Glasgow Warriors 29
DAVID BARNES @ The Liberty Stadium
THIS was a thoroughly professional job from Glasgow Warriors, featuring several fringe players making a strong case for more frequent involvement, as Dave Rennie’s men earned a valuable and well-deserved bonus point win on the road against their closest challengers at the top of Conference A in the Guinness PRO14.
Niko Matawalu started the evening on the bench but was pressed into action after only three minutes when Ruaridh Jackson succumbed to a hamstring injury, and the Fijian jack-in-the-box made the most of the opportunity with a hat-trick wrapped up inside 48 minutes.
“The game felt a lot more secure than 29-20, put it that way,” said victorious head coach Rennie, afterwards. “I just felt we had a lot more punch in attack, we regularly got in behind them, and defensively we got a wall in front of them for a big chunk of the game and generally defended really well.
“We got a lot right tonight. I thought we were pretty clinical, scored some good tries and played at a tempo they struggled to stay with at various times – there was a few of them strewn around the field and maybe if we’d held onto a little more pill we could have hurt them a bit more.”
Brandon Thomson gave Warriors an early lead with a penalty after Tevita Tameilau and particularly Scott Cummings had carried well. Ospreys bounced right back with captain Olly Cracknell muscling over, but the home team’s lead was a brief affair and the visitors were soon back on top when Adam Ashe charged down Tom Habbersfield’s box-kick and snaffled the loose ball, which was then quickly transferred across the park to DTH Van der Merwe, who released Matawalu for the try.
It got even better for the visitors a few minutes later, when Nick Grigg showed all his power, pace and low centre of gravity to burst through tackles just inside his own half, then released Matawalu – who had switched course to run an excellent support line – for try number two.
Sam Davies pulled back a penalty in the 25th minute, and Glasgow dodged a bullet when van der Merwe couldn’t hold onto a built pass in midfield, leaving Cory Allen a straight run at the line, but the Ospreys centre knocked on as he tried to scoop up the loose ball.
Ospreys struck first after the break through a second Davies penalty after an excellent break from Hanno Dirksen, before Warriors extended their lead with Matawalu’s hat-trick try, scored off a well weighted cross-field kick from Thomson.
Ospreys rallied and had a sustained period of possession but were continually pushed back by Warriors’ well-drilled and aggressive defence, and the visitors then grabbed the bonus point when van der Merwe came in from his wing to work a scissors with Nick Frisby off the back off the back of a scrum, Stafford McDowall acted as the link man, and man-of-the-match Nick Grigg finished off the 50-metre attack under the posts.
Ospreys got a try back through Dirksen with six minutes to, after Allen’s kick towards the touchline took a devilish bounce straight into the South African-born winger’s hands. That roused the home side for a final flurry activity in chase of a losing bonus point, with Keelan Giles making a break on the left, but it came to nothing and Warriors closed the game out.
Warriors now have a three week break before they return to action with a home match against Cardiff Blues. They will be missing their international contingent again for that match, but that is not going to be a concern for Rennie and his team.
“We don’t talk about who’s not there – the focus is on the group that we’ve got,” concluded the coach. “We’ve got good depth – we’ve got some good young kids coming through and important leadership in and around them. We’re very happy, that was a pretty good performance and to get five points after last week’s disappointment [against Munster] was important.”
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson (N Matawalu 3); D van der Merwe, N Grigg (P Kelly 70), S McDowall, R Hughes; B Thomson, N Firsby; O Kebble (J Bhatti 34), G Turner (G Stewart 62), D Rae (A Nicol 66), R Harley, S Cummings (K McDonald 75), A Ashe, C Gibbins (M Smith 70), T Tameilau (B Flockhart 47).
Ospreys: D Evans; H Dirksen, C Allen, T Thomas-Wheeler (J Hook 59, T Williams 70), K Giles; S Davies, T Habberfield (M Aubrey 57); R Jones (G Thomas 62), S Otten (S Parry 50), M Fia (T Botha 41), L Ashley, J King, O Cracknell, W Jones (G Volpo 57), R McCusker (J Ratti 70).
Referee: Andrew Brace
Ospreys: Try: Cracknell, Dirksen; Con: Davies 2: Pen: Davies 2.
Glasgow Warriors: Try: Matawalu 3, Grigg; Con: Thomson 3; Pen: Thomson;
Scoring sequence (Warriors first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 7-8; 7-10; 7-15; 7-17; 10-17 (h-t) 13-17; 13-22; 13-27; 13-29; 18-29; 20-29