Glasgow Warriors 21
GLASGOW came within inches of claiming an implausible victory last night after falling 16 points down midway through the second half, but in the end they left themselves too much to do and had to make do with a losing bonus point. After their heavy defeat by the Cheetahs in last week’s opening PRO14 fixture, this was a distinct improvement, but Dave Rennie was nonetheless left deeply frustrated by the inconsistency which had seen his team concede three tries in a seven-minute spell before briefly finding their best attacking form.
All the same, the head coach is certainly not panicking, having seen his players fight back from a position which many other sides would have regarded as hopeless. “Those tries at the start of the second half came from when we actually had the ball initially, so they basically came from our own errors,” Rennie said. “The boys showed great character to fight back.
“At 25-9 we looked dead, but we ended up getting into a position at the end where we could have won it – and maybe should have won it. It’s frustrating, because we basically handed the game to our opponents in that spell after half-time. They brought a lot of line speed, but we made too many errors.
“There are 21 rounds in this competition, so there’s certainly no reason to panic. But we’ve got high standards and high expectations of ourselves, so we know we need to be better.”
After a frantic opening in which both teams were inventive but too loose, Glasgow began to impose themselves up front, and took the lead through a Brandon Thomson penalty some 15 metres out after the Welsh defence had halted a drive illegally. The score came at a cost, however, as Oli Kebble had taken a head knock in the build-up and had to be replaced by Alex Allan.
It took Scarlets more than 20 minutes to mount a real attack, and when they did, they squandered the chance of a try when winger Tom James dropped the ball with the line at his mercy. With advantage having been played, however, Dan Jones was able to get his team off the mark with a penalty. The Scarlets stand-off should have been on target with another three points shortly afterwards when Thomson was penalised for going in at the side of a ruck, but he pulled his kick wide of the posts.
Glasgow continued to give vent to their attacking instincts whenever they got possession in a decent position, but there was a degree of anxiety about their play which suggested that they were, if anything, to eager to make amends for their failings against the Cheetahs. Their spirit of adventure had to be commended, but without a solid platform it was unable to be transformed into concrete achievement.
By contrast, Scarlets got one more chance before half-time to go ahead, and they took it, as Jones was on target with a more difficult penalty than the one he had missed. Stung into action, the Warriors responded with a drive which came close to producing the first try of the game, only for Stafford McDowall to lose the ball forward in an attempt to crash over the line. Again, however, advantage was being played, and Thomson was able to equalise from close range.
The playmaker got the first score of the second half, too, knocking over a penalty after a good break by Callum Gibbins had drawn another offence from the visitors. But the Scarlets responded swiftly to turn the game on its head with three tries in seven minutes.
First, a wayward kick by Ruaridh Jackson was fielded by James, and the winger put Paul Asquith clear into space. As the defence closed in, Asquith slipped the ball inside to Kieran Hardy, and the scrum-half had the pace to get to the line unhampered.
Then Asquith scored himself, finishing off a move which had seen his forwards drive to within feet of the line. Finally, Steff Evans seized on an opening, kicked ahead and won the chase to touch down. With the first two of those tries being converted, Scarlets had gone from three points down to 16 points up, and the game was effectively over – or so it seemed.
However, Glasgow had other ideas, and going into the last quarter fought hard to get the try that would at least make the Scarlets feel a degree of insecurity. They got it, too, when Thomson used his outside man as a decoy to drift between two defenders. The stand-off converted his own score to narrow the deficit to nine points, and Glasgow soon got another, minor boost when Angus O’Brien sent a penalty that would have stretched the lead to two full scores crashing back off a post.
With six minutes to play they got a major boost, as Huw Jones raced down the left and passed inside to McDowall just before he put a foot in touch. The centre scored, but Thomson was wide with the conversion attempt.
There was still time for the try that would complete an implausible comeback, and they nearly got it after Scarlets flanker Josh Macleod was yellow-carded. Twice the Warriors kicked penalties to touch, and twice they drove from the lineout. They were so close to the line on the second occasion, but in the end spilled the ball forwards, giving Scarlets a narrow but merited victory.
Teams – Glasgow: R Jackson (G Bryce, 69); K Steyn, H Jones, S McDowall, R Hughes; B Thomson, N Frisby (J Dobie, 66); O Kebble (A Allan, 10), G Stewart, D Rae (A Nicol, 69), K McDonald, T Swinson (C Fusaro, 61), R Harley, C Gibbins (captain), M Fagerson (T Gordon, 69).
Scarlets: J McNicholl; T James (C Baldwin, 75), S Hughes (captain), P Asquith, S Evans; D Jones (A O’Brien, 47), K Hardy (D Blacker, 69); R Evans (P Price, 77), M Jones (T Davies, 54), S Lee (W Kruger, 41), L Rawlins, S Cummins (J Helps 71), T Phillips (D Davis, 28), J Macleod, U Cassiem.
Scorers: Glasgow: Tries: Thomson, McDowall. Con: Thomson. Pens: Thomson 3.
Scarlets: Tries: Hardy, Asquith, Evans. Cons: D Jones, O’Brien. Pens: D Jones 2.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 3-0, 3-3, 3-6, 6-6 (half-time), 9-6, 9-13, 9-20, 9-25, 16-25, 21-25.
Yellow card: Scarlets: Macleod 77mins.
Referee: G Clancy (Ireland).