Glasgow Warriors 35
ALEX MCLEMAN @ Scotstoun Stadium
IN their final home fixture of the regular season, Glasgow Warriors brushed off last weekend’s woeful showing at the Parc Y Scarlets with a dominant victory over a stuffy Connacht outfit at a sold-out Scotstoun Stadium, and finally secured a home Guinness PRO14 play-off semi-final draw.
While they appeared lost last weekend last year’s reigning champions Scarlets, the Warriors were the complete title contender package this Friday night. They cut their unforced error count in half, improved their sloppy breakdown play, misplayed just six attacking balls inside the opposition 22, and were dominant in the set-piece. They smothered a Connacht side who are still challenging for a place in next season’s Champions Cup. It was clinical – a performance head coach Dave Rennie had called for after last weekend’s poor showing.
“We attacked really well, possession and territory were strong and we generated quick ball, we picked up those three tries in the first half and it probably gave us the game,” said Rennie post-match.
“It was a good first 45 minutes, we couldn’t get our hands on the ball in the second half –countless scrums and so on in the corner – but we defended pretty well for most of it.”
It was Glasgow’s tenth home victory from ten and secures them a home play-off semi-final place with two games remaining, but Rennie is keen not to take the foot off the gas.
“We have a couple more games to go yet.. Ulster away will be a challenge, and then Edinburgh away for the 1872 Cup, so there is still plenty to play for but it was good to get the job done tonight and nice that we will be coming back home in a few weeks’ time.
“We are still trying to create competition for some key positions so we will be taking a strong side to our remaining fixtures, we want to generate some momentum as the play-offs near.”
For the vast majority of the contest there was rarely a period when Glasgow were not dictating play and controlling possession.
After Finley Bealham dotted down inside two minutes, latching onto a perfectly placed pass into a broken Glasgow defensive set, there was never any doubt which way the match result would end.
Stuart Hogg responded two-minutes later, finishing off a DTH van de Merwe line break, and tthat was followed three penalties from man of the match Peter Horne, who was given the nod over Finn Russell.
Connacht’s Jack Carty responded with three-points of his own but Glasgow never let up, extending their advantage when the returning Alex Dunbar burst through midfield and barreled over for a score Horne added his second conversion.
The hosts stuck a killer blow in injury-time of the first half when another returning Scotland international, Fraser Brown, bundled his way over the line for a third Warriors try. Horne added the conversion to give Glasgow an insurmountable 30-8 half-time lead.
It took Henry Pyrgos two-minutes of the second period to secure the try-bonus for Warriors. The scrum-half, who was brought in to replace the dropped Ali Price, finished off a flowing attacking move with a dive at the base of the posts.
With victory and a bonus-point secured, Warriros visibly took their foot off the gas, allowing Connacht to take the shine off what was an utterly dominant performance. A pair of yellow cards to Alex Allen, for scrum infringement, and Rob Harley, for bringing a maul down helped hlat the home team’s momentum. Cinnacht dotted down twice through Caolin Blade and a converted penalty try, but there was no doubt who the winners were on the night.
“We were really disappointed after last week and we talked all week about coming out and showing what we are really about and I think we did that,” said man-of-the-match Peter Horne.
“We showed attacking flair but we defend really well for a time when we were under the pump. We are proud ourselves for being clinical and taking chances and thankfully we got boys on the end of our breaks, scoring some good tries in the process. Job done and we’ve secured a home semi.”
Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour, A Dunbar, S Johnson, D van der Merwe; P Horne, H Pygros; A Allan, F Brown, Z. Fagerson; S Cummings, J Gray, R Harley, C Gibbins, M Fagerson. Subs: G Stewart, J Bhatti, S Halanukonuka, K McDonald, C Fusaro, A Price, F Russell, N Matawalu.
Connacht: D Leader; N Adeolokun, B Aki, P Robb, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, F Bealham, U Dillane; Q Roux, E Masteron, J Butler, E McKeown. Subs: S Delahunt, P McCabe, C Carey, G Thornbury, J Muldoon, C Blade, T Farrell, S Lii.
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)
Glasgow Warriors: Try: Hogg, Dunbar, Brown, Pygros; Con: Horne 3; Pen: Horne 3.
Connacht:Try: Bealham, Blade, Penalty Try; Con: Carty; Pen: Carty.
Scoring sequence (Warriors first): 0-5; 5-5; 5-7; 5-13; 5-16; 5-21; 5-23; 8-23; 8-28; 8-30 (h-t) 8-35; 13-35; 15-35; 20-35; 22-35.