Glasgow Warriors 7
La Rochelle 12
STUART BATHGATE @ Scotstoun
IF Glasgow’s hopes of getting to the knockout stages of the Champions Cup are not quite dead yet, they are at least in intensive care after this desperately disappointing loss. They had ample possession in what turned out to be a pointless second half, but just when they appeared to have scored – in the final minute when Scott Cummings touched down – it was ruled out by referee Wayne Barnes for foul play in the build-up by Matt Fagerson.
The losing bonus point takes the Warriors on to nine points, and they are still in second place in Pool Two at least until Sale Sharks take on leaders Exeter Chiefs tomorrow [Sunday]. But even if they are still second at the end of the pool stage, they face an uphill climb to accumulate the total which would take them into the quarter-finals as one of the three best runners-up.
In truth, anything more than a losing bonus would have been undeserved against a La Rochelle side who played the conditions better and defended magnificently at times, even if illegally at others. The French club hit back from going 7-0 down to lead 12-7 at the break, and soaked up heaps of pressure in the second 40, inviting the Warriors to make mistakes.
Glasgow head coach Dave Rennie thought his team had done enough to win the game, but accepted that they had squandered their chances, and had no complaints about either the result or the red card, shown after a Fagerson fend connected with the throat of La Rochelle substitute Dany Priso.
“I think we certainly deserved it – we had all the ball at the right end of the park in the second half,” Rennie said. “Disappointed to be down at half-time – we let a couple of soft ones in – and we didn’t deal very well with the wind. They won all the little battles around the aerial and all the stuff on the deck.
“In the end there were so many opportunities to score – just one more pass and we’re over. We created so many opportunities and you’ve got to turn those into points – and we didn’t.
“I’ve had a look at [the red-card incident] and there’s clearly a forearm to the throat,” Rennie went on. “It’s an attempted fend and he hasn’t quite got it right.
“Obviously it came on the back of a try… it would have been a tough conversion from there for Adam [Hastings] but you never know.
“Look, it’s disappointing. We created so many other opportunities but lacked patience and tried to score off the first phase when we should have gone multi-phase.”
Some time before that disallowed score, La Rochelle only kept the Warriors out by giving away a number of penalties which on another occasion might have produced a penalty try. The referee did eventually sin-bin scrum-half Alexi Bales, but Rennie thought he had been sluggish in his use of the yellow card. “There were a massive amount of penalties in succession which we thought would have been dealt with a little bit earlier. Of course if you’re getting away with it you keep doing it.
“In the end there were so many opportunities to score – just one more pass and we’re over. We’ll look at ourselves first.”
At first, Glasgow seemed to be on course for a win, as they took the lead through Fraser Brown following a lineout maul. Hastings’ conversion made it 7-0 as the midway point of the half approached, but La Rochelle soon hit back.
A 20th-minute penalty by Brock James from the Warriors ten-metre line was some way short when the wind caught hold of it and blew it back out of the 22, but it was La Rochelle who had the last laugh as they regained possession and went on to register their first try. They were initially held up by Glasgow, but then, with the referee playing advantage, centre Brieuc Plessis chipped out to Jules Favre on the right wing. On a slippery surface Favre was always going to have the beating of the turning Kyle Steyn, and he was able to gather then dive over.
James’ conversion attempt was short, but the try had an invigorating effect on his team, and they soon resumed the offensive. They were having more joy with their maul, and would have gone further ahead had Levani Botia kept hold of a pass on a crash run rather than knocking it on. The centre did not take long to make amends for his error, however, as he first put in an excellent offload on the left to keep a drive alive, and then finished off through the middle after Bales had recycled.
James converted this time to put his club 12-7 up with minutes to go in the first half, and Glasgow had no chance to get back on terms before the break. The first ten minutes of the second half saw the Warriors toil to make anything meaningful of possession, and they were forced into a change with half an hour to play when Stafford McDowall went off with a shoulder injury and was replaced by Nick Grigg. George Horne soon followed Grigg off the bench, taking over from Ali Price at scrum-half, and the two new backs helped inject some energy into their team.
The fact that the rain had eased for a while also helped the Warriors with their natural running game, and La Rochelle resorted to conceding a flurry of penalties to keep them out. Right on the hour mark, Grigg appeared to have got over the line, but there was no clear view of the incident so the score was denied.
More penalties followed, and eventually, with quarter of an hour to play, Bales was yellow-carded for kicking the ball out of an advancing Warriors scrum. But the 14 men continued to defend defiantly, and a long period of possession ended when Niko Matawalu failed to collect a long, looping pass from Horne.
With 50 seconds to go, Cummings touched down in the right corner at the end of a lengthy spell of pressure, and Hastings lined up a conversion attempt to put his team ahead. But the referee reviewed the score, saw Fagerson’s offence in the build-up, then showed the forward the red card and ruled out Cummings’ try.
Glasgow Warriors: T Seymour; K Steyn, H Jones, S McDowall, N Matawalu; A Hastings, A Price; A Seiuli, F Brown, Z Fagerson, S Cummings, J Gray, R Wilson, C Gibbins (captain), M Fagerson. Subs: G Turner, A Allan, A Nicol, R Harley, T Gordon, G Horne, N Grigg, R Jackson.
La Rochelle: K Murimurivalu; J Favre, B Plessis-Couillaud, L Botia, M Andreu; B James, A Bales; R Wardi, F Bosch, S Puafisi, T Lavault, M Tanguy, K Gourdon (captain), P Boudehent, G Alldritt. Subs: B Lebrun, D Priso, V Pelo, R Leroux, Z Kieft, T Berjon, I West, P Aguillon.
Referee: W Barnes (England).
Glasgow: Try: Brown. Con: Hastings.
La Rochelle: Tries: Favre, Botia. Con: James.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 5-0, 7-0, 7-5, 7-10, 7-12 half-time.
Yellow card –
La Rochelle: Bales
Red card –
Glasgow: M Fagerson