Glasgow Warriors 17
Cardiff Blues 13
STUART BATHGATE @ Scotstoun
GLASGOW Warriors have given us so much aesthetic pleasure over the years that they may deserve to be cut some slack when they turn in an unlovely, unconvincing performance like this. After two defeats in the PRO14, the priority was to get a win, and although they had to scrap right to the end to get it, they showed considerable character to claim the four points against a Cardiff side who – at least after a poor start – were superior in some aspects of the game.
“Yeah, it was important,” head coach Dave Rennie said. “Probably a bit ugly in the end, but important we got a result tonight.
“We started well, but our first defensive set was really poor. On the whole they won the battle post-tackle. [Cardiff openside and man of the match] Olly Robinson was outstanding – he caused a bit of havoc and that nullified our ability to keep applying pressure. On the whole we played pretty good territory, but to their credit their defence was really strong and they hung in there.”
The PRO14 has a week off now, and, with the Warriors still misfiring on some fronts, it might be thought that Rennie would welcome the break. Instead, having got that first win, he would rather have another game as soon as possible, even if the break has a positive side to it.
“We’d sooner keep playing, to be honest. But we’ve got a couple of bumps and bruises, and the break gives us a chance to get a couple of guys back on the field. We don’t envisage any of our Scottish boys being back on the field until round five at best, but probably most of them will be round six or beyond. So it was important for this group to get a result tonight.”
Glasgow’s problem last week had been the time it took them to get up to a decent tempo – and the lapses of concentration they suffered before getting there. Those defects cost them the win against Scarlets, and against Cardiff they showed straight from kick-off that they were determined not to repeat them.
Twice in the opening minutes they turned down simple kicks at goal to send a penalty to touch, and at the second time of asking they piled over the try line straight from the lineout, with captain Callum Gibbins being credited with the score. Brandon Thomson converted from wide on the right, and the Warriors had exactly the start they wanted.
It got better, too, as the second try came just two minutes later. Nick Grigg was the creator with the half-break, and although his pass still left Nick Frisby with some work to do, the scrum-half was equal to the task, changing direction cleverly to evade what was left of the Blues defence.
Thomson added two more points, but if we thought we were in for a relaxing evening, we quickly had to think again. A lineout drive gave Cardiff a good platform for the first time in the match, and a delayed pass saw Aled Summerhill break through a flimsy defence to open the visitors’ account with a try which Jarrod Evans converted.
The Blues kept up the pressure for a time, but after a relieving kick forced them back into their own half, they almost conceded from the lineout when Grant Stewart narrowly failed to intercept a long pass by scrum-half Lloyd Williams. Just inside the second quarter, however, they narrowed the deficit with an Evans penalty from the 10-metre line.
From dictating play, Glasgow had fallen off the pace. They tried to impose some structure on proceedings by probing patiently, but for a time tended to come off second best against a Cardiff defence that had tightened up after its initial slackness.
Ruaridh Jackson certainly came off second best after a big hit by prop Brad Thyer, but, to the ire of the crowd, the officials were happy that a legitimate tackle attempt had been made. The half ended in ill-tempered fashion, and with Cardiff on top, leaving the Warriors with it all to do all over again in the second 40 despite their commanding start to the contest.
They needed the next score, and they got it a few minutes after the restart through a Thomson penalty from the edge of the 22 – only for Evans to quickly reply. Then, in what was an increasingly frenetic encounter, a Glasgow attack was held up over the Blues line.
With barely quarter of an hour to go, Evans missed a long-range penalty, then Cardiff came close to running in a try in the right corner. Glasgow needed a break, and they got one when Blues lock Rory Thornton was sinbinned for taking out Jackson in the air. As in the first half, the option of kicking for goal was passed up in favour of the lineout. The first drive was stopped illegally, so they tried again, only to be held up, legitimately this time.
With five minutes to go, Thomson missed touch with a penalty from inside his own half that would have given his team a chance to build an attack while running down the clock. But Cardiff were error-prone too, and although they had one last play in which to snatch the game, their attack was snuffed out.
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson, K Steyn, N Grigg, S McDowall, R Hughes, B Thomson, N Frisby; A Allan, G Stewart, A Nicol, R Harley, K McDonald, B Flockhart, C Gibbins (captain), M Fagerson. Subs: J Matthews, G Thornton, D Rae, T Swinson, C Fusaro, J Dobie, H Jones, G Bryce.
Cardiff Blues: M Morgan; O Lane, G Smith, W Halaholo, A Summerhill, J Evans, L Williams (captain); B Thyer, K Dacey, D Arhip, S Davies, R Thornton, J Turnbull, O Robinson, W Boyde. Subs: L Belcher, C Domachowski, S Andrews, S Lewis-Hughes, N Williams, L Jones, J Tovey, H Millard.
Referee: S Gallagher (Ireland).
Scorers: Glasgow: Tries: Gibbins, Frisby. Cons: Thomson 2. Pen: Thomson.
Cardiff: Try: Somerville. Con: Evans. Pens: Evans 2.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 5-0, 7-0, 12-0, 14-0, 14-5, 14-7, 14-10 half-time, 17-10, 17-13.
Yellow card: Cardiff: Thornton.