GLASGOW WARRIORS 33
CARDIFF BLUES 24
Stuart Bathgate @ Scotstoun
GLASGOW Warriors not only kept their own hopes of reaching the Champions Cup quarter-finals alive with this hard-fought Pool Three win, they also ensured there will definitely be a Scottish team in the last eight.
Dave Rennie’s team could qualify as group winners if they win at Saracens on Saturday, and even if they lose, they will go through as runners-up if Edinburgh beat Montpellier the previous night. That would knock the French club out of contention in Pool Three, while this weekend’s results mean that only the winners from Pool Two will go through.
A win for Montpellier at BT Murrayfield could see them top the group, and Edinburgh might be left on 19 points – the total that Glasgow now have after this five-try win. In short, there is no guarantee who will be in the last eight, but at least the Warriors did all they had to in order to keep themselves in the mix.
“Difficult conditions, really rapt with our men up front, our scrum and maul were excellent and paved the way, really,” was Rennie’s reaction to his team’s first win in four games. “I thought with ball in hand we did a really good job tonight. I thought we were a lot more direct, made a lot better decisions and were a lot more patient. As I mentioned it paved the way from what the boys did up front.”
Saracens are the only team so far guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals, but the Glasgow coach does not see them slackening off any in a match which they may well still need to win in order to get a home tie in the last eight. “I doubt that Saracens having already qualified will have made things any easier for us. They’ll still want to win the pool and be in the driver’s spot. With Saracens they’ve got such depth that it doesn’t matter who they put out they’re still going to have such a good side, but I think they’ll go full strength.
“It’s another couple of rungs up, isn’t it? You gotta defend really well against them, so we’ll need the same sort of intensity that we played with a few months back, and be a little bit more clinical with ball in hand than we were that day. We’ve got it in us, we’re looking forward to it.
“We know it’s a bit of a logjam with Ulster winning yesterday. We think we’ll need more points next weekend. Our mates down the road could do us a favour if they win on Friday night, but we’ve got to go with the mindset that we need to win. Try and win the pool and so on. I think if we prepare that way, we’ll front well. It’s not a bad thing that we still think that we need more.”
Premiership Match Reports:
An evil wind…
Glasgow had a difficult wind behind them in the first half, and in the opening quarter Stuart Hogg twice kicked dead from distance to surrender promising positions. There was an early setback for the home team when Matt Fagerson went off with a shoulder injury and was replaced by Tim Swinson, with Rob Harley, making his 200th appearance, moving from lock to the back row. Callum Gibbins soon followed him off the field, limping as he went, and this time there was a straight switch at openside, Chris Fusaro coming off the bench.
Gibbins’ initial problem was a knee injury, but Rennie declared the issue “might be more serious than that”, meaning the flanker will be a serious doubt for Saturday. Fagerson’s prospects of being involved are better.
Glasgow had come close to opening the scoring within a minute of the first substitution, but DTH van der Merwe clearly put a foot in touch just prior to touching down in the corner after Ali Price had taken a tap penalty. It was a promising sign, nonetheless, after what had been a patchy start from both sides, and after another kickable penalty went to touch, Grant Stewart opened the scoring from a lineout drive.
Brandon Thomson converted, and after nearly half an hour of stalemate the contest was up and running – or more precisely Tommy Seymour was, as the winger seized on the restart and raced 60 metres upfield to set up the platform which eventually produced a second try. Cardiff held up the drive begun by Seymour on their own line, but gave away a penalty from the Glasgow scrum. The Warriors opted to scrum again, and this time Scott Cummings finished things off from close range, with Thomson again adding the two points.
There was almost a third try a minute later as Nick Grigg hacked on a dropped ball from the restart, but it skidded over the dead-ball line before either the centre or Van der Merwe could get to it, with the Blues defence nowhere. That score seemed to put Glasgow well in charge, but Cardiff hit back immediately with an excellent counter-attack, which culminated in some clever interplay between Owen Lane and Dan Fish with the former scoring an unconverted try.
Glasgow were well on top in the opening stages of the second half, and after one lineout drive was stopped just short, they claimed their third try by the same method, this time through Chris Fusaro, the significant difference being that they managed to begin the drive more dynamically. Thomson added a superb conversion from the right touchline to put his team 16 points clear, and they still had half an hour to get the potentially crucial bonus point.
Hogg made a try-saving interception on Glasgow’s left, but minutes later a similar move ended with the Blues centre Harri Millard crossing in the same corner for his side’s second unconverted try. The Warriors wasted no time in hitting back, however, and, with space opening up, a lightning break ended with Oli Kebble scoring try No 4 and Thomson maintaining his 100 per cent record with the boot.
Josh Navidi got his own team’s third at the end of a crossfield move which caught the home defence out of position, and this time substitute Jarrod Evans was on target with the conversion. That still left Glasgow 11 points to the good with under quarter of an hour to play, but the alarm bells really started ringing when Lane got his second try and his team’s bonus score.
Evans’ conversion made it a single-score game, but the Warriors composed themselves well and set off upfield in a sustained drive. They thought they had a score against the base of the posts, but when referee JP Doyle gave a scrum, George Horne picked up from the base and finished off in style. Thomson missed this time, but it did not matter. Glasgow were safely back to winning ways.
Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour, N Grigg, S Johnson, D van der Merwe; B Thomson, A Price; O Kebble, G Stewart, D Rae, R Harley, S Cummings, R Wilson, C Gibbins, M Fagerson. Substitutes: K Bryce, A Allan, P du Plessis, T Swinson, C Fusaro, G Horne, A Hastings, L Jones.
Cardiff Blues: D Fish; O Lane, H Millard, W Halaholo, T James; S Shingler, L Williams; B Thyer, M Rees, D Lewis, G Earle, R Thornton, S Lewis-Hughes, J Navidi, S Davies. Substitutes: E Lewis, R Carre, S Andrews, M Cook, N Williams, T Williams, J Evans, A Summerhill.
Scorers: Glasgow: Tries: Stewart, Cummings, Fusaro, Kebble, Horne. Cons: Thomson 4.
Cardiff: Tries: Lane 2, Millard, Navidi. Con: Evans 2.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 5-0, 7-0, 12-0, 14-0, 14-5 half-time, 19-5, 21-5, 21-10, 26-10, 28-10, 28-15, 28-17, 28-22, 28-24, 33-24.
Referee: JP Doyle (England).