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Saturday, May 19, 2018

Ma'a Nonu sensational as Chris Ashton blows chances in Lyon thriller

Lyon advanced to their first ever Top 14 semi-final after knocking out Toulon on Friday night, scoring two tries to one in the 19-19 extra time thriller from Stade Félix Mayol. In spite of the elimination, Ma'a Nonu showed that he remains at top form.

The three-time European champions came in as favourites and perhaps would be the ones advancing themselves, were it not for two monumental handling errors from the normally reliable scoring machine, Chris Ashton.

One of those moments came on the back of Nonu displaying his undiminished attacking capability.

After gassing through the defence for roughly 60 metres, he smartly kicked ahead for the streaking Ashton, who had himself also skinned every defender. The ball could not have been more perfectly set up in stride for the speedster. All that was left was to catch it and fall, try time. Not so fast. 

Though Ashton did eventually score a very well taken try, he'll have plenty of time to process the errors - and the rather innocuous 'punch' to the face from Nonu.


Nonu had numerous other magical moments throughout the extra-time thriller. He looked so much like his old self, it begs the question if he's ever truly dropped in form, despite now being a few years after playing at the highest level.

Of course, his highlights reel would often also include the patented Nonu shoulder charge, for which he was yet again yellow-carded. Frederic Michalak, who will retire shortly, had to go off injured from it. 

For their part, Lyon were certainly on a mission and had no problem capitalizing on mistakes and playing from behind in front of an imposing crowd.

Trailing 13-6 mid-way through the second half, Lyon scored two tries within five minutes of one another. Francois Trinh-Duc then added three points for Toulon but also missed a drop goal, thus ensuring extra-time. 

Extra time smiled on Lyon as Toulon lost both Nonu and Trinh-Duc, Nonu to the yellow card and Trinh-Duc to an unfortunate broken arm. Toulon had pulled ahead three but Lyon's Michael Harris knotted the scores once again, where they would remain.

Lyon head coach Pierre Mignoni was certainly all smiles. "To come here to the Stade Mayol and win, it's incredible... I said to the players that we had everything to win, even if journalists said we had nothing to lose"

Though a stalemate, due to the 2-1 try advantage, Lyon advance to face Montpellier.



Credit: Top Rugby/Getty Images

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