Glasgow Warriors 10
A FORMIDABLE defensive effort by the PRO14 champions gave them a first win at Scotstoun in seven years last night, consigning Glasgow to a fourth defeat in seven league matches so far this season. The Warriors were the brighter side early on, but could not score again after the 25th minute as Leinster went on to score 20 unanswered points from 10-3 down.
The home team hardly helped their cause with some poor handling in attack, while Pete Horne let seven points go abegging from a failed penalty attempt and two missed conversions. Those points – or a full score in the closing minutes when they were pressing hard – would at least have given Dave Rennie’s team a losing bonus point, but that would have been scant consolation against a Leinster side shorn of almost all of its big names.
Leo Cullen had changed his entire starting line-up from the one that won in Lyon in the Champions Cup a week earlier, yet his second string still displayed a composure and a discipline which Glasgow lacked. The win was Leinster’s ninth from the start of the season – seven in the league two in Europe – and took them eight points clear of Ulster at the top of Conference A.
The Warriors, meanwhile, are fourth, six points behind the Cheetahs. With 14 regular-season games to go, it is by no means an irretrievable position, but getting to the play-offs should be no more than a minimal ambition for a squad that reached the final last season. As it is, even if they do make it into the top three, on the form they have shown so far this season they will surely fall at the first hurdle.
“We did start well, and it is hard to believe that we were down at half-time,” said Rennie afterwards. “We had another couple of good opportunities to score prior to the break. We obviously missed the penalty and they came down and kicked their penalty immediately and they scored a couple of good tries – which were soft from our perspective but were clinical from them – and that’s what happens against Leinster, you give them a sniff and they hurt you.
“But going in at half-time, we still felt we were in a pretty good space. We just needed to get our hands on the ball and try to dominate a bit of territory, but you’ve got to give their defence credit. There was times when I was sure we were going to score, but they were good at getting the wall in front of us and making tackle after tackle. It is disappointing from our point of view, because we just couldn’t apply enough pressure in the second half.”
The Warriors might have been awarded a penalty try in the opening minutes when Huw Jones was pushed by Hugo Keenan as he chased a kick through from Sam Johnson, but the officials decided not to award it as the ball had gone behind the Glasgow centre, meaning it was not certain that a try would have been scored. Keenan was yellow-carded, however, and as it turned out the opening score was merely delayed, not denied.
Ruaridh Jackson sent the penalty to touch, and when the maul was held up on the left, the ball went back out right, where the full-back himself was stationed to accept the scoring pass from Johnson. Horne missed the conversion attempt, and was also off target five minutes later when he crashed a penalty off a post. That was not only a possible three points missed but arguably seven, as Niko Matawalu had fumbled what should have been a scoring pass from Johnson as advantage was being played.
Aki Seiuli had come on for his debut shortly before that penalty, initially as an HIA replacement for Oli Kebble, then permanently. The New Zealander carried well and caused problems for the Leinster scrum, but he also conceded the penalty with a high tackle which allowed Ross Byrne to open the scoring for the visitors just before Keenan returned from the sinbin. With 15 playing 15 again, the match was an increasingly open affair, but it was Glasgow who were next on the scoreboard when Jackson finished off, in the left corner this time, after the pack had rumbled ever closer to the goal line from a penalty to touch.
Horne’s missed conversion might not have seemed too important at the time, but its potential severity became all too apparent as Leinster dominated the last ten minutes of the half, with Cian Kelleher scoring two tries, both converted by Ross Byrne. In both cases a penalty set up the initial platform, the first coming after a maul, the second being a more direct-down-the-line effort. An offload produced the scoring pass in each case, too, suggesting a certain disarray about a scrambled home defence.
Glasgow had a chance to hit back in the final minute of the half when they were awarded a penalty not far from the posts, but Ali Price tapped and ran and the chance was stifled. As it would transpire in a frustrating second half, that was just about as close as the home team came to adding to their ten points. Certainly, their attempts at hitting back early in the second half were confidently repulsed by the Leinster defence, and after 15 futile minutes from a Warriors point of view, Ross Byrne stretched his team’s lead to ten points with another penalty.
Adam Ashe and Kyle Steyn were among the substitutes to be called into play by head coach Dave Rennie as Glasgow tried to find a different way of getting back into the match, but with just over ten minutes left the former was penalised for not rolling away, and Byrne scored another three points.
After that the only question was whether Glasgow could get the score that would give them a losing bonus point, and the answer to that question from Leinster was a resounding no. Jackson came agonisingly close to completing his hat-trick five minutes from time, but lost the ball forward in the act of grounding as Fergus McFadden put in a well-timed tackle. Jonny Gray was over the line just after that, but with no clear grounding the score was denied.
That was one missed chance, while the fact that the Warriors left seven points out there through those missed kicks in the first half also had a huge effect on the complexion of the game. “Horrny will be disappointed, especially with the penalty in front and I guess they nailed everything,” acknowledged Rennie. “They were able to kick a couple more penalties in the second half to add pressure to the scoreboard.
“It was probably more that we could not kick any distance when we tried to exit. Guys were kicking at the right time, but we just could not get it beyond the full-back, who kept bringing it back, so we spent a lot of time down our end defending.
“I don’t know whether the ball or the air meant it was hard to kick distance, but if you kick beyond them then you force them to kick back and you get a chance to counter. I thought we countered really well in the first half but battled to get any territory and it put us under pressure.”
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson, T Seymour, H Jones, S Johnson, N Matawalu; P Horne, A Price; O Kebble, G Turner, D Rae, T Swinson, J Gray, R Harley, C Fusaro, R Wilson. Subs: G Stewart, A Seiuli, A Nicol, K McDonald, A Ashe, N Frisby, S McDowall, K Steyn.
Leinster: H Keenan; A Byrne, J O’Brien, C O’Brien, C Kelleher; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; P Dooley, J Tracy, M Bent, R Molony, D Toner, J Murphy, W Connors, C Doris. Subs: B Byrne, E Byrne, J Aungier, O Dowling, S Penny, H O’Sullivan, C Frawley, F McFadden.
Referee: C Evans (Wales).
Scorers: Glasgow: Tries: Jackson 2.
Leinster: Tries: Kelleher 2. Cons: R Byrne 2. Pens: R Byrne 3.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 5-0, 5-3, 10-3, 10-8, 10-10, 10-15, 10-17 half-time, 10-20, 10-23.
Yellow card: Leinster: Keenan.