Glasgow Warriors 29
STUART BATHGATE @ Scotstoun
WITH most of their star names rested ahead of the resumption of European competition, this was going to be a quiet weekend for Glasgow – or so we thought. Instead, a PRO14 match that began in relatively low-key fashion blossomed into one of the most entertaining games Scotstoun has seen, thanks to an inspired performance by a Warriors side who were down to 14 men for an hour after Alex Allan was sent off for a no-arms tackle.
The Scarlets had two men yellow-carded, one in either half, and that possibly gave the home team a vital little bit of breathing space. But that should take nothing away from a Warriors performance that was at once disciplined and creative, and produced a result that strengthens their lead at the top of Conference A.
Brandon Thomson was in outstanding form, scoring 24 of his team’s points through a try, two conversions and five penalties, while the men up front were if anything even more impressive given the numerical disadvantage under which they were labouring. Tim Swinson and substitute Siua Halanukonuka, making their first start and first appearance respectively after long-term injuries, were just two of the Glasgow forwards who gave their all. In the end, however, a victory against the odds such as this can only come about if every team member plays his part.
“We knew it was going to be tough before we started the game, so playing with 14 was going to be doubly so,” head coach Dave Rennie said. “I thought it was a really positive response. We were really disciplined, and the penalty count reflected that.
“Our set-piece was excellent, our scrum especially. It was a pretty mature performance. It was a massive effort and we’re really proud of them.”
The dismissal of Allan went down like a heavy-metal inflatable with the home crowd, but Rennie said he understood the referee’s reasoning.“That’s the way it is in footy now. You catch someone on the chin with a shoulder, and they’ve ruled it no arms in the tackle.”
Glasgow were outscored 3-2 on tries, highlighting how important those penalties from Thomson were. The last was the most vital, coming with minutes to play after Scarlets had closed to 26-20 as the Warriors showed signs of fatigue at last. It was a score that not only halted the momentum gained by the Welsh side but also denied them a losing bonus point – something that their coach, Wayne Pivac, accepted they had not merited.
“We didn’t deserve it,” he said. “They thoroughly deserved their victory, and if we had got there and robbed them at the end, it wouldn’t have been justice.
“Glasgow down to 14 men, I thought they were winning the contact area through great body position, great desire. They threw themselves into it and they punished us.
“Our discipline let us down – I think 16, 17, 18 penalties and two yellow cards. The set piece as well. All in all, Glasgow thoroughly deserved their win.”
Scarlets had won their previous four outings against the Warriors, most significantly the last time the teams met here – in the PRO14 semi-final back in May. But if those results suggested they had worked out how to get the better of Glasgow psychologically as well as physically, such a notion was refuted here thanks to the Warriors’ self-belief.
Pivac’s only real complaint about the match focused on the yellow card for Lewis Rawlins soon after he had come off the bench, awarded after the coach argued he had been pushed back into the ruck by a Warriors player. The other sinbinning was for another substitute, Tom Phillips, for a high tackle on Tim Swinson, while Allan saw red for his challenge on Jake Ball.
The sending-off came with the score at 3-3 after Rhys Patchell and Thomson had exchanged penalties, and it seemed to galvanise Glasgow. A second Thomson penalty put them ahead, and then with Rawlins in the bin the stand-off claimed the first try of the night, stretching out of a tackle to touch down after good work from a lineout. Thomson converted to put his team 10 points clear at the break, and that became 17 soon after the resumption when Nick Grigg gathered a bouncing ball from a Ruaridh Jackson punt downfield to run in the second converted try from more than 30 metres out.
Scarlets needed a quick reply, and they got it through captain Jonathan Davies from close range after Uzair Cassiem had gone close. Patchell’s conversion attempt went wide, and two more Thomson penalties sent Glasgow’s advantage up to 18 points as the last quarter began.
With replacement tighthead Halanukonuka anchoring the scrum on his first match back from injury, the seven-man Glasgow pack had the upper hand in a lot of exchanges as the home team’s self-belief continued to grow. Thomson pulled another penalty wide with a dozen minutes to go, and then Phillips went into the bin.
As the Warriors went in search of the score that would kill the game off, a sudden counter-attack ended with Steff Evans grabbing an unconverted try in the left corner. With five minutes to go Clayton Blommetjies scored Scarlets’ third try, awarded despite the suspicion of a forward pass in the build-up. Patchell’s conversion made it a one-score game, and uncomfortable memories of Wales’ astounding late recovery against Scotland eight years ago began to emerge. But Glasgow were not to be thwarted at the death, and another penalty by Thomson stopped the momentum. As Pivac said, any other outcome would have been an injustice.
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; R Nairn, N Grigg, S McDowall, N Matawalu; B Thomson, G Horne; A Allan, G Turner, D Rae, T Swinson, S Cummings, M Smith, C Fusaro, A Ashe. Subs: K Bryce, O Kebble, S Halanukonuka, K McDonald, T Tameilau, N Frisby, P Kelly, R Tagive.
Scarlets:J McNicholl; T Prydie, J Davies, K Fonotia, S Evans; R Patchell, K Hardy; R Evans, R Elias, W Kruger, J Ball, S Cummins, W Boyde, D Davis, U Cassiem. Subs: D Hughes, W Jones, S Gardiner, L Rawlins, T Phillips, S Hidalgo-Clyne, P Asquith, C Blommetjies.
Scorers: Glasgow: Tries: Thomson, Grigg. Cons: Thomson 2. Pens: Thomson 5.
Scarlets: Tries: Davies, Evans, Blometjies. Con: Patchell. Pen: Patchell.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 0-3, 3-3, 6-3, 11-3, 13-3 half-time, 18-3, 20-3, 20-8, 23-8, 26-8, 26-13, 26-18, 26-20, 29-20.
Red card: Glasgow: Allan 20.
Yellow cards: Scarlets: Rawlins 29, Phillips 68.
Referee: F Murphy (Ireland).