Glasgow Warriors 50
DAVID BARNES @ North Inch
EIGHT tries and some exhilarating flashes of free-flowing rugby, especially during the second half when man-of-the match Niko Matawalu crossed the whitewash twice and Adam Hastings tripped the light fantastic during a majestic 20-minute cameo, meant that Dave Rennie’s side departed Perth last night with a spring in their step – but the no-nonsense head coach is well aware that pre-season run-outs such as this should not be used as a reliable barometer of what lies in store when the live ammo comes out.
We already know that Glasgow are a compelling spectacle when on the front foot, and the resistance offered by Quins – without Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Chris Robshaw and Mike Brown – will hardly have left English Premiership rivals quaking in their boots. So, on that basis, judgement must be reserved on whether this Warriors squad – which has not changed significantly from last year bar the loss of stand-off Finn Russell – is now equipped to step up from flat-track bullies to be a force capable of competing against the likes of Leinster, Scarlets and Saracens in full-blooded wars of attrition.
Warriors were, of course, missing an international coterie of their own, and Rennie was justifiably pleased with how some of his youngsters – such as Paddy Kelly, Robbie Nairn, Bruce Flockhart, Adam Nicol and Kaleem Baretto – stepped up to the plate.
“I think it highlighted that we have a lot of depth in this squad, we were missing 20 internationals today,’” said the Kiwi coach. “We are in good shape. We’ve worked really hard on our skill-set, and on our ability to build pressure and build phases. It wasn’t perfect but there were a lot of good signs today.
“Look, it was a pre-season game with both sides missing players, but I’m really ripped with the way the guys stepped up. The set-piece in the second half and late in the first was really strong and we were able to build a bit of pressure off that. I thought the handling and a lot of the decision making was excellent.
“We will reflect upon what we saw today and make some decisions,” he continued, as he began to look ahead to his team’s second and final pre-season hit-out against Northampton Saints next Friday. “Jonny [Gray] won’t play next week, he’s only allowed to play four games before we have to rest him and he got a good hit-out today. A handful of these boys will play but we have some who won’t be back until round one or two [of the Guinness PRO14 campaign]. I’d say maybe ten guys will come back in [next week].”
Good start from Quins
Harlequins drew first blood when tight-head prop Phil Swainston rumbled over after a period of pressure. A powerful midfield burst from Kelly cancelled that score out, but Warriors were sloppy almost straight from the restart which allowed visiting number eight Renaldo Bothma to restore his team’s advantage.
An excellent interjection from Brandon Thomson on the wraparound sent Rory Hughes, who was making his comeback after ten months out with a shoulder injury, in for a fine try which squared the match; and Matt Smith burrowed home to put Warriors ahead for the first time on the stroke of half-time.
Second half changes
After a raft of changes during the interval, Warriors fired out the blocks after the break. Alex Allan powered in under the shadow of the posts, then debutant Nick Frisby latched onto a loose pass from opposite number Danny Care and cantered over for the score unchallenged.
Hero turned to villain in a matter of minutes when Frisby gifted Marcus Smith an equally easy interception score at the other end of the park, but that was the visitors’ only score in a one-sided second period.
Adam Ashe, another Warrior looking to consign an injury ravaged 2017-18 to the dustbin of history, got try number six; and that was followed by a moment of magic from Hastings, who tip-toed past at least three tackles he had no right to get through before sending a banana kick to the left wing for Matawalu to score.
Matawalu grabbed his second with 12 minutes still to go, and when he broke from inside his own 22 a few minutes later it looked like the hat-trick was on the cards, but the Fijian livewire opted to pass left and Baretto was swallowed up by the Quins cover defence.
Warriors: R Hughes; R Nairn, S Johnson, P Kelly, L Masaga; B Thomson, M Frisby; O Kebble. J Malcolm, D Rae, S Cummings, J Gray. B Flockhart, C Fusaro, M Smith. Replacements used: K Bryce, G Stewart, A Allan, A Nicol, G Peterson, R Harley, T Gordon, K Baretto, A Hastings, R Tagive, S McDowell, A Dunbar, N Matawalu, J Reynolds, R Jackson.
Harlequins: J Lang; N Earle, J Merchant, B Tapuai, G Ibitoye; M Smith, D Care; N Auterac, D Ward, P Swainston, S South, M Symons, D Lamb, L Wallace, R Bothma. Replacements: E Elia, M Crumpton, M Lambert, W Collier, H Tizard, B Glynn, A White, D Lewis, C Mulchrone, T Visser, H Cheeseman, C Walker, R Chisholm.
Referee: L Linton
Warriors: Tries: Kelly, Hughes, Smith, Allan, Frisbee, Ashe, Matawalu 2; Cons: Thomson 2, Hastings 3.
Harlequins: Tries: Swaintson, Bothma, Smith; Con: Smith.
Scoring sequence (Warriors first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 7-12; 12-12; 17-12; 19-12 (h-t) 24-12; 26-12; 31-12; 33-12; 33-17; 38-17; 43-17; 45-17; 50-17.