Glasgow Warriors 24
WITH 39 minutes gone – and despite the match being played in near perfect conditions at the Sportsground in Galway – there had been only three points scored through an early Jack Carty penalty for the hosts. Then Adam Hastings sent Nick Grigg in under the posts with an excellent delayed pass in the final play of the first half, and that proved to be the precursor to a helter-skelter second period which brought five tries and some major swings in momentum, before the hosts ultimately edged a well-deserved win.
A losing bonus point will provide Danny Wilson and his team with some consolation, but the overriding emotion will be of frustration that they coughed up too many points through poor discipline, and let three or four scoring opportunities slip by because of a lack of composure at crucial moments.
There was plenty here to build on, and lessons to learn, ahead of taking on Scarlets at Scotstoun next Sunday evening, but ultimately Warriors will feel like this is an away win which got away.
“I am very disappointed,” said Wilson. “Our discipline really let us down. We gave away far too many soft penalties in key areas and at key times in the game.
“To go away from home and score 24 points, you should win the game. So that tells us a lot about the same areas we need to keep banging away at. We fed Connacht a little bit at times with some poor decision-making and poor discipline.”
Playing into a gentle breeze in front of a small, socially-distanced crowd of 200 people, the visitors started brightly with several slick phases straight after collecting kick-off, but found themselves behind with just two minutes on the clock when Carty nailed the three points after Oli Kebble was penalised for blatantly entering a ruck from the side, with the loose-head then going off his feet for good measure.
Wilson has vowed to bring a more pragmatic mindset to the side, and the fact they managed to weather this early storm with only three points conceded might be taken as an indication that he is making some headway in that quest – although the visitors were also fortunate that Carty shanked a slightly easier penalty opportunity on 10 minutes.
Warriors co-captain Fraser Brown was at his combative best throughout, and he was the catalyst to his team’s revival with a 40-yard burst up-field from a line-out over-throw, which established the field position from which the visitors really should have scored their first try, when a set-move off first-phase ball released Huw Jones on an incisive diagonal run into the left corner – but winger Robbie Nairn got caught in two minds before deciding to come in on a scissors and the ball ended up disappearing over his shoulder.
Connacht second-row Quinn Roux hit Brown with a late, no-arms tackle – a third penalty in quick succession – to earn a yellow-card, but Adam Hastings fluffed the easy penalty from right in front of the posts, meaning Warriors were still behind when the number of players was evened up 10 minutes later.
Most of the remainder of the half had Warriors on the front foot, although the rustiness of this being their first game in over a month was evident with some sloppy mistakes, perhaps most notably when Nairn found himself in acres of space out on the left but fumbled under no pressure at all.
Finally, in the last few minutes of the half, Warriors found some fluency, and they got their reward when Hastings drew two defenders onto himself before sending Grigg under the posts – and the stand-off made some amends for his earlier miss by sending the conversion home to put his side four points in front at the turnaround.
It was telling that Connacht head coach Andy Friend said after the match that he thought his team should have been further behind at this point.
Hastings edged Warriors further ahead six minutes into the second-half with a 40-yard penalty following a scintillating breakout which he instigated himself when he weighted an excellent chip over the top which Jones rushed onto without breaking stride. The full-back then released Ali Price with an excellent offload from the deck, before Connacht captain Jarrad Buttler was penalised for playing the ball on the deck.
Warriors were in the driving-seat, but their foot came off the gas, and the scores were soon tied when Tom Farrell, playing at least two penalty advantages, sent Bundee Aki motoring home, with Carty adding the extras. And Connacht recaptured the lead just shy of the hour mark when some more continuity play culminated in Roux burrowing under the posts.
Now it was Glasgow’s turn to rally and Jones squared it once again when he burst onto a fine inside pass from Brown and streaked home under the posts.
A Carty penalty got Connacht ticking again, then came arguably the try of the match – although it was a close run thing with a few good scores – when Warriors replacement wing Ratu Tagive failed to collect a high ball and home full-back John Porch showed pace and power to get his team charging upfield, Alex Wootton poked an excellent grubber ahead, and Aki demonstrated great resilience and stamina to get to the ball first in the in-goal area.
Warriors struck back with good hands putting Tommy Seymour over in the corner, and when Hastings fired home the conversion it was back to a single-point game, but Connacht kept their nerve and Carty’s long-range penalty gave them some breathing space.
And when Jones’ pass to Tagive on the left wing was too far ahead of the winger, Glasgow’s final chance of grabbing a win evaporated.
Connacht: J Porch; P Sullivan, T Farrell, B Aki (S Arnold 66), A Wootton; J Carty, K Marmion (C Blade 58); D Buckley (J Duggan 70), D Heffernan, F Bealham (J Aungier 52), G Thornbury (N Murray 76), Q Roux, J Butler, C Oliver (S Masterson 52), P Boyle.
Glasgow Warriors: H Jones; T Seymour, N Grigg, S McDowall (P Horne 62), R Nairn (R Tagive 51); A Hastings, A Price (G Horne 70); O Kebble (A Seiuli 58), F Brown (G Turner 77), D Rae, R Harley, S Cummings (R Gray 70), R Wilson, C Fusaro (F Lokotui 62), M Fagerson.
Referee: C Evans (Wales).
Connacht: Try: Aki 2, Roux; Con: Carty 2; Pen: Carty 3.
Glasgow Warriors: Try: Grigg, Jones, Seymour; Con: Hastings 3; Pen: Hastings.
Scoring sequence (Connacht first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-7 (h-t) 3-10; 8-10; 10-10; 15-10; 17-10; 17-15; 17-17; 20-17; 25-17; 25-22; 25-24; 28-24.
Yellow cards –