Niko Matawalu steals the show as Warriors claim bonus-point win

George Horne - Glasgow Warriors scrum half crashes over the line for his second try of the first half. Imaget: ©Fotosport/David Gibson

Glasgow Warriors 31

Leinster 21

DAVD BARNES @ Scotstoun

SOME sort of revenge for Glasgow Warriors after their shattering loss to the same opposition at the same venue in the European Champions Cup two weeks ago, and more importantly five more league points collected to consolidate their position as the dominant force of this Guinness PRO14 campaign. The home team did the damage during a whirlwind ten-minute spell midway through the first half, when man-of-the-match Niko Matawalu ran their guests ragged – and despite spending most of the second half on the back foot they were never really in danger of relinquishing their lead.

Despite there being three tries in the first 11 minutes, the atmosphere was notably flat during the opening stages of this game – mainly because two of those scores came from the visitors, with scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park nipping over from close range to draw first blood after Jordan Larmour had tied the home defence in knots with a zig-zag run, and then Rory O’Loughlin taking advantage of some pretty pedestrian defending from Matawalu to get on the scoreboard.

The Warriors had got off the mark between those two scores when Lelia Masaga, George Turner and Scott Cummings punched open a gap in midfield for George Horne to dart home from 30 yards. But it was in the 16th minute that the match really burst into life – and not for the first time during his two spells at the Warriors, it was that man Matawau who was the catalyst.

The Fijian popped up in midfield and broke out of his own 22 to take play deep into opposition territory before the younger Horne appeared on his shoulder to carry the move on. Leinster were penalised for slowing the recycle down right beneath the shadow of their own posts but it didn’t matter. Warriors played advantage. The ball was fed out to Nick Grigg, who ducked his head, pumped his legs, and powered over.

This was the spark which fully wakened the stands at Scotstoun and it fairly jolted the players on the park, too. Five minutes later, George Horne scrambled over from close range; then Matawalu was at it again, with a sensational break out from his own line, weaving past Leinster defenders like their feet were made of lead, and then after he had stepped inside the last two lumbering Irishmen, he decided that he’d had plenty enough fun, so astonished everyone – including he recipient – by passing to Grigg for an easy run-in.

In amongst all that, Leinster had spent ten minutes with just 14 men after Jordi Murphy had been sent to the sin-bin for tackling George Horne as he tried to spark another attack with a quick penalty.

There had been six tries and the game was only 24 minutes old. The Warriors already had the bonus point in the bag – but there was a long way to go.

Things calmed down a bit after that, although Warriors did mange to edge themselves another three points further ahead with a Peter Horne penalty six minutes before the break.

Cummings was yellow-carded early in the second half for not allowing the Leinster jumper to land at a line-out close to the Warriors line, and Leinster wasted little time in making their man advantage count – although it was not through the predictable route of driven-line-out. They had only a couple of prods straight from the throw-in, but then sent it out to Adam Byrne on the opposite (right) wing, who squeezed over.

Alex Dunbar made his return to action after six weeks out with a knee injury, but it wasn’t a particularly happy homecoming because he was wandering off the park again five minutes later after being judged guilty of a tip-tackle just a few yards short of his team’s line as Leinster started to really turn the screw.

It was looking ominous for Warriors until a moment of light relief from Leinster inside centre Conor O’Brien – who fluffed a 15 yard cross-field kick, sending it backwards and straight out of play – allowed the release valve to be activated.

“They didn’t want to share the ball in the second half, obviously,” said Warriors coach Dave Rennie said afterwards. “I thought it was a pretty soft first ten minutes for us defensively, but I thought we were excellent with the ball in hand. We wanted to go through the middle of them, and I thought our big men did a good job there, and we went wide when it was on – so the first half was pretty solid.”

“In the second half we were at 14 men for 20 minutes and were forced to defend for long periods, but having said all that, there was a hell of a lot of character shown to limit them to just one try.”

Teams –

Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; L Masaga (L Sarto 70), N Grigg, S Johnson (A Dunbar 56), N Matawalu (M Smith 52); P Horne, G Horne (H Pyrgos 55); J Bhatti (A Allan 59), G Turner (P MacArthur 59), D Rae (A Nicol 70), T Swinson, S Cummings, R Harley, C Gibbins (L Wynne 73), M Fagerson.

Leinster: J Larmour; A Byrne, R O’Loughlin, C O’Brien (H Keenan 74), D Kearney; R Byrne (C Marsh 72), J Gibson-Park (N McCarthy 52); E Byrne (P Dooley 52), S Cronin (R Strauss 59-64, 72), M Bent (A Porter 52), R Molony, M Kearney (D Leavy 25), S Fardy, J Murphy (J Murphy 69), M Deegan.
Scorers –

Glasgow Warriors: Tries: G Horne 2, Grigg 2; Cons: P Horne 4; Pen: P Horne.

Leinster: Tries: Gibson-Park, O’Loughlin, A Byrne; Con: R Byrne 3

Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors): 0-5; 0-7; 7-5; 7-7; 12-7; 14-7; 14-12; 14-14; 19-14; 21-14; 26-14; 28-14; 31-14 (h-t) 31-19; 31-21;

Yellow cards –

Glasgow Warriors: Cummings (46mins), Dunbar (61mins)

Leinster: Murphy (18mins)

Referee: Stuart Berry

Attendance: 7,351

@ Scotstoun

About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.