Champions Cup: Warriors show plenty of fight but can’t land the knock-out blow

Tempers flared towards the end of Glasgow Warriors' defeat to Montpellier at the Altrad Satdium. Image: © Craig Watson -

Montpellier 36

Glasgow Warriors 26

THE search for a win in this European Champions Cup campaign continues for Glasgow Warriors. They scored four tries to secure their second bonus point from four outings so far in the competition, but that will come as little comfort given that this result mathematically confirms what common sense had already told us: Dave Rennie’s team will not be playing European knock-out rugby this season.

Three of Warriors’ tries came in the first half to give Dave Rennie’s team a 12-19 lead at the break, but they struggled once again to cope with Montpellier’s set-piece grunt, and were also punished by the devastating pace and power of their giant Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo. A few avoidable lapses in concentration and accuracy under pressure also cost them dearly.

The Warriors got off to a flyer when Fraser Brown charged down Jesse Mogg’s clearance and pounced on the loose ball to score inside two minutes of kick-off; but that was soon cancelled out by a neat line-out move which involved the Nadolo taking the peel and feeding Jan Serfontein as he hit the line at pace, then, when the South African centre was halted just shirt of the whitewash, Nadolo appeared on the scene again to pick up and bustle over from close range.

Warriors replied through Pete Horne after an excellent turnover secured by Matt Smith, but once again Montpellier almost immediately cancelled that score out with Romain Ruffenach blasting his way over after the home team’s line-out drive had done the damage, just as it did when the two sides met at Scotstoun last week.

Then it was Nick Grigg’s turn to get on the scoresheet, powering over after some good build up play, including an excellently weighted cross-field kick from Pete Horne to Lee Jones, and a powerful run from the fit again and sharp looking Alex Dunbar. That, amazingly, was the game’s fifth try – with less than 18 minutes played.

That dizzying run-rate slowed up during the second quarter of the match, and it wasn’t until four minutes after the break that the scorer was troubled again, when Nadolo rampaged from his own 22, trampled right over the top of Tommy Seymour, stepped inside Ruaridh Jackson, and looked a dead cert to score until Ali Price appeared from nowhere and somehow managed to fell the runaway steam-train. Unfortunately for the heroic scrum-half, his efforts were in vain, with a quick recycle releasing Henry Immelman for the try.

That must have been a bitter pill for Price to swallow, and just two minute later he suffered an even more painful personal set-back, when his kick from the base of a ruck was blocked by Montpellier second-row Nicholaas Van Rensburg, and the feisty scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue capitalised to grab his team’s bonus point score.

The Warriors now had to weather a storm, and they seemed to have done that as the game ticked past the hour mark. With a bit of possession and Finn Russell now on the park to pull their strings, their offloading game began to click and the likes of Ryan Wilson, Alex Dunbar and Nick Grigg were sniffing out half gaps to run at.

However, the story of this match – perhaps even their whole European campaign – was the Warriors’ propensity to surrender the initiative with cheap turnovers and lightweight defensive lapses. It is not that they are especially careless, but their whole approach to the game is so high risk that it needs to be absolutely accurate all of the time.

It was a slightly different script, but the same old story, when Alex Allan burst up the middle of the park and Price carried the move on, only to be stripped of possession by Francois Steyn as he looked to pop off the deck. Montpellier knew exactly what they needed to do, whisking the ball leftward to Nadolo, who once again ran-over poor Seymour before feeding Aaron Cruden on his inside shoulder. Smith felled the All Black playmaker – inadvertently injuring the Montpellier man’s knee in the process – but Immelman was on hand to finish the move off.

Warriors kept on battling, and some great handling by Grigg and Jackson sent replacement scrum-half George Horne scampering in to make it a seven-point game once again. And Montpellier were worried enough to twice opt to kick for three points rather than build pressure in the corner, and Steyn was on target with the second of these shots at goal – finally taking the game beyond the plucky visitors.

Warriors’ frustration was perhaps best illustrated by a flashpoint with two minutes to go, when the usually equable Jackson reacted to a fairly innocuous push on one of his team-mates by Montpellier replacement hooker Bismarck Du Plessis and ran ten metres to retaliate, which sparked a bout of handbags involving ten to fifteen players. There wasn’t really a punch thrown but plenty of angry grappling. When order was restored, both Du Plessis and Jackson were sent to the cooler.

There was no real harm done, it was a bit like an angry toddler slamming the door after being sent to his bedroom.

Teams –

Montpellier: J Mogg (T Nagusa 72); G N’gandebe, F Steyn, J Serfontein (H Immelman 40), N Nadolo; A Cruden (E Sanga 67), B Paillaugue; G Fichten, R Ruffenach (B du Plessis 45), J Jonker (M Haouas 63), N van Rensburg, K Mikautadze (J Delannoy 67), K Galletier (F Ouedraogo 45), J Bardy, L Picamoles.

Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; T Seymour (N Matawalu 72), N Grigg, A Dunbar, L Jones; P Horne (F Russell 58), A Price (G Horne 68); J Bhatti (A Allan 57), F Brown (P MacArthur 63), Z Fagerson (S Halanukonuka 40), K McDonald (S Cummings 57), J Gray, R Wilson (C Fusaro 18-27, 63), M Smith, S Vunisa.

Scorers –

Montpellier: Try: Nadolo, Ruffanach, Immelman 2, Paillaugue; Cons: Paillaugue 4; Pen: Steyn.

Glasgow Warriors: Try: Brown, P Horne, Grigg, G Horne; Con: P Horne 2, Russell.

Scoring sequence (Montpellier first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 7-12; 7-14; 12-14; 14-14; 14-19 (h-t) 19-19, 21-19, 26-19; 31-19; 33-19; 33-24; 33-26; 36-26.

Yellow cards –

Montpellier: Du Plessis

Glasgow Warriors: Jackson

Referee: JP Doyle (England)

About David Barnes 3959 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.