For a while it seemed Wasps were heading for a European final for the first time in 15 years. Ultimately it was not to be but the Premiership’s ninth-placed club pushed Lyon right to the wire moments before the hosts could secure their place in the Challenge Cup finale in Marseille on Friday week.
With under half an hour to go Wasps were ahead 11-10 thanks to Jimmy Gopperth’s second penalty of the game but a converted try for the 20-year-old replacement hooker Yanis Charcosset and 15 points from fly-half Leo Berdeu, the top scorer in this season’s French Top 14, proved just enough to propel Lyon to the first European final in their history.
One or two costly Wasps errors under the high ball and the gathering confidence of the home pack also contributed to the outcome, with the visitors left to regret their strike rate in the opposing 22. A last-gasp turnover in the third quarter, in particular, denied Wasps a seemingly inevitable try and a 75th-minute converted score for Jimmy Gopperth proved too little too late.
Whether it was the heat or just the marked improvement in Lyon’s performance that ultimately made the difference in the second half, Wasps could not always sustain their early promise. Initially they had looked the more alert side and their scrum was also making decent headway.
Defensively Wasps were also making a nuisance of themselves with Jack Willis prominent at the breakdown and they deserved to open the scoring through Dan Robson, the scrum-half catching the Lyon defence unawares to snipe over following a close-range lineout.
A sweeping team score, finished by Berdeu, gave Lyon some encouragement, however, and Charcosset’s second-half score from close range left Wasps to play catch up. They had previously beaten both Biarritz and Edinburgh in thrilling finishes away from home but Pierre Mignoni’s side had enough power in reserve on the bench to rise above Gopperth’s late thrust