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.
“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.
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)
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)
- Edinburgh A defeated Doncaster Knights 29-24 in a friendly at Castle Park.