Champions Cup: Glasgow v Northampton: Warriors well beaten

Head coach Franco Smith admits his team looked shellshocked after coughing up three tries in opening half hour

Courtney Lawes scores the first of Northampton Saints' three first half tries against Glasgow Warriors. Image: © Craig Watson -
Courtney Lawes scores the first of Northampton Saints' three first half tries against Glasgow Warriors. Image: © Craig Watson -

Glasgow Warriors 19

Northampton Saints 28

DAVID BARNES @ Scotstoun Stadium

THIS was a rude awakening for Glasgow Warriors. They were out of it after just half an hour, and while they deserve some credit for managing to hang in there to somehow be pushing for two bonus-points at the end (whilst preventing Northampton Saints from securing a bonus point of their own), it always looked like a case of too-little-too-late.

“I think we improved in the second half and we showed we know how to fight back, but we are very disappointed with the first half,” said Warriors’ head coach Franco Smith. “We were not good at what we did, in the first half specifically, but they were excellent at what they did, and I think that is the lesson to take from this game.

“They came here with the urgency and the belief that showed they want to win this competition, and they showed it through physical action, so I must complement them in that regard. For us, it was an important reminder of what it is going to take to get to the top in both competitions.

Premiership preview for Saturday 9th December: runners, riders and verdict

Premiership preview for Saturday 9th December: runners, riders and verdict

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Asked why his team had failed to match Saints’ sense of purpose, Smith admitted:  “That’s exactly the same question as I’ve posed to the players.

“It is now three times they have come into the changing room at half-time and had to convince them that we have a chance. I do not think it is a lack of preparation, I do not think it is a lack of belief, I do not think it is a lack of energy … tonight we started off well when we went to width but maybe one or two of our kicks meant we could not get out of our half.

“I think we looked a little bit shellshocked, which is understandable if you haven’t played in the Champions Cup before.”

It started well for the hosts. The game was less than four minutes old when Sebastian Cancelliere picked off Alex Mitchell‘s pass during a blindside snipe and sprinted it home from just inside his own half.

But that early advantage didn’t last long with Saints setting up camp inside Warriors’ half straight from the restart and finally creating a well-worked score for Courtney Lawes – his first for Saints since September 2018 – on the left, which Fin Smith converted, before firing home a 40-yard hands in ruck penalty to make it 5-10 with 15 minutes played.

Northampton kept their foot on the gas and a lovely grubber from Smith pinned Warriors right back onto their own line. Sean Kennedy‘s box clearance into a tough wind didn’t make much yardage and Saints capitalised with a series of powerful punches from their line-out on the 22, leading to Tommy Freeman going over to extend the visiting lead to 10 points.

Glasgow rallied but couldn’t get any purchase, with their line-out – usually a reliable source of a possession and points – ferociously sacked twice by their streetwise opponents.

Warriors were then reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes when Scott Cummings saw yellow for coming across a line-out and landing on Alex Waller‘s head, with the Saints prop replaced after a lengthy period of treatment on the field.

Saints wasted little time in making their player advantage count, with Mitchell demonstrating that his earlier miscalculation was not going to subdue his natural attacking instincts by producing another break down the short side which sent George Hendy on his way to the line and it took some excellent last-gasp defence from Cancelliere and Rory Darge to prevent a try for the red-haired winger – only for a sharp recycle to create another opportunity for Freeman to demonstrate his impressive strength in contact on his way to scoring his second of the contest. Effectively killing off the match with only half an hour played.

Another Cancelliere interception – this time off Smith – briefly raised home spirits but he couldn’t escape Mitchell’s excellent cover defence, and instead it was Saints who ended the half piling pressure onto the Warriors line following a sensational backhanded offload from Smith to send the elusive George Furbank on a sweeping break.

It is to their credit that Warriors managed to hold out until the break, which brought a much-needed breather and chance to regroup.


A Huw Jones offside handed Smith an opportunity to get the Saints side of the scoreboard rolling again after six minutes of the second half as the rain began to intensify, and he struck against 11 minutes later with a scrum penalty after a prolonged period of arm-wrestling in the middle of the park.

While the first half had been a fairly open and entertaining affair, despite the treacherous conditions, the second half was hard going  at least until the 67th minute when replacement stand-off Ross Thompson collected a Saints clearance on his own 22 and sent the ball left to Ollie Smith via the still lively Josh McKay. There wasn’t much on at this stage but the Scotland full-back-cum-winger did well to chase down  his own kick ahead for a try in the corner. Thompson nailed the touchline conversion for good measure.

All of a sudden Warriors had some belief. Cancelliere then McKay carried the ball right back at Saints straight form the restart, before Smith got another sniff of the line on the left. And although he was tackled into touch this time, Angus Scott-Young pushed the Warriors No 11s face into the synthetic turf as he was getting back to his feet, prompting a fracas and costing his team a penalty. Unfortunately for Glasgow, they failed to control the ball at the line-out and a golden opportunity to make a contest of it floated away.

Warriors did score a 77th minute penalty try following a collapsed maul – which also saw Saints debutant Tarek Haffar sent to the sin-bin – to add some respectability to the final score, and the hosts spent the final few minutes pressing hard for another try against 13 men (with Saints having to take off another player when their lack of available props forced the scrums to go uncontested), which would have earned them two bonus-points, but there was no way through.


Teams –

Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; S Cancelliere, H Jones (R Thompson 63), S McDowall, O Smith; T Jordan, S Kennedy (B Afshar 41); J Bhatti ( N McBeth 43), J Matthews (G Turner 43), Z Fagerson (L Sordoni 60-76), S Manjezi (S Vailanu 43), R Gray (M Williamson 60), S Cummings, R Darge, M Fagerson (A Miller 79).

Northampton Saints: G Furbank; O Sleightholme (T Mayanavanua 69), T Freeman, F Dingwall (T Litchfield 61), G Hendy; F Smith, A Mitchell (T James 61); A Waller (T Haffar 28), C Langdon (R Smith 58), P Hill, T Lockett, A Moon (T Davison 69), C Lawes, A Scott-Young, S Graham (T Pearson 43).


Scorers –

Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Cancelliere, Smith, Penalty Try; Con:

Northampton Saints: Tries: Lawes, Freeman 2; Con: F Smith 2; Pen: F Smith 3

Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors): 5-0; 5-5; 5-7; 5-10; 5-15; 5-20; 5-22 (h-t) 5-25; 5-28; 10-28; 12-28; 19-28.


Yellow cards –

Glasgow Warriors: Cummings (28 mins)

Northampton Saints: Haffar (78 mins)

Premiership preview for Saturday 9th December: runners, riders and verdict

About David Barnes 4030 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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. Plenty of maonin about the ref, but for me the first few scrum penalties going our way were the result of Zander having his feet too far back and face-planting, yet it was the Northampton prop who was pinged for hinging – hey, ho, who’d be a ref.

    • It was rediculous. A bit like penalising a No8 for collapsing a scrum. Decision made by officials who have obviously never been in a line out. Could’ve understood a sanction against the lifters but not the jumper

    • extremely dangerous situation arose from poor actions of Glasgow – someone had to be carded – Cummings was the one that got it.

  2. All I can say is the same as last week if Horne is not fit please, please play Afshar – we were dreadful in the first 40 and looked better from the start in the second 40 when Afshar came on. I thought Zander had a blinder, aside from that, most players well below par but nice to see Ross Thompson back – it was late in the game but 9-10-12 Afshar Thompson Jordan looked interesting. Sadly, almost impossible to come back from that defeat.

  3. To John Martin : Think Fin Smith can play for England too. Watched replay again and Manjesi who hasn’t ever brought anything to the party looked absolutely done in when hooked mid half. Another duff signing who perhaps is more at home at 03.20 in Oran Mor than Scotstoun ?
    Re shocking neck tackle by Northampton player which didn’t even merit being looking at ? Refer to citing officer ??

    • Aye sir Finn S has the choice…. however with Ford and M.Smith at England he may have to have a wee think.
      I still think Finn R will retire from international rugby after the Lions 2025 so more of a chance to play for Scotland????

      • Finn Smith has publicly said on many podcasts that he feels he is English and it committed to England. He is a good player but why do you want someone who would prefer the English?

    • Really to angry gala but he’s not got a reply option, had a wee rake and you are correct re Finn Smith, it’s just a cousin of my mate ho i spoke to & who’d played against Finn S said he undecided.

      • He was selected for last years England 6N squad although he didn’t appear in any match day squads.

        Given Farrell is taking at least a year out he’s nailed on for this years squad and I’d guess will get an appearance from the bench against Italy.

        He had a choice to make and he made it for now at least. If he doesn’t establish himself maybe he’ll be a Scotland player after a 3 year stand down?

  4. The decision at the death to throw it wide showed a complete lack of composure. We were 2 up in the forwards and just had to pick and go and the try would’ve come or at least an advantage/ free play. That would’ve given us 2 bonus points, wouldve won the try count 4-3 and the 2nd half 22 points to 6.
    As it is we got nout.

    • Correct Gaffer, an inexplicable decision, furthermore playing a non kicking 10 hamstrings attacking v options terribly

  5. Result aside it was a good game in terrible conditions, both teams gave it their all. It’s interesting that our last defeat to Munster at home also involved the destruction of our maul by the opposition. Still not sure how they got 2 players through the middle and Lawes round the side to latch on to the ball carrier and not be penalized at least once. We only came alive in the last 20. Two tactical questions why do we always pass the ball to a static player and expect him to make yardage , Leinster always seem to find a player running at full tilt. Why was Manjezi ,who is a poor player at lock and Cummings at 6 with Vailanu on the bench. Vailanu is our one player who makes hard yardage from a standing start. It’s interesting the 1st changes just after half time , why send the guys out in the first place. Kennday’s box kicking was terrible and the sooner we get Horne back the better , though Afshar did very well in the circumstances. Final moan Saints tackling way beyond the ruck and taking support players out and no sanction. Can we make the knock outs? tough ask now.

  6. Just seen Tom English’s excellent match report (as always bang on) and the photo of Ollie Smith’s try with the Northampton player who had sprinted 30 yards flat out across putting in a tackle in the corner with his arm around Ollie’s neck.This is a red card any day and not even looked at by the joke of a referee plus the other 3 muppets.Look at the position of touch judge 8/10 feet away watching it happen.
    Know refs have a hard job but you expect honesty at the very least. Tres malade!!
    Dont mind losing and a street wise Northamptonfully deserved the win.Franco not helped by SRU huge loss?? The fat Dod overseeing this. Fit to govern???
    Time to move on ; Ross Thompson must start , Manjezi and Kennedy are way off Warriors standard ,Kebble a mighty force in the scrums but my granny could do better in the loose. Our 4,5 and 6 all tall and lean and useful winning lineout ball but we need more the athletic beefy guys to aid go forward. Our defence coach must be tearing his hair out at number of missed tackles and we have gone from a miserly defence to one who talk of Scotstoun being a fortress but nae use if you leave the fekkin front door open.

  7. Northampton coaching staff earned their corn, nullifying Glasgow at every turn. However Kennedy had a terrible game (however the whole situation wasn’t helped by Glasgow not having a kicking option). The 9 issue was compounded at HT (see earlier posts)
    I’m afraid Manjezi has been consistently poor, interesting decision to play Cummings at 6, I liked Ally Miller at Edinburgh surely he needs a run in the team (if he stays fit)
    Finish on a positive Fin Smith looked very impressive and needs to be in the 6N squad

  8. So there were a number of issues to this disappointing evening. I’m afraid that there were some total tactical mess-ups from Franco including having Manjesi in the 2nd row and Cummings at flanker. Manjesi was anonymous and Scott is no natural flanker. Resting Tuipulotu (our leading player for recent matches) while bringing in Jones (with no warm up games) wasn’t a good decision either. This all felt a bit like some of the calls at the end of last season I’m afraid. Otherwise, letting Price go to Edinburgh came back to bite us as Kennedy had another nightmare, particularly with the horrible box kicking which killed us in the 1st half. We really need a quality 1st choice at 10 too.
    The ref didn’t help with some of his very off calls – particularly around the mauls and the strange card for Cummings. But we lost the game for ourselves more than the ref took it away.
    This should have been a very winnable match at home for Warriors but we managed to mess things up big time.

  9. Northampton were the better team full stop.
    But it might have been a different story if the ref had a clue at maul time. No one in the URC has an answer to Glasgows maul yet on 2 try scoring opportunities tonight it was sacked before it got moving. I guarantee it wasn’t the Glasgow forwards who were collapsing it.

  10. The Warriors scrum half Ben Afshar was recently in the Stirling Wolves squad, Alex Mitchell was playing in a World Cup Semi Final. As excellent as Ben Afshar is and is likely to be in the future it says it all about the depth of squad we have been reduced to. No one else in the Champions Cup will be reduced to playing a 21 year old who hasn’t started a game for a senior club. Shame on the SRU hobbling Glasgow Warriors to benefit their favourites.

  11. Disappointing….. outthought, outmuscled, outplayed for the most of it.

    Not going to bash the team, but try to look at some of the positives. Afshar looked good, nerves apart, and needs to start next week. Thought we looked better balanced and sharper with Thompson at 10 and Jordan and 12 – would like to see that 9-10-12 start next week.

    Forwards – don’t know what to say really, we were kinda blown away, needs more urgency, and we missed Dempsey’s carries especially with Vailanu on the bench. But we very rarely made any ground in contact where they always seemed to – does our inexplicable desire to go for choke tackles hinder us there. I do wonder….?

    • In my military training days, if we had a poor performance from the lads during an exercise; the next day started at 5am, and they were harassed continually for ten hours, and then the same routine repeated the following day. The point was never about developing their physical capabilities – it was about developing the correct state of mind.

  12. Simply comes down to physicality. We did not turn up. Northampton did, and dominated the collision’s, as well as neutralise the driving maul. Ref seemed one-sided, but that was not the underlying issue.

    Get in Kebble, start Turner, Start Vailanu or Dempsey and have an energetic 9 bringing the energy and directing the pack. The lack of Tuipolotu and Steyn was felt.

    I thought Darge, Afshar, Thompson, Vailanu and Smith played well.

    I thought the Yellow to Cummings was very harsh. And very surprised the tackle around Smith’s neck as he scored was not a penalty try + yellow card.

  13. In the first half Northampton were much crisper in the backs. Glasgow went across the pitch, Northampton went down the pitch. This looks similar to the games against Benetton and ulster but this time we faced a better organised team: Tom Jordan doesn’t have an accurate kicking game so if shipping the ball out wide doesn’t cut it, then we’d don’t have much else to offer.

    Painful night but hopefully a learning moment to see that 1/2 in the urc flatters us.

    As an aside – fin smith looked really good and his play was a major difference between the teams

    • Agree that Fin Smith looked excellent, he varied his game well and had some nice breaks. By contrast the Northampton defence didn’t have to be geniuses to know that Tom Jordan would pass out the back and as such were always up fast causing us to daisy chain across the field. This lack of the Warriors even having a suggestion of an offensive kicking game cost us, as it did against Munster. We only seen to kick, usually poorly, when under pressure or when we run out of ideas.
      On this same tack we looked better when Tom Jordan moved to inside centre and Ross Thompson came on. Irrespective we have a shallower pool of talent at 10 than others in this competition or most of the URC and never sought to replace Minotti with anyone never mind an upgrade. Meanwhile along the M8 money is found to tempt Ben Healy to up sticks even although at the time the deal would have been being worked on Blair Kinghorn was back up Scotland 10. And don’t get me started on the funds found down the back of the couch mid season to bring big Duhan back to a brand new stadium.

      • I really hate to criticise our players but I have to agree that Tom Jordan isn’t the answer for Glasgow at 10. He has too many fatal flaws in my opinion to be a consistently good stand off. He doesn’t control the game and doesn’t direct traffic and set the pattern the way top players do. Also, his kicking is frankly poor, both from hand and from the tee. I think Ross Thompson is a much more rounded player. This doesn’t mean that I don’t rate Jordan. I think he’s a fabulously talented player and I would be happy to see him in the team, but at 12 not 10. We only have three experienced centres to get us through the season, so maybe this is where he should be utilised, filling in at 10 when required until such times as another 10 is recruited.

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