Glasgow Warriors 27
DAVID BARNES @ Allianz Park
SCOTLAND’S involvement in the European Champions Cup this season will not extend into the semi-final stage after Glasgow Warriors huffed and puffed but didn’t really come anywhere near blowing the Saracens tanker off track in sun-soaked North London. In fact, the second half was an exercise in damage limitation, and in the circumstances the away team did quite well to keep it semi-respectable.
With Edinburgh coming up short against Munster earlier in the afternoon, this was a disappointing day for the pro teams north of the border, and perhaps a useful lesson in where they really sit in the real European pecking order.
It couldn’t have got off to a better start for Warriors, with Ali Price scuttling over just one minute and nine seconds into the game, after Matt Fagerson had fed quickly off the top at the tail of line-out and the ball was transferred across the park via Kyle Steyn, Stuart Hogg and finally Rory Hughes, who made good ground up the left touchline before sending the overarm scoring pass back inside to the supporting scrum-half. Hastings added the extra two points.
Warriors looked to build on that bright beginning straight from the restart, with Hastings almost wriggling clear, but his offload to Hogg didn’t go to hand, and Alex Goode – who had moved from full-back to stand-off when Owen Farrell was a late call-off due to his wife going into labour – hoofed downfield. Steyn got back but Sean Maitland was right on top of him and a penalty against the visitors for holding was awarded. Saracens kicked to the corner and when the ball was moved infield from the line-out, Goode chipped over the top and Liam Williams rose above everyone else to gather and score. Alex Lozowksi added the easy conversion. The match was only five breathless minutes old.
Lozowski edged Saracens into the lead with an offside penalty on 14 minutes, and Saracens were now firmly on the front foot. David Strettle eventually escaped down the right to score in the corner on 25 minutes after a long spell of sustained pressure; and to compound matters, Hogg – who had already missed touch with one penalty and had kicked another clearance from outside the 22 out on the full – overcooked the restart, meaning that the hosts were immediately back in control with a scrum on halfway, from which they picked up a penalty. Just four minutes after that second score, Lozowski sent Brad Barritt in for try number three.
It was looking ominous, but Warriors dug deep, and with their scrum getting on top they managed to claw their way back into the contest with two Hastings penalties which made it 22-13 at the break. It could have been even closer, with Warriors finishing the half deep inside Saracens’ 22, but Hughes couldn’t quite find Hogg with an inside offload which looked like it might have sent the full-back over.
Nine points is a big deficit to make up in 40 minutes against a team with the experience and nous of Saracens, and it was soon 12 points in 38 minutes when Lozowski sent home an offside penalty early in the second half.
Warriors just couldn’t get into the game, and any lingering hope they might have had of salvaging this match was killed off when man-of-the-match Jamie George rumbled up the right touchline before recycling quickly after being tackled by Hogg, allowing Williams to burst onto a short ball and brush off a disappointing tackle from Oli Kebble on his way to the line.
Lozowski slotted his third penalty in 54 minutes, and it looked like the roof was going to cave in on Warriors when Strettle intercepted Stafford McDowall’s pass towards Niko Matawalu and cantered home unchallenged, quickly followed by a conversion from Lozowski and another restart sent out on the full by Hogg.
George got the ball down for try number six at the back of a driven line-out and there was still 17-minutes to go. A forlorn Glaswegian accent tried to rouse the ‘We are Warriors’ chant, and a few more die-hards dutifully joined in, but the enthusiasm that a sizeable travelling contingent had exhibited an hour earlier had evaporated.
When Hogg burst clear and fed back inside for replacement scrum-half George Horne for a second Warriors try, the celebratory tone was of relief that the score-line was going to be slightly more respectable than had been feared.
But the misery wasn’t over yet, with Tim Swinson picking up a leg injury which meant he had to be stretchered from the pitch. With Pete Horne the only replacement not yet used, McDowall had to move from centre to flanker for the final 12 minutes.
Two minute later Nick Tompkins powered in under the shadow of the posts to move Saracens past the half-century mark.
Horne returned the earlier favour by sending Hogg clear with five minutes to go, but he was chased down by Tompkins just a few feet short of another consolation score. To Warriors credit, they did get a third try with the clock in the red, when Matt Fagerson scored from a close-range line-out.
Saracens: L Williams (M Mallins 68); S Maitland, A Lozowski, B Barritt, D Strettle (N Tompkins 63); A Goode, B Spencer (T Whiteley 71);R Barrington (T Lamositele 50), J George (T Woolstencroft 72), C Judge (V Koch 50), W Skelton (N Isiekwe 50), G Kruis, M Itoje, J Wray (S Burger 63), B Vunipola.
Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; K Steyn, S McDowall, S Johnson, R Hughes (N Matawalu 55); A Hastings, A Price (G Horne 59); O Kebble (J Bhatti 67), F Brown (K Bryce 67), Z Fagerson (S Halanukonuka 55), T Swinson (P Horne 68), S Cummings (J Gray 14), R Harley, C Gibbins (C Fusaro 67), M Fagerson.
Referee: N Owens (Wales)
Saracens: Try: Williams 2, Strettle 2, Barritt, George, Tompkins; Con: Lozowski 6; Pen: Lozowski 3.
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Price, G Horne, M Fagerson; Con: Hastings 3; Pens: Hastings 2
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 10-7; 15-7; 20-7; 22-7 22-10; 22-13 (h-t) 25-13; 30-13; 32-13; 35-13; 40-13; 42-13; 47-13; 49-13; 49-18; 49-20; 54-20; 56-20; 56-25; 56-27