Champions Cup: Bayonne v Glasgow: gritty Warriors hold out for famous win

Tries from Ally Miller and Josh McKay allied with some heroic defence reignite European campaign

Sione Tuipulotu led Glasgow Warriors to victory in Bayonne. Image: © Craig Watson -
Sione Tuipulotu led Glasgow Warriors to victory in Bayonne. Image: © Craig Watson -

Aviron Bayonnais 11

Glasgow Warriors 12

AGAINST the odds, especially after their line-out fell apart in the second half, Glasgow Warriors somehow engineered a famous win away to Bayonne, which will breathe life back into the European Champions Cup campaign following last weekend’s opening round home defeat to Northampton Saints.

Two brilliantly taken tries either side of half-time from man-0f-the-match Ally Miller and Josh McKay gave Warriors a slender lead, but it was their heroic defence, especially during a fraught finale, which ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides.

This was the first time in 10 years that Glasgow had fielded a back-row without a senior international cap, and there was inexperienced players, and players who have had not much recent game-time, right across the park – but they stood up to a man. The execution was not always as accurate as head coach Franco Smith would have liked but there was no doubting the character.

The one significant negative was the knee injury suffered by Ollie Smith which looked ominous.

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“We’re vey excited with the win,” said Franco Smith. “The boys fought the whole game. They fought back in the first half to come back from a deficit and they fought again in the second half.

“Yes, we butchered a lot of opportunities, we were inaccurate set-piece wise, but a lot of our boys were playing for the first time in this environment, and to come away with the win, showing a lot of heart, and the way we went about sticking to the processes especially in defence and discipline at the end, was a big character-building exercise.”

Warriors set out their stall early when an in front of kicker penalty in the opening minute was sent to the corner instead of being turned into three easy points, and it looked like they had got their reward when they squeezed Bayonne with their maul before a cross-kick from Ross Thompson – making his first start in 18 months – sent Ollie Smith over on the left wing, but the video replay revealed that the Warriors’ man’s foot had brushed touch as he collected the ball.

A maul penalty conceded at the start of that move gave Warriors another crack at the whip but this time they couldn’t make inroads and ended up being turned over.

Then the hosts had a chance to draw first blood when Camille Lopez‘s chip over the top released Tom Spring, and George Turner conceded a not rolling away penalty on his own line, which was the first of three breakdown and maul penalties committed by Warriors in the same spot over the next minute and a half,  prompting a word of warning to visiting captain Sione Tuipulotu from referee Adam Leal.

But nothing came from that period of pressure for Bayonne, with Rodrigo Bruni, their Argentinean No 8, left frustrated when he had a try chalked off for a double-movement.

Somehow, despite plenty of ambition and ingenuity from both sides, the opening points did not arrive until 27th minutes, when Lopez slotted the kick after Zander Fagerson was sent to the sin-bin for hands in a ruck.

That came after a breathless passage of play from Bayonne which saw Nadir Megdoud skip past Smith, George Turner and Gregor Brown on a rampage from behind his own line all the way to halfway, with big men Denis Marchois, Junior Tagi and Facundo Bosch showcasing some Harlem Globetrotter skills to keep the move going, before Fagerson’s cynical intervention.

With an extra man, Bayonne turned the screw, and back-to-back penalties five yards from their own line against Jamie Bhatti and Huw Jones prompted another warning from the referee, before the pressure finally told with Bosch finishing off a close-range line-out maul.

But Warriors bit back just before returning to full complement when Thompson had the foresight to switch the direction of play and Miller, a former Scotland 7s star who has struggled to command game time at both Edinburgh and Glasgow during his 15-aside career, showed impressive pace to outstrip the cover defence – including winger Megdoud – to produce a try out of nothing from 40 yards, with Thompson’s conversion making it 8-7 at the break.


Warriors started the second half brightly with a Huw Jones and George Horne both sniffing out gaps, but a lacklustre line-out from Turner saw Miller lose it at the tail meaning an excellent attacking opportunity went a begging, then they fell further behind when Lopez slotted another not-rolling-away penalty against Jones.

Another penalty kicked to the corner game Warriors a chance to strike back and this time they threw to Greg Peterson at the front, then battled through several phases, picked up a ruck penalty and ran the tap-penalty, before Thompson finally found space on the left to send Josh McKay over with a spectacular finish under pressure from Reece Hodge, the Australian international who was making his debut for the club off the bench.

Thompson couldn’t manage the touchline conversion which meant Warriors’ lead was only one point, and they rode their luck when a long range penalty from Hodge after a Greg Peterson high-tackle floated just to the right of the posts.

A late hit by Arthur Iturria on Thompson allowed Warriors to go to the corner but their line-out was really struggling at this point and Iturria made amends by stealing the ball back, which was the fourth touchline loss for the visitors of the half. And it didn’t get any better for replacement hooker Angus Fraser when his next throw was squint.

The scrum was also beginning to creak and yielded another long range penalty for Reece, who sent his 52 metre effort to the left of the posts this time.

Another line-out malfunction gave Bayonne one last tilt at the win, and it was a tense final two minutes inside the Warriors half, but they held out and when Horne won the penalty over the tackled man it prompted a cacophony of jeers and hissing from the Stade Jean Dauger which drowned out the noice of euphoric celebration from the visiting players.

Warriors now return to URC action with back-to-back 1872 Cup games against Edinburgh, before playing their final two Champions Cup pool matches away to Exeter and at home to Toulon in mid-January knowing that their destiny in this competition is very much in their own hands.


Teams –

Bayonne: T Spring; A Callandret, C Tiberghien (R Hodge 49), G Martocq, N Megdoud; C Lopez (T Dolhagaray 57), G Aprasidze (M Machenaud 49); V Cormenier (Perchaud 58), F Bosch (V Giudicelli 47), J Tagi (T Tatafu 58), D Marchois (T Ceyte 58), M Leindekar, R Bourdeau, B Heguy (A Iturria 58), R Bruni.

Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; K Rowe, H Jones, S Tuipulotu, O Smith (T Jordan 39); R Thompson, G Horne; J Bhatt (N McBeth 58), G Turner (A Fraser 58), Z Fagerson ( O Kebble 58), G Peterson (R Gray 65), A Samuel (M Williamson 58), G Brown, T Gordon, A Miller.

Referee: Adam Leal (England)


Scorers –

Bayonne: Try: Bosch; Pen: Lopez 2

Glasgow: Try: Miller, McKay; Con: Thompson.

Scoring sequence (Bayonne first): 3-0; 8-0; 8-5; 8-7 (H-T) 11-7; 11-12.


Yellow cards –

Glasgow: Fagerson (127 mins)


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About David Barnes 3817 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.


  1. A hard-earned victory that has shown an unexpected strength in depth and poses some interesting selection questions around Macdowall in the centre and Miller in the back row, and how Samuel and Williamson get much needed game time too. Edinburgh games will be interesting!

  2. Great win in an amazing atmosphere. That’s some real experience for some of the younger men. Agree with all, Miller had a great game and the try almost looked like it was in slow motion with Megdoud chasing him for all he was worth. Not sure what happened to Fraser but his line out troughing was school boy bad seven goes one success and all most all of them in dangerous positions. The maul again was not working well enough, is it we need Mathews for it to work well.
    A wee word of praise for the referee I thought he handled the hostile team and crowd very well and fairly evenly.

  3. It’s not just Glasgow who turn their nose up at the points, Scotland do it too. It’s as if they are a touring team where the first one to kick points has to get the beers in afterwards.

    Anyway, top result and well played Ally Miller. A couple more games like that before mid-January and we could have a 6 Nations bolter!

    • I think we’ll lose enough players to Scotland so let’s hide him away and give him game time for Warriors during the 6N!

  4. Great win on the road, in France, and at a place that is very difficult to win at. Anyone else see some of the similarities with that game (away to Zebre?) last season where the largely second string side stopped the rot of losing away? Hopefully this does the same and we kick on for the rest of season, although our squad depth being really tested with injury at the moment. Some standouts, Samuel and Brown really stood up, and Miller took his opportunity from the start – brings something different to the back row and hasn’t lost that sevens speed and ability to skin a winger! I did notice that when we have a 6/2 bench split he’s often there which makes sense – reminds me of Richie Vernon in some ways.

    Lineout needs sorted and quickly, plus I also don’t get the persistence with not taking the three points -especially when the maul was being well defended and with the lineout malfunctions? Deserved to be 10 clear at end to save the palpitations but finished with great discipline for that defensive set!

  5. Tense game, I’ll start with the negatives – why not simply take the points when penalties are awarded?
    The line-out in the 2nd half, Angus Fraser had an absolute nightmare. I can’t remember 6 missed consecutive line outs ever happening.
    However a tremendous win away from home, Miller’s try a thing of beauty, injuries have slowed his career trajectory somewhat but I’ve often wondered why he gets so little game time. I really rate him.
    I said earlier in the week I liked the look of the team & they did themselves proud last night.
    The not going for the drop goal at the end is safely filed in …..well they are French folder.

  6. Back in the game – both for the Warriors and Ross Thompson. Great tight contest that could have gone either way, but the Weegies showed true grit to pull through. Loved watching the French winger getting left in Ally Miller’s dust and it’s always great to see a back row smoking the three quarters defence like that. A Johnny Matthews special! Glasgow nearly blew it with the worst lineout performance I think I have ever seen at this level by a sub – six put-ins in a row butchered. Instead of turning the screw, it meant the Warriors left it on a knife edge and they won’t get so lucky next time. And why Bayonne didn’t go for the drop goal is frankly not my problem. Hopefully it will be a hard lesson well learned by callers, throwers and jumpers alike, but thankfully one with no consequences.

  7. What’s that thing about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Why didn’t we go to two men or just throw to the front or even just take the bloody points? I can’t believe Bayonne didn’t go for a drop, we could so easily have lost that.

    • Or why didn’t they go for the 3 penalty points each time as they knew their lineout was under huge pressure & not functioning well. Bad/ naive captaining decisions in my view for if they managed to be at least 4 points ahead then this would have meant a last minute penalty or drop goal wouldn’t have been enough for Bayonne to win. That said Glasgow’s kicking game wasn’t that accurate either. But a win is a win, even if it’s only by one point, so well done to the lads as it wasn’t an easy fixture.

    • I asked Ross Thompson about the taking of points , he said that they back themselves. The Scotland team are exactly the same . Points make prizes . A lesson not being learned

  8. Well done Warriors, what a result, although you certainly did it the hard way.
    Great to see Ross Thompson start, I thought we looked a much more cohesive unit with him at the helm. Also, I’ve commented before that I think Ally Miller has been criminally underused at Glasgow, so it was fantastic to see him score that try and win the man of the match. Hopefully he will kick on from here and become an important part of our squad. On a more negative note, what’s going on with the refusal to take easy points when they are on offer? One of the reasons I love watching the Warriors is their positivity and attacking intent, but surely there comes a time (e.g away from home in Europe) when keeping the scoreboard ticking over is the way to go. If Glasgow had taken the easy points during the game then perhaps I wouldn’t have been hyperventilating for the last 10 minutes!
    One more thing, I was distinctly underwhelmed at the news that Greg Peterson was coming back to the club, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised and happy that I was wrong. To me he looks a much better player than he was first time around and has been really solid, so well done big man, sorry for doubting you.

    • Couldn’t agree more about the penalties – felt like Scotland in the days of Ross ford missing every throw in the 22. Great win though, really impressed with the back 5

    • Agree about Greg he’s been great. Sadly they announced during the game that he is leaving soon – only a short term contract. I had forgotten this. That leaves us short in the 2nd row with only the underwhelming Manjezi to return

  9. Well that was a gutsy win and well done to some of the non regulars who did well – Ally Miller – what a try. He must get more game time after that. The young lads Samuel, Williamson and Brown all did well and will benefit hugely from an away win in France.

    We should have won by more but in the first half despite several line outs close to their line we couldn’t get the maul going. We started the 2nd half really well and missed a few more opportunities. Then after Angus Fraser came on we lost 6 consecutive line outs which must be some sort of record. Despite that we hung in bravely right till the end.

    So as always things to work on but what a win with a team that most of us thought were not strong enough.

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