Glasgow Warriors 28
Exeter Chiefs 21
ALEX MCLEMEN @ Scotstoun
THE return of Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and Finn Russell helped Glasgow Warriors mastermind a stunning bonus point victory, which ended Exeter Chiefs’ quarter-final dreams and brought the curtain down on their European Champions Cup adventure.
Glasgow’s European hopes had disappeared long ago, but at a cold Scotstoun Stadium on Saturday afternoon, against the reigning Aviva Premiership Champions, they salvaged a degree of dignity from an otherwise desperately disappointing campaign.
An opening 40 minutes which was short on explosiveness and drama was bookended by scores, from home full-back Hogg with Russell converting in the opening minute, and from visiting number eight Sam Simmonds with Gareth Steenson converting in the final minute.
If the first-half was lacking offensive fireworks, the second was stocked full, as both sides went full bore for victory. A penalty-try after Nic White’s deliberate knock-on, which earned the scrum-half a yellow-card, was followed by converted touchdowns from Seymour and Matt Fagerson, to give Glasgow a try bonus-point and a 28-7 advantage on 63 minutes.
Exeter managed to make the final quarter nervy for the capacity Scotstoun crowd, with Dom Armond and Ian Whitten going over for the Chiefs and Steenson converting both. But the hosts held on to secure their first Champions Cup victory of the season.
“Great effort, we turned the screws in the second half and Exeter probably thought we might tire after making all those tackles but we managed to hold on in the end,” said a pleased Glasgow head coach, Dave Rennie.
“When you consider we lost George Turner, Matt Smith and Alex Dunbar all before half-time, our resources were a little bit thin so it was a testament to the conditioning of the boys to stick in.”
“We got a bit of firepower back today and we have a few more guys to come back over the coming weeks so it was good to go into a bit of a break with a win.”
Rennie added: “When you reflect back, we are last in the pool anyway, but it was a lot better performance and nice to get the win. If we had been a bit sharper the last time we played them [Exeter] we could have probably got a win. I still feel we could have won both Montpellier games and then this could have been a different discussion. In the end, you have to be good enough to take your chances and we weren’t [this season].”
That the Glasgow outfit’s European ambitions didn’t materialise into anything this season is not really surprising given the new coaching team and a pool which featured two sides in the Chiefs and Leinster, who were picked by many to challenge for the title, and a French juggernaut manned by a familiar face. Early pool defeats reduced their quarter final hopes to a pipedream and performances dropped, culminating with an embarrassing 55-19 defeat to Leinster last weekend.
In this match the Warriors managed to restore a degree of pride. Aided by a host of internationals, Glasgow put in a classy effort against a formidable opposition, who dominated possession and territory throughout a hugely physical battle.
Hogg finished off a scintillating opening minute score, set-up by Russell, who cut the Exeter defence in two with a midfield break before the visitors – who were in need of a bonus-point win to keep their quarter-final hopes alive – came alive. The Warriors lost Turner to a knee injury in addition to Dunbar and Smith to head knocks, which required some early substitutions, and that disruption told as Exeter dominated possession, pinning Glasgow inside their own 22 for over 20 minutes.
But the visitors struggled to capitalise on their game-control as the Warriors defence worked overtime to preserve their lead. As half-time approached, the English side eventually found their breakthrough with Simmonds dotting down from close-range after a rolling maul from an attacking line-out.
The second-half kicked-off in similar fashion to the first. Glasgow blitzing Exeter with an attacking enthusiasm the Sandy Park side struggled to contain. Under the cosh early, scrum-half White knocked-on in the tackle, inside his own five-meter line, which referee Romain Poite adjudged to be deliberate and deserving of a penalty try.
As Exeter struggled to find any continuity, Glasgow shifted through the gears and opened the Aviva Premiership champions up twice in the space of four minutes to take a 28-7 lead. Seymour starting and finishing off a break from inside his own 22-meter line, before Fagerson crashed over after Hogg, Seymour and Horne had combined on the same wing to shock the visitors.
Exeter eventually wrestled possession and momentum back from a tiring Glasgow, finding scores through Armond and Whitten, but the hosts held on to earn victory and end Exeter’s European champions cup campaign.
“I am very disappointed, not because we lost or because this European campaign has slipped away from us now, it’s just that we weren’t as good as we needed to be today and that’s disappointing,” said Exeter head coach, Rob Baxter.
“In the Champions Cup you are playing against good sides, you have got to be good and there were just too many times today when we weren’t good enough. At half-time I felt we were pretty well placed, that early try was probably indicative of where we were today. I wasn’t too worried, we laid some pretty good foundations and our attacking shape looked pretty good, and I would have backed us to push on there – but the yellow card and penalty try came at a crucial moment. We gave up some length of the field tries and if you are going to give up length of the field tries you aren’t going to win many games.”
Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour, H Jones, A Dunbar (P Horne 13), L Sarto (L Jones 57); F Russell, G Horne (A Price 70); J Bhatti (A Allan 52), G Turner (G Stewart 7), S Halanukonuka (D Rae 52), R Harley, J Gray, M Fagerson, M Smith (C Fusaro 29), A Ashe (C Fusaro 9-16, G Peterson 72)).
Exeter Chiefs: P Dollman, L Turner, H Slade (J Simmonds 63), I Whitten, O Woodburn; G Steenson, N White (W Chudley 62); B Moon (M Low 63), L Cown-Dickie (E Taione 63), H Williams (T Francis 50), R Lees (T Salmon 62), J Hill, D Ewers (M Kvesic 51), D Armand, S Simmonds.
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Hogg, Penalty Try, Seymour, Fagerson; Cons: Russell 4.
Exeter Chiefs: Simmons, Armond, Whittem; Cons: Steenson 3.
Scorings sequence (Glasgow Warriors first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-7 (h-t) 14-7; 19-7; 21-7; 26-7; 28-7; 28-12; 28-14; 28-19; 28-21.
Yellow cards –
Exeter Chiefs: White
Referee: Romain Poite (FRU)