Glasgow Warriors 27
KIRAN MCDONALD scored a last-minute try to secure a bonus point which could yet prove vital in Warriors’ quest to reach the Rainbow Cup Final. It was fair reward for Danny Wilson’s team at the end of a match they dominated physically and ended up crossing the whitewash seven times, only for three tries to be disallowed after reference to video evidence.
The permutation of results required for Warriors to finish top of the European conference of the Rainbow Cup is complicated, but boils down to them beating Leinster (preferably with a bonus point) in their final match of the pool stage next Friday night and hoping that Benetton lose at Ospreys and Munster drop points at Zebre the following weekend.
Ospreys have two games left to play and could finish top of the table if they win both their matches with bonus points, so it would be helpful if they don’t manage that.
“First of all we came here to make amends because we didn’t physically turn up last time we played Dragons,” said Wilson afterwards. “We did that tonight – we won the physical battle in most areas of the game – and, if I’m being honest, I thought we were a few more scores better than the result.
“We had three disallowed tries, which takes the sting out the game and drags everything out but that’s the way it is at the moment, so we just have to get on with it.
“But I’m pleased we got the bonus point win because that was our objective today to keep us in the competition.”
The visitors started in positive fashion with Sam Johnson, George Turner and others carrying with conviction to create fast ball, and it looked like they had taken the lead on 10 minutes when Rory Darge – who was outstanding all night – countered off loose ball to launch an attack which culminated with Nick Grigg squeezing over wide on the left, but an intervention from the TMO led to the score being chalked off.
It was decided that Zander Fagerson had led into a tackle from Dragons’ scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou with his forearm during the build-up to the score, and the South African-bound Lions prop will have a had few nervous minutes before referee Chris Busby ruled that a disallowed try and penalty awarded to the home team was enough of a punishment. A yellow or even red card would have been harsh, but we have seen them given in recent months, and another disciplinary saga would have been a nightmare for Fagerson as he begins to focus in on this summer’s adventure.
From a team perspective, it was a big frustration for Warriors that a tone setting try had got away from them, and they didn’t react well because a few minutes later Aneurin Owen swept through a yawning gap where Nick Grigg should have been and went under the posts unchallenged.
Not for the first time this season, the penalties against Warriors began to accumulate, and with just 20 minutes played the referee had a word with Ryan Wilson about it. That was after Cole Forbes was called for going off his feet at a ruck in the middle of the park, and Sam Davies was happy to add three points to go with the two-point conversion he had fired over a few minutes earlier, to make it 10-0.
Ross Thompson did manage to reduce the gap when Darge got over Brok Harris on the deck and forced the Dragons prop to concede a holding-on penalty, but that was almost immediately cancelled out by a Davies drop-goal after some more indiscipline led to Warriors conceding possession and momentum.
The positive from that was that Warriors resolute defence had compelled the Dragons stand-off to go for three rather than keep pushing for seven points, and the away team ended the half back on the front-foot, mounting sustained bombardment of the Dragons line which eventually led to Adam Hastings sending Kyle Steyn over in the corner.
Ross Moriarty was also sent to the sin-bin at this point for a no-arms tackle on Turner.
Thompson couldn’t manage the touchline conversion, but it scarcely mattered because a few minutes later – in injury time at the end of the first 40 – he finished off a glorious Warriors attack, which involved an initial break from Turner, a fine gallop from Scott Cummings, a slick back-handed link from Ali Price, and an equally sumptuous offload from the deck from Turner (involved again) before the young stand-off dotted down.
Warriors started the second half as they finished the first, and it looked like they had scored another fine try when Hastings and Steyn sent Cole Forbes down the left touchline – but a ‘captain’s challenge’ from Dragons identified that Turner had knocked the ball on earlier in the move. But this time the visitors didn’t let that set-back derail their momentum, and Turner made an almost immediate amends when he bustled over from a powerful line-out drive, with Thompson nailing the touchline conversion for good measure.
Warriors had a third try disallowed when the TMO intervened again to point out an (accidental) Adam Hastings obstruction in the lead-up to Price going over, and it was beginning to get silly.
A lot of things happen quickly, often at the same time, during a rugby match, so it is probably possible to find reasons to stop every score from counting if that’s the way we want to go. Player safety has to be a priority but it is not clear that the way the game is currently being officiated is really achieving that, and there should be real concern that the profile of the sport will be damaged by games being so complicated and lasting so long.
Davies slotted a penalty to make it’s a one-score game with four minutes to go, and that proved a helpful catalyst for Warriors, who had gone off the boil a bit but suddenly found the impetus required to get that elusive bonus point.
Gloucester-bound Hastings proved again that he has no intention of checking out early with two telling breaks which pulled Dragons out of shape, before finding Rufus McLean on the right wing with a long, searching pass, and McDonald added the finishing flourish.
It didn’t come as much of a surprise that Dragons once again challenged, this time because Hastings’ pass had floated forward over the 22, but a combination of the player’s momentum and the direction of his hands when he released the ball assured Busby that the score should stand.
“I thought either side of half-time we played some really good stuff,” concluded Wilson. ” We all knew that the contact area was going to be ferocious because they are very strong there, so we had to be extremely aggressive to get speed in the game, and also get our offloading going to avoid that contact area. So, I’m quite pleased.
“That’s three wins on the bounce now, and I think three good performances, so we’ve got some momentum we can hopefully take into Leinster.”
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Dragons: I Davies; J Holmes, J Dixon, A Owen, R Dyer; S Davies, G Bertranou; B Harris (J Reynolds 65), R Hibbard (E Dee 47), L Fairbrother (A Jarvis 61), M Screech, B Carter (J Davies 55), R Moriarty, O Griffiths (T Basham 61), A Wainwright.
Glasgow Warriors: A Hastings; K Steyn, N Grigg (R McLean 61), S Johnson (S McDowall 71), C Forbes ; R Thompson, A Price (G Horne 65); A Seiuli (T Lambert 65), G Turner (F Brown 57), Z Fagerson (E Pieretto 70), R Harley, S Cummings, R Wilson (K McDonald 61), R Darge (F Lokotui 78), M Fagerson.
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Dragons: Try: Owen; Con: Davies; Pen: Davies; DG: Davies.
Glasgow Warriors: Try: Steyn, Thompson; Con: Thompson 2; Pen: Thompson.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 5-0; 7-0; 10-0; 10-3; 13-3; 13-8; 13-1; 13-15 (h-t) 13-20; 13-22; 16-22.
Yellow cards –
Dragons: Moriarty (37mins)