Glasgow Warriors 42
TWO tries each for Rufus McLean and Kyle Steyn, plus a man-of-the-match performance from Sione Tuipulotu, helped Warriors to an impressive bonus-point win from a tricky assignment on the road, providing the Scotland coaching staff with a timely a reminder of that triumvirate’s qualities ahead of the start of the Six Nations next week.
All in all, Warriors head coach Danny Wilson was justifiably happy with what transpired on a typically blustery but dry afternoon at the Sportsground.
“This is a tough place to come against a side who have been going well,” he said afterwards. “I know they are missing three or four internationals, we’re missing seven, so we knew it was going to be a challenge and it was a stalemate for quite a long time, but I thought our boys executed tactically really well playing into the wind in the first half.
“Then, in the second half, the wind dropped so we ended up playing pretty much the same rugby, but I thought our attack was good, we defended well, our breakdown work was good, and our set-piece went well with a couple of line-out drive scores and plenty of pressure put on their line-out.
“Overall, to come here and do that, was one of the best performances we’ve had,” he added, before highlighting that it was not only the Scotland squad members who had been released for this match that stood up to be counted.
“They were great, they came back in really keen, and I think that was for two reasons – they want to perform well for Glasgow because they are very passionate about what we are doing, and also they want to put a marker down and say that they are in good form to the Scotland coaches,” he said
“But I thought Ollie Smith was also outstanding today. As a young 15 getting his first start in a big game, I thought he did really well.”
Oli Kebble (shoulder and head), Jack Dempsey (shoulder) and Jamie Bhatti (hand) picked up injuries buy Wilson didn’t anticipate these being major set-backs. “A couple of bumps and knocks but we’ve got a week off now so that will allow us to patch up a few boys and go again,” he said.
Warriors got off to a flyer, with Richie Gray disrupting an early Connacht line-out and from he subsequent scrum they powered through several phases to create an opportunity on the left which saw George Horne send McLean over on the left with just three minutes on the clock.
The visitors lost Gray to the sin-bin on eight minutes when he lifted an opponent’s leg and dumped him onto his back as he cleared a ruck, and a magnificent 50-22 kick two minutes later by Tiernan O’Halloran – making his 200th appearance for Connacht – set up an excellent attacking platform from which Sammy Arnold eventually scrambled over, with Cathal Forde‘s conversion nudging the hosts into a two-point lead.
Both teams had come to play, but some resolute defence and mistakes at key moments meant they each took turns failing to capitalise on promising opportunities, until Tom Farrell – nursing an ankle injury – fell off Steyn in midfield, which allowed the Warriors outside-centre to mark his 28th birthday with as easy a try as he is likely to score this season.
Warriors moved further ahead when Tom Gordon won a good penalty over the tackle and Duncan Weir went to the corner, leading to a maul which marched over Connacht’s line at the second time of asking for Fraser Brown to get the downward pressure.
However, a penalty conceded by Kebble for lying over the ball after a tackle allowed Forde to reduce the arrears to seven points on the stroke of half-time.
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That gap was cancelled out two minutes into the second half when a ferocious Connacht onslaught led to Paul Boyle burrowing over and Forde converting, but an offside penalty almost straight from the restart allowed Weir to kick three easy points to make it 17-20.
There was then a long passage of kick-tennis which lasted until the otherwise excellent Ollie Smith got bored and tried to run it from deep only to be turned over, leading indirectly to a Connacht penalty which Forde fired home to square it. At this point, Brown, as Warriors co-captain, expressed his frustration to referee Nic Berry that a head-on-head collision which injured Kebble out of the match was not viewed as foul play.
Warriors bounced right back and Sebastian Cancelliere streaked into the danger zone, leading to Boyle being yellow-carded for playing the ball on the deck. A loose pass from George Horne to Bhatti let Connacht off the hook momentarily, but the visitors kept their foot on the gas and got their reward when Weir’s fine pass sent McLean over for his second and his team’s bonus-point try.
Not to be outdone, Steyn then claimed his second try just 90 seconds later, and a second successful penalty of the afternoon from Weir put Warriors more than two-converted tries ahead with just eight minutes left on the clock.
By this point, Warriors were totally dominant, and replacement hooker Johnny Matthews finished off another line-out drive on the stroke of full-time.
Connacht: T O’Halloran; A Wootton, T Farrell (S Bolton 23), S Arnold, D Kilgallen (O McNulty 62); C Forde, K Marmion (C Reilly 68); J Duggan (D Buckley 50), D Heffernan (S Delahunt 64), G McGrath (T Tuimauga 62), U Dillane (S Masterson 64), L Fifita, E Masterson, J Butler, P Boyle
Glasgow Warriors: O Smith; S Cancelliere (S McDowall 74), K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, R McLean; D Weir, G Horne (J Dobie 59); O Kebble (J Bhatti 50), F Brown (J Matthews 61), E Pieretto (S Berghan 50), K McDonald, R Gray , R Wilson (L Bean 68), T Gordon, J Dempsey (A Miller 45).
Referee: Nic Berry
Connacht: Tries: Arnold, Boyle; Con: Forde 2; Pen: Forde 2.
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: McLean 2, Steyn 2, Brown, Matthews; Con: Weir 3; Pen: Weir 2.
Scoring sequence (Connacht first): 0-5; 5-5; 7-5; 7-10; 7-12; 7-17; 10-17 (h-t) 15-17; 17-17; 17-20; 20-20; 20-25; 20-30; 20-32 20-35; 20-40; 20-42.
Yellow cards –
Connacht: Boyle (53mins)
Glasgow Warriors: Gray (8mins)
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