Glasgow Warriors 17
A SCINTILLATING 70-yard try by winger Rufus McLean put the visitors into a commanding eight-point lead at the break, but they couldn’t get a foothold in the second half until it was too late, and can have no real complaints about the outcome.
We’re still not clear on what the qualification criteria are going to be for the Champions Cup next season. We do know that a third-place finish in Conference A of PRO14 will be enough, but that became an impossibility when Ospreys secured a surprise win over Leinster on Friday night. However, fourth place could come into play if EPCR decide to make it a 24-team tournament, and it is now neck and neck between Warriors and Ospreys for that spot.
Warriors host Benetton in their final match of the campaign next Saturday afternoon, while Dragons are at home to Edinburgh on Sunday.
Beaten head coach Danny Wilson didn’t mince his words afterwards. “A really poor second- half performance,” he said. “One of, if not the, worst we have put out this season.
“We lacked accuracy, and discipline is becoming a major issue with more yellow cards and a high penalty count again. We got on the wrong side of the referee at a couple of jackals which I thought we had won but weren’t given, so it was almost getting to the stage where we felt like we couldn’t jackal.
“We spoke in the changing room about this and if I’m being honest then I’d say at times we looked a little bit lazy, at times we looked inaccurate, and I just thought we were poor in the second half after playing well in the first half to give ourselves an opportunity.
“Credit to the Dragons, if you give them that many penalties and give them that many periods when we are down to 14 men, then good teams are going to take advantage, which they did.
“We put ourselves in a position at the end where we should score that try then go back for the kick-off to hopefully try and get the three points, but it wasn’t to be, and it was a poor day at the office.”
Dragons offered up an early declaration of intent when Jamie Roberts shipped a risky pass along his try line, which was tipped on to Ashton Hewitt in space on the left. The winger shrugged off some pretty anaemic tackling to take play over Glasgow’s halfway, but then let Warriors off the hook when he offloaded to Sean Kennedy rather than one of his own players.
The hosts did take the lead a few minutes later when Fraser Brown – on his comeback after 15 weeks out with a neck injury – was penalised for hands in a ruck, and Sam Davies kicked the points.
Ben Fry was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle just two minutes after replacing the injured Ollie Griffiths in Dragons’ back row, and Warriors took immediate advantage, with Brown making amends for his earlier indiscretion by wrestling over from the back of a line-out drive.
Adam Hastings converted but was then sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on the marauding Hewitt, and Davies helped himself to three more points to make it a one-point game.
It looked like Dragons scrum-half Gonzalo Betranou had edged his side back into the lead from a quick tap penalty which caught Glasgow on their heels, but referee Dan Jones discussed it with the TMO before sticking to his on-field decision that the Argentinian had lost control of the ball as he dived for the corner.
It was a marginal call, but Dragons didn’t let the disappointment distract them, and when Aki Seiuli was penalised in front of the posts as he tried to scramble possession at a tackle, Davies stepped forward to send home the three points which made it 9-7 to the hosts.
A clever move at the front of the line-out had Richard Hibbard trundling down the left touchline deep in Warriors territory, but the hooker lost control as he tried to feed the ball back in-field.
Warriors were holding on at this stage, but then a moment of magic from Rufus McLean put the visitors right back in the driving seat. A sloppy slap-back at a line-out bounced to the winger on his own 22 and out of nowhere he produced a logic defying run, initially through a forest of lumbering forwards, and then into open prairie where he skinned opposite number Hewitt with an electrifying side-step before motoring home for a sensational try in the corner.
Hastings slotted the touchline conversion, and then struck a breakdown penalty on the stroke of half-time to extend Glasgow’s lead to eight points at the turnaround.
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Dragons started the second half in lively fashion. Ryan Wilson was yellow-carded for collapsing a maul close to his own line, and the hosts will have been frustrated that Ross Moriarty got himself penalised at the same time for obstructing Seiuli, which allowed Warriors to clear the danger.
When Robbie Fergusson was penalised for a deliberate knock-on in front of his own posts, referee Jones had a second conversation with acting captain Brown about the repeated infringements. Another yellow-card was clearly on the cards, but on this occasion Warriors escaped with three more points conceded to Davies’ trusty right boot.
As the game moved into its final quarter, Dragons snatched the lead when full-back Jordan Williams – a late call-up to the starting XV just before kick-off – hit a fantastic angle to split Warriors wide open, then hypnotised last man Hastings with his fast feet to get over the line.
It was the break Dragons needed. They surged back upfield and after a series of bruising tight drives, second-row Matthew Screech powered over. With 14 points in five minutes, Dragons had gone from playing catch-up to being firmly in the driving seat.
Finally, as the game moved into its last eight minutes, Warriors managed to start building through consecutive phases, and they spent five tense minutes camped on the Dragons’ line. With just four minutes to go, Rhodri Williams was sent to the sin-bin for reaching out of a ruck to slap the ball out of Jamie Dobie‘s hands.
Still Warriors couldn’t find a way through, their attack was one-dimensional, and they didn’t have the dynamism to break Dragons.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but a losing bonus point would have kept Warriors one point ahead of Dragons for that fourth spot, so they probably should have kicked one of the penalties they had during that frustrating finale.
Dragons: J Williams; J Holmes, A Owen, J Roberts (N Tompkins 16), A Hewitt; S Davies, G Bertranou (R Williams 62); B Harris, R Hibbard, L Fairbrother, J Davies (B Carter 62), M Screech, H Keddie, O Griffiths (B Fry 10), R Moriarty.
Glasgow Warriors: A Hastings; R McLean, N Grigg, R Fergusson (P Horne 63), L Jones; R Thompson (O Smith 65), S Kennedy (J Dobie 40); A Seiuli (D Evans 67), F Brown, E Pieretto (D Rae 67), R Gray, K McDonald (L Nakarawa 19-25), R Harley (L Nakarawa 63), T Gordon (F Lokotui 63), R Wilson (captain).
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Dragons: Try: Williams, Screech; Con: Davies 2; Pens: Davies 4.
Glasgow: Tries: Brown, McLean; Cons: Hastings 2; Pen: Hastings.
Scoring sequence (Dragons first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-7; 6-7; 9-7; 9-12; 9-14; 9-17 (h-t) 12-17; 17-17; 19-17; 24-17; 26-17.
Yellow cards –
Dragons: Fry (12 mins); Williams (76mins)
Glasgow: Hastings (17 mins), Wilson (44mins)