The slap hurts. One more. Another disillusionment. Lyon sank on Saturday evening against Stade Toulousain (45-0). Already before Christmas, the Rhone manager proclaimed it to remobilize his troops: “Now we must accept where we are in the ranking, agree to talk about maintaining.” At the time, LOU was twelfth in the ranking, it is now thirteenth and therefore a barrier, doubled in the ranking by Perpignan who has just signed a third success in a row against Oyonnax to leave the red zone. The alert level is more than exceeded for the Lyonnais, totally overwhelmed at Ernest-Wallon against the reigning French champions who did not even give the impression of forcing their talent.
Successor this season, manager Fabien Gengenbacher, who worked for Grenoble, seems to be at an impasse. Incapable of finding solutions and instigating revolt. “There is not much to take away from this match, we obviously cannot be satisfied with it. Playing the best is a way to benchmark yourself and the score reflects the gap that there may be between Stade Toulouse and LOU today, he notes helplessly. Sometimes it’s good to face reality head on.” Not sure that this helps his players find momentum...
This year, the battle is fierce to maintain. Five stables are affected. Montpellier, 2022 French champion in full disarray for 18 months, is no longer four points behind LOU after its success on Sunday over Toulon (27-17). And other teams are affected by the battle for the bottom of the ranking between Bayonne (10th with 24 points), Usap (11th, 21 pts) and Oyonnax (12th, 20 pts). Before this disastrous trip to Haute-Garonne, hooker Guillaume Marchand had explained to Progrès that his team just lacked “regularity and consistency. Honestly, everyone is 100% invested in the project. But we must finally be able to transcribe throughout the duration of a match what we work on well in training. On Saturday, Lyon conceded its heaviest defeat of the season.
More global problem: with only four successes in eight twelve days of Top 14, the LOU - undermined by absences due to managerial injuries - is experiencing the worst record at this stage of the season since its first rise to the elite in 2011. Never since the resumption has the LOU managed to string together two successes in a row. The recent victory against the MHR (20-18), before New Year's Eve, was only a flash in the pan as the limits displayed in Toulouse were glaring, including passivity and a lack of aggressiveness worrying. “We took a blow to the head but that doesn't take away the magnitude of the result and the production. We must use what we have done to avoid repeating it again. What bothers me is that we saw things that we had already reworked. We have to grow,” says Fabien Gengenbacher.
Growing up the LOU had nevertheless arrived there, under the orders of Pierre Mignoni between 2015 and 2022, after years of yo-yoing before stabilizing in the elite. The club of President Yann Roubert had managed to reach the semi-finals of the Top 14 twice in 2018 and 2019. But the rest was more complicated with two 9th places in 2021 and 2022. Last year, the LOU finished third, eliminated in the play-off at home by Bordeaux-Bègles (25-32). But Xavier Garbajosa was at odds with his players. Divorce was inevitable. With his successor Fabien Gengenbacher, the situation did not get worse, the mayonnaise never took hold. The club that won the French championship in 1932 and 1933 and the Challenge Cup in 2022 is in an impasse. But the latter calls for sacred union: “We must show mental strength, we must stay together. We are not going to question everything after this match. The players realize that we will have to maintain our position even if we have not had much time to accept it. Everyone is aligned on the same goal.”