Max Deegan’s first Heineken Champions Cup try set Leinster Rugby on their way to a dogged 13-6 victory over first-time opponents Lyon at Matmut Stadium de Gerland.

On his first European start, the young number 8 crashed over in the 22nd minute to establish a 10-0 lead, a scoreline the province held up to half-time thanks to some excellent defending during Jordan Larmour’s sin-bin period.

Lyon out-half Jonathan Wisniewski landed two penalties during the final quarter, but man-of-the-match Johnny Sexton’s second successful penalty – in the 78th minute – got his side over the finish line in a closely-fought Pool 1 encounter.

Meeting Lyon for the first time, Leinster had to absorb some early pressure from the current Top 14 leaders. Wisniewski sent a drop goal attempt wide before Sexton’s well-struck penalty from just outside the 10-metre line – awarded for a high tackle on Deegan – opened the scoring in the ninth minute.

The Leinster captain watched a difficult second penalty effort bounce away off the near left hand post, following a collapsed maul infringement. The visitors’ attack clicked into gear from a midfield turnover, Robbie Henshaw charging up to the Lyon 22 but Garry Ringrose’s kick through was well covered by Toby Arnold.

Scott Fardy’s long levers got over the ball to win a clearing penalty soon after, and the opening try was just minutes away. Josh van der Flier, who covered a huge amount of ground throughout, charged down a Wisniewski kick, collected the ball and sent James Ryan charging deep into Lyon territory.

Possession was retained with the returning Tadhg Furlong showing impressive hands again, maintaining a fluidity to the attack before Deegan, with Rhys Ruddock on the latch, burrowed in under a couple of tackles for his crucial try, converted by Sexton.

Despite handling errors blighting Lyon’s attempts to respond, their skipper Baptiste Couilloud caught his opposite number Luke McGrath at the back of a scrum and had to be hauled down five metres short by Sexton. Larmour thought the ball was out and played it, prompting referee Luke Pearce to reach for his yellow card.

However, Leinster’s defence held firm while down to 14 men, forcing a knock-on from Hendrik Roodt and standing up to a prolonged bout of pressure from successive maul offences which drew a warning from referee Pearce. They were able to force another knock-on, this time from Xavier Chiocci.

Double-teaming and quickly getting off the line, Leinster repelled what the hosts could throw at them. They got back on the front foot with Ringrose breaking from deep after good build-up play from his half-backs, while van der Flier wriggled free from a maul but neither side could tag on a late score.

Defence became increasing importantly during a scrappy third quarter as the scoreless spell was extended. Van der Flier claimed a textbook turnover on the ground from Demba Bamba, while an important Arnold tackle prevented Ryan from capitalising on an overlap out wide.

McGrath knocked on at the back of a promising maul, but it was Lyon’s own lineout drive which was carrying the biggest threat. Although two maul collapses had Leinster back just five metres from their own whitewash, Deegan and replacement Andrew Porter led the way in earning a turnover from the hosts’ next attempted drive for the line.

A lineout infringement from Ryan allowed Wisniewski to get Lyon off the mark with 66 minutes on the clock, yet Leinster made sure they stayed just out of reach. Replacement Jamison Gibson-Park cleverly drew a penalty from Jonathan Pélissié, sending Lyon back towards their own line.

The Leinster bench chipped away with Porter and 100-cap hooker James Tracy going close before Henshaw freed up Sexton to raid in behind the posts. However, a TMO review highlighted obstruction by Ringrose and the try was ruled out. The penalty advantage did allow Sexton to add three points, though.

The visitors were penalised at the restart, a slight knock-on from the receiving Ryan seeing Ringrose pinged for offside. Wisniewski’s kick was enough to seal Lyon’s losing bonus point, and despite a frantic final attack, a knock-on from Arnold left the margin at seven points.

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