the Matmut Stadium on Saturday afternoon, it felt almost like you were back at Franklin's Gardens.

Sunday, 19th January 2020, 1:25 pm
Updated Sunday, 19th January 2020, 3:37 pm
James Fish finished the job with his team's fifth try

Because, booming out in bar next to the ground were Saints songs as supporters celebrated their side's sensational success in style.

It was the second time in three European away trips that the Northampton chants have been heard loud and proud on foreign soil.

And just as in Treviso in Northampton, the Saints had marched to a dramatic and extremely memorable success.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

However, while the same number of points were accrued as at Benetton, the meaning of this maximum haul was so much more.

Because nine years after Saints last won in France, the club finally delivered again.

Trips to the likes of Castres, Clermont, Racing 92 and Montpellier have undoubtedly produced fun weekends for Saints fans.

But it has previously been the off-field culture that has made the trip memorable.

Cobus Reinach used his blistering pace to score a breakaway try

This time, it was the rugby.

It didn't look like that would be the case at half-time.

In fact, it looked like it would be another French lesson for the black, green and gold.

But the team Chris Boyd is building has something special about it.

Saints delivered a memorable win at the Matmut Stadium

Actually, it possesses many special qualities - and the main one is belief.

At 17-5 down at the break against a ferocious Lyon side, there were echoes of so many other difficult days across the Channel.

But Saints refused to be bowed, and their dominant start to the second half gave them belief.

They got the try the wanted, through Teimana Harrison, and even though Lyon hit back almost immediately, Saints kept their heads high.

They stood tall in defence, forcing mistakes from their hosts, and they attacked with real vigour, led by the likes of Dan Biggar and Cobus Reinach.

If Biggar was often the architect, the likes of Reinach and George Furbank were the finishers-in-chief.

They showed how razor-sharp this Saints side can be, ripping Lyon apart as the hosts lost their way.

It was a stunning second-half display, and to win a 40-minute period 31-7 against a team sitting second in the Top 14 is something quite incredible, no matter the context.

It puts this victory, which ended a run of 11 successive Saints defeats in France, right up there as one of the club's best modern-day wins.

And it finally brings an end to that French resistance, which stretched all the way back to January 2011, when Saints won at Castres on the way to reaching the Heineken Cup final.

Could they get to Europe's showpiece event this season?

The fact they must go away from home in the quarter-final would suggest otherwise.

But over the years, from Belfast to Dublin and, this season, from Treviso to Lyon, Saints continue to defy the odds.

And after they finally achieved something that has eluded so many men during their Northampton careers, you might just be foolish to bet against this bunch right now.

How they rated...

GEORGE FURBANK

Had a few tricky moments but more than bounced back as he delivered a sensational side-step to finish a fine Saints move and earn the bonus point... 7.5

AHSEE TUALA

A decent showing from the winger who did what he could to keep Lyon on their toes and who also made a few interventions defensively... 7

FRASER DINGWALL

The young centre will benefit hugely from experiences such as this and he didn't do too much wrong as he tried to carry the fight to Lyon... 7

ANDY SYMONS

Was a key weapon for Saints at times as his power made him a bit of a menace, but the ball didn't quite stick for him on a couple of occasions... 6.5

OLLIE SLEIGHTHOLME

The young wing has played in both of Saints' European away wins this season and looked very useful in both matches... 7

DAN BIGGAR

Keeps displaying his world-class ability in Saints colours, pulling the strings with try assist after try assist and kicking the points that matter most... 8

COBUS REINACH

Saints will miss this man's speed when he leaves as he can unlock doors that don't even seem to be there, beating several Lyon defenders to the ball to score a key try here... 8

ALEX WALLER

He and his fellow forwards had a battle on their hands up front but they responded well and the co-captain could be pleased with his day's work... 7.5

MIKE HAYWOOD

Helped to ensure Saints would not repeat their lineout woes of the previous week and also etched his name on the scoresheet... 8

OWEN FRANKS

The presence of the All Blacks star can not be understated as he brings composure to the team and also helps them stay balanced in the scrum... 7.5

ALEX MOON

Rarely fails to impress and he was good again here, looking strong in open play and also helping to control the steady Saints lineout... 8

COURTNEY LAWES

Was a real force in helping Saints to combat Lyon's power and the lock's experience on the big stage proved key... 8

TOM WOOD

Made a crucial saving tackle on Josua Tuisova early on and his importance to this team was evident once again as he pouched lineout after lineout and put his body on the line... 8.5

LEWIS LUDLAM - CHRON STAR MAN

Made more metres and carries than any other Saints player in a gargantuan display as his improvement continues at pace... 8.5

TEIMANA HARRISON

Scored one try and almost had another, only to see the ball evade his grasp, as he delivered yet another huge showing full of hunger for his side... 8.5