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.
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.
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).
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)