Champions Cup: Glasgow’s last-eight hopes are dashed at the death by Harlequins

Ding-dong battle sees home side have the last word after a second-half fightback had taken the Warriors to the verge of victory.

Sam Riley
Harlequins match-winner Sam Riley celebrates at full-time. Image: © Craig Watson.

Harlequins 28
Glasgow Warriors 24

STUART BATHGATE @ Twickenham Stoop

AN ENGROSSING Champions Cup battle saw Glasgow’s hopes of winning through to the quarter-finals ended just minutes from time by a Harlequins fightback. The 77th-minute try by substitute hooker Sam Riley, converted by man of the match Marcus Smith, was just the last of several momentum swings in a match which saw both sides throw everything they had into attack.

The Warriors took an early lead but found themselves 21-7 down at the break. A much-improved second-half showing saw them score 17 unanswered points and apparently take control of the last-16 contest. But that late attack orchestrated by the imperious Smith, proved just enough for Quins to take their place in the last eight, where they will meet either Bordeaux or Saracens.

“I thought we were penalised way too much in the first half, with most of them being debatable,” Glasgow coach Franco Smith said, referring to a first 40 in which there was a 12-2 penalty count against his team. “I’m not criticising anybody, I’m just saying that they were debatable penalties. The fact that in the second half we did not get penalised so much is where the question mark sits.

“We gave away a try just before half-time which was unnecessary, and that put us under pressure in the second part of the game. I always felt we were going to come back, always felt that we had a good second half prepared.

“We should have converted the last two penalties when we went for touch in the corner,” he added about a passage of play late in the second half when, holding a 24-21 lead, Glasgow sent the ball to touch rather than going for goal. “That is what wins finals, if you can make the big moments count. I felt we let them off and then we have three penalties in a row.

“We haven’t given away any maul tries all season so it was uncharacteristic with fresh legs on.”

Harlequins coach Danny Wilson, Smith’s predecessor at Glasgow, said: “The character of the boys was really pleasing. They got back in the game well, and to score a rolling maul against them is great. That’s a step in the right direction for us, because we’ve not defended that well in the last few games.”

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Asked about beating his old club, Wilson added:  “I’d love to stand here and say it’s not about that, but it is. To win a knockout game is pleasing, but to do it against Glasgow is even more pleasing.

“I knew against Glasgow with their form and the way they’re playing would be really tough.”

This was uncharted territory for both teams, neither having won a knockout match in the Champions Cup before, and it was Glasgow who settled first, taking the lead after three minutes, Sione Tuipulotu, playing his first game since the Calcutta Cup, was in the thick of the action, cutely switching play from right to left. The attack progressed down the wing, and a couple of phases later Scott Cummings finished off from close range. George Horne added the conversion.  

Quins tried to hit back straight away, but were held up on the Warriors line. Then they had another promising platform from the lineout, but the throw was not straight and Glasgow were able to clear from the scrum.

The home team were soon on the attack again, and thought they had got their first score when Cadan Murley touched down in the left corner. But the referee went straight to the TMO, and replays clearly showed the winger had lost the ball forward as he dived over the line under pressure from Kyle Steyn and Josh McKay.

Midway through the half, Harlequins had another chance to open their account, as Alex Dombrandt broke free well inside the Glasgow half. The No 8 stumbled but managed to feed Louis Lynagh, who was tackled some way short of the line.

Eventually, however, the pressure told. A line-out maul got within the Warriors’ five-metre line and the backs took it left before Smith reversed the play and lobbed a ball to the right corner, where Andre Esterhuizen gathered and touched down. Smith’s conversion brought the teams level with quarter of an hour left in the half.

The Londoners deserved to be level, at least, given the number of half-chances or more that they had created. Glasgow were able to match their tempo and desire, all right, but not their cutting edge.



As the pressure increased in the closing ten minutes before the break, the Glasgow defence began to creak. A string of offences, first in the scrum and then at the breakdown, ended in Tuipulotu being yellow-carded for offside. Quins chose to scrum the penalty, and Smith made excellent use of the front-foot ball to jink his way to the line. The stand-off converted his own try to make it 14-7.

With the clock in the red, the 14 men conceded again – and once more from a scrum. Quins made good use of the extra space to put Murley in at the corner – and this time the winger made no mistake with his touchdown. Two more points from Smith made it 21-7 at the end of a half in which Glasgow had given away 12 penalties.

The Warriors knew they had to hit back quickly after the break – and do so in a more disciplined fashion – if they were to stop the game running away from them. They still had the desire, but if anything they looked to eager to forge an opening, especially with one wild pass which ended a promising attack by sailing out of touch.

With half an hour to play, though, they got one score back. Johnny Matthews had tried once and failed to shunt his way over from a maul, but at the second time of asking he made no mistake. Horne converted and it was a seven-point game again.

Two minutes later the Warriors got try No 3. A neat exchange of passes between captain Steyn and Jamie Dobie – an early replacement for the concussed Kyle Rowe – put Horne in from the edge of the 22. The scrum-half equalised with the boot, and the match was back in the melting pot.

Quins did not know how to respond, and they looked stunned right on the hour mark when Horne chipped over a penalty for handling on the deck to put the Warriors ahead for the first time in 50 minutes’ play.  

Glasgow then brought on five forward replacements at once in a bid to press home their advantage, and they were given another boost when Joe Marler was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle.

Just short of the 70-minute mark, Glasgow were awarded another kickable penalty, but opted to go for touch. The drive from the lineout was stopped illegally and they went for touch again. The maul was stopped, the ball went back out to the backs – but the move ended with a Quins penalty.

Marcus Smith cleared deep into Glasgow territory and McKay knocked on – a costly error, as it proved. With Marler back on the field, Quins won a penalty from the scrum. 

Smith kicked to the corner. Nothing came of the backs move from the lineout, but advantage was being played. Back to the corner again, and this time the forwards did the job themselves, with substitute hooker Sam Riley finishing off to make it 26-24. Smith converted.

The Warriors’ last attack – and the match – ended when a Duncan Weir kick intended for George Horne went dead. “I would have loved to have seen the ball sit up for George,” Smith added.

Teams –

Harlequins: T Green; L Lynagh, O Beard, A Esterhuizen, C Murley; M Smith, D Care; F Baxter (J Marler 41), J Walker (S Riley 69), W Collier (D Lewis 58), I Herbst (J Launchbury 54), G Hammond (W Trenholm 65), S Lewies (captain, T Lawday 69), W Evans, A Dombrandt.

Glasgow: J McKay; K Steyn (captain), S McDowall, S Tuipulotu, K Rowe (J Dobie 22); T Jordan (D Weir 66), G Horne; N McBeth (O Kebble 60), J Matthews (G Hiddleston 60), Z Fagerson (L Sordoni 60), M Williamson (S Manjezi 60), S Cummings, M Fagerson (H Venter 60), R Darge, J Dempsey.

Referee: Tual Trainini (France).


Scorers – 

Harlequins: Tries: Esterhuizen, Smith, Murley, Riley. Cons: Smith 4.  

Glasgow: Tries: Cummings, Matthews, Horne. Cons: Horne 3. Pen: Horne.

Scoring sequence (Harlequins first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 12-7; 14-7; 19-7; 21-7 (h-t); 21-12; 21-14; 21-19; 21-21; 21-24; 26-24; 28-24.

Yellow cards – 

Harlequins: Marler (61 mins)

Glasgow: Tuipulotu (33 mins)


Attendance: 14,816

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About Stuart Bathgate 1407 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. Typical Scottish,crapped it the last 5 minutes,haven’t a clue how to protect a lead and then expect sympathy.We have to learn how to close a game down and that needs real guts,which we have not yet got into our mentality.It doesn’t matter what level we are in same end result.

  2. Typical Scottish,crapped it the last 5 minutes,haven’t a clue how to protect a lead and then expect sympathy.We have to learn how to close a game down and that needs real guts,which we have not yet got into our mentality.It doesn’t matter what level we are in same end result.

  3. Franco will be sore because our game management in the last 10 mins was poor, and that’s 100% on the players. Lack of composure with needless infringements and errors which allowed Quins easy exit and field position having been pinned down in their own 22. Cannot afford that at this level and Quins punished it so fair play to them for grinding out the win. Ref was picky on Glasgow first half but the two poorest calls during the game were also the most crucial – both at scrum time. First one was for Harlequins 2nd try. The scrum collapsed before the ball came out of the scrum because Harlequins loose head, under pressure from Zander, had his legs too far extended and took the scrum down. All happened right in front of the ref who inexplicably let it go and then yellow cards Tuipuloto for offside after the ball came out from the collapsed scrum. Should have been a scrum penalty to Glasgow, and consequently no try or yellow card would have occurred. Same again at the scrum in the last 5 mins. Dillon Lewis had his legs too far extended as he took the hit. Consequently, the scrum was unstable and went down before the ball could be put in but the ref inexplicably pinged Kebble when it should have been the other way or at worst a reset. Effort was commendable and the squad has the depth to compete at this level with all the youngsters again showing up well in a tough game. I am a Tom Jordan fan (because I think he can develop his potential – at 10 or 12 – even further) but if a marquee 10 is required I would prefer someone other than Hastings (due to his worrying injury record). Finally, our maul is effective but not as potent without the considerable ballast of Vailanu and Du Preez.

    • Franco needs to take some responsibility for that, coaches are able to get instructions on so easily. Not taking the points must have been an agreed strategy, or it wouldn’t have happened more than once.

      • Fair comment about not taking kickable penalties in a knock out game but I was not alluding to that. My issue was the brain fades by Staff and Mckay that allowed Quins to march unopposed 70 yards upfield when we had them pinned back in their 22 and on the ropes. The last thing you do at that juncture is give away a cheap penalty to give them an easy exit. Better to give up a turnover and force Quins to play out of their own 22 than flop off your feet onto a tackled player right in front of the jackler and the ref. Mckay has been a standout player this season but that fumble from a desperate kick to nothing by Marcus Smith will haunt him. Coach cannot control these actions …

      • Scotts Franco also needs to take responsibility for players out on their feet too, 6:2 split was pointless if you don’t use all 6 forwards. Got his bench wrong.

    • Totally agree about the scrum before the yellow card. It was so obvious from where we were sitting in the north stand. For ref not to see or call it was very frustrating

  4. Great game but couldn’t quite get over the line. A great second half comeback where we completely dominated possession and I think Quins only period in our 22 led to the winning try. A pity it came from a bit of a mess of fielding a kick from Mckay which gave them the scrum in our half. Quite a turn round at half time after giving away 12 penalties which you cant get away with. I thought a few were very dubious but when you give away that many the ref tends to get on your case.

    Probably the main difference was Smith at stand-off. I never understand why England dont trust him as a regular starter. He’s got the X factor and had no right to score his try. I think it shows that if Glasgow had a classy stand-off it would make a big difference to the side. I like Jordan but playing him along with Tuipo and McDowell is really 3 centres together. What’s the status on Thompson – I though he played well when he got a couple of starts last month but Weir is now ahead of him? Can only assume Smith doesnt think he’s good enough.

    At least we can now focus on the URC and hopefully get a few of the injured players back in to strengthen the team for the run in and get home advantage in the knock outs.

    • Smith is not a regular for England because his defence is not up to top level rugby. In fact, it’s about time refs clamped down on Smith’s no arms tackling. Being small is no excuse not to tackle legally by wrapping an arm and his penchant for no arms tackles betrays the major weakness in his game. He did it a few times last night at charging Glasgow runners and the ref did nothing. He does it regularly and it needs to be called out before he kneecaps someone as it’s dangerous when aimed around the attacking runner’s knee level.

      • Smith’s defence is roughly 8 Million times better than Ford’s. He doesn’t start like Harry Randall because Borthwick is an dinosaur of a coach who can’t comprehend creativity and pace.

      • Rugby Fan. The Fords defence is rubbish chat is as lazy as Russell being a maverick has been debunked several times, he doesn’t win tackle collisions but rarely missing them. He is a much more complete 10 than Smith and what why Smith doesn’t start. Randall doesn’t start as he’s a poor man’s Horne with even less game management.

  5. O I thought we had that one. Poor first half yellow sin bin period, but a great second half come back. It was always going to be tough when Rowe went off, with the best will in the world neither Horne or Dobie are wingers. I thought Dobie was the better of the two on the wing Not sure what happened to Rowe one minute he’s covered in blood next he is off, did anyone see the incident. It’s always easier in hind sight but maybe kick the 2 penalties. The main difference in the teams was Quinn’s Smith you just do not know what he will do next.
    Thought also most of the guys put in a great shift, with Cummings and Tuipulotu excellent. O well we will be in again next year lets hope.

  6. Good performance if very wobbly during the yellow card. The weakness is the lack of depth from 1-5. And we need a quality playmaker at 10. Jordan is a really good player but not sure he is a 10, he adds to the depth in the centre. Adam Hastings would have made all the difference. We also need young props coming through and I don’t see any sign of this.. Finally would love to see Hamiltonesque second rows coming from somewhere.I’d like to follow the Irish pattern and rather than journeymen pull in 1-2 very high quality (and yes expensive) NQS to bolster the team and bring on the youngsters.

  7. Edinburgh here, I thought that was a great game, conditions were pretty poor, so quite a lot of mistakes and the game could easily have gone either way.

    Given Your position in the URC, perhaps no bad thing to concentrate on that and aim for the title.

    Interesting to see that there really isn’t much separation between the URC and Eng Prem.

  8. Feels like a parallel to Scotland. Knock out/tournament rugby should mean kicking points at key junctures…

  9. Marcus Smith was the difference, he’s superb.
    Tremendous effort by Glasgow, Tuipulotu should be looking forward to a summer in Australia next year.
    Williamson McBeth Hiddlestone should all get loads game time on Scotland tour.
    Agree with above re 6-2 spilt, really is a gamble.
    Glasgow have had great success with the going to the corner/ driving maul but points win prizes.
    A fit Hastings would be great in yhat team Jordan should be installed as 12 at Edinburgh

    • Agree about Smith we were never quite sure what he would do next and if he had kicked Weir’s kick at the end it would have landed in Horne’s lap. There are only two ways to get a class 10 , make one, aka Finn or buy one but who could we afford and I’m not sure Hastings is our man either.

    • Smith, agree

      Is Jordon not a 10, and why would you want to give him away !!?

      Hastings, just not sure he’s got it in him any more, seen him play quite poorly a few times this year.

      Has Weir got another season do you think? You do seem to go off the boil when he comes on

  10. Gutted, that game was there for the taking as we all thought it could be, but Quins simply played the big moments better, when it mattered, and home advantage did play a part in that regard.

    Our maul has lost some of its edge recently, but we’re also down in weight in the pack with a few injuries. Not gonna single out any individual as I thought all had good games, but I think every player will say they could have done better, whether that was individual moments or decision making at key times. Considering that was in our first choice back row, we didn’t get the advantage I thought we would have had there, and with Smith on form in that first half in particular, that was telling.

    Not gonna go there with the ref, but there is a growing recognition that refs need to change their approach from giving advice to teams on the pitch ie the “No, No, No don’t do that” to just pinging them when they do infringe – Quins got away with a few last night same way as Ireland always do when slowing ball down – becoming a real blight on the game and needs sorted.

    Positives – the young guys in Williamson, Hiddleston, McBeth stood up well considering the competition, and great to see them continuing to develop.

    There is no magic pill, the only way teams can get better in those key moments is more experience of them… so we need to use this in the remaining league games and playoffs and keep that 2nd spot for the seedlings!

  11. Poor decision making cost us in the end – not just Wier’s desperate and pointless kick to the smallest bloke on the park at the end. The 6-2 bench split rather came back to haunt us as soon as Kyle Rowe was forced off. And our subs just didn’t have the same quality as the first 15, particularly when trying to maul from 5m line outs. But Cummings continued his fine recent form, and Steyn, Zander F and Tuipulotu were great. I think a lot of the difference came at 10. Jordan is a fine player and can put in a stint at fly half but the gulf in class between him and Smith was apparent.

    • Agree with your point about the 6-2 split. Especially as Ally Miller didn’t get on the park. As you mention Tom Jordan is a really good solid option at 10 but unfortunately doesn’t have that X-factor that Marcus Smith or even Fin Smith have at this level.

    • I was at the game, and thought the same, but watching the highlight this morning, oh my gosh it was millimetres away from being the perfect and perhaps deserved ending.

      Thought they played really well second half, but as many have said, we should have kicked the points. If someone hands you a screwdriver, turn the screw!

  12. Ref “No, no, no, no” to the Quins player who then plays the scrum half anyway and no penalty awarded! Would genuinely love to hear the ref’s thought process for that one.

    Also an overly ambitious kick at the end from Weir knowing that was our last chance in the match.

    Overall, felt like a game that was there for the taking in the second half. Great watch tho, congrats to Quins.

  13. 12 scottish internationals v I think 3 english….says something about scotlands prospects going forward. “Should do better”

    • Your adding up should do better, 5 English internations started 2 more from Bench. 3 England A started plus a Italian and SA international, with a Welsh one off the bench. Its pretty even overall.
      Quins more quality in where it mattered, at 10. Smith was the difference

      • I really wish I could hand on heart feel we had an even split between english first 15 and scottish starters maybe 8 v 1(smith marler 2 at a push or even 3 with dombrandt). Really don’t want argue a point but when glasgow n edinburgh play it is essentially half at least our national side so gutting to lose v a smattering of other teams with less of a core though of course accept other nationalities come into it like the odd SA or italian. Sorry just bit down with the loss

      • Iain, I agree disappointment is the right feeling. But our player pool is smaller so more guys get capped which skews things. Will Collier would have 50 Scottish caps rather than a couple English ones. Murley, Green, Baxter and Lewies would also have multiple caps for Scotland.
        It was an even game with Marcus Smith probably the difference but it could have been different if Glasgow had taken points on offer. Lesson needs to be learned for URC playoffs, knockout rugby is different.

    • goodness this old chestnut again
      How mnay pro teams does Scotland have, does England have? How many adult players does each have? what are the populations of each?
      With only 2 pro teams if you get into one its almost inevitable you wil get a cap at some pont, lack of depth has that effect. Much wider choices in England, and historically bigger budgets means less chance of getting capped , Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay less

      • well secptic sorrty to say that is not true now as salary cap in England is £5m whereas it appears that Glasgow have had £8m to spend

      • @Alan Mann you did see the word historically in my post?
        As it happens we do not know due to lack of transparency from McGuigan whether his £8 contains the same costs structure as the English captain. But we do know the English captain starts at £5M then has several additions plus a marquee player outside it. There really is very little difference

    • One big problem is that losing under extreme pressure becomes a habit. Not a million miles away from physical fitness and mental toughness – underlying features in all of that include composure, confidence, decision-making at key moments and on-field leadership – allied to effective deployment of bench resources.

  14. Well, that was frustrating. Glasgow really only have themselves to blame in the end.

    I’m not sure the coaching team and the captain were on the same page there; the former puts Weir on for Jordan, the latter goes to the corner twice when there was an easy 6 point lead on offer.

    The first half ran away from Glasgow (as can happen when playing away). A very poor decision to give Quins a scrum leads to the 2nd try and the yellow card (and arguably therefore the 3rd try) but I don’t think the referee got many other calls wrong to be honest.

    The second half was excellent but they seemed to lose belief when they failed to score when Marler was off. Real shame, they are clearly a better side than Quins.

  15. Glasgow needed to convert when they declined the 3 points around 70 mins.

    Not one to blame refs – But consistently across the board this has to be the lowest quality seasons of officiating i can remember.

    Glasgow could play better sure – but that was awful. Even had Munster and Leinster Fans telling me that we’d been hard done by.

  16. Quins deserved it. If it had been at Scotstoun Glasgow would’ve won. Home tie is everything.
    The yellow cards Told the story. Quins score 14 when Glasgow are down a man , we score 0 when Quins are down despite having just brought on fresh legs.
    They had a plan to send someone flying out the line to stop the ball going wide and we couldn’t counter it.
    Danny Wilson 1 Franco 0

    • I for one am an admirer of Franco and Wilson was shocking as our coach. One game decided by very fine margins when penalties not kicked and several debatable decisions made by ref does not make Wilson a better coach

      • Tom. If Wilson was so shocking how come Franco only managed to match his league result last year?
        Let’s not pretend Franco rescued Glasgow from obscurity, they were team who regularly made the league playoffs.
        Same problems with consistency remain.
        And Glasgow have had worse coaches than Wilson.

      • Wilson’s have been smug at the end but I for one am glad he is no longer at Glasgow. Long reign Franco!


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