Glasgow Warriors 50
Southern Kings 0
DAVID BARNES @ Scotstoun
ONE swallow doesn’t make a summer, and one big win over an inadequate opposition doesn’t make a championship-winning season, but this was still a very pleasing and important 80 minutes for Dave Rennie’s Glasgow Warriors.
They know they will need to back it up with another commanding display (and bonus-point win) in Zebre next Saturday to really generate some momentum heading into the start of their European Champions Cup campaign with a home tie against Sale Sharks the week after that, but this was most definitely a step in the right direction.
Next week, five more of their international contingent – excluding Jonny Gray who is being given an extended break – will be back in harness, and Rennie will be hoping that the likes of Scott Cummings, Ryan Wilson and Sam Johnson have a similar sort of impact as the first of the returning World Cup stars did here.
George Horne was a real handful at scrum-half, Adam Hastings was both assured and dangerous at stand-off, Peter Horne shored up the midfield, DTH van der Merwe was a handful on the wing, and Zander Fagerson was a wrecking ball at tighthead prop.
Kiran McDonald was a good choice for man of the match after a towering performance in the second row, but George Horne, Hastings and Fagerson all made good cases for the award.
It is not clear how destabilising the recent speculation about Rennie’s future has been to the squad, but the coach explained that he had moved to quell uncertainty amongst the team this week and they certainly seemed more focussed as a unit.
“I’ve spoken to the players about it,” he said. “There’s a different story going around every second day. I just stressed to the boys the other day that I’m committed here.
“There are whispers that I’ve signed here and signed there, but the only contract I have is with Glasgow. Regardless of what happens, I’m fully committed here until the end of the season. That won’t change.
“It was the same this time last year, I was out of contract. So it’s no different. We’re working hard and my focus is on the team.”
Several Warriors attacks in the opening ten minutes appeared to be hampered by lingering smoke from a nearby firework display, but in the quarter of an hour that followed they took total control of the game with five tries. Grant Stewart was first on the scoresheet, barrelling over from second phase off a lineout drive after a penalty had been sent to touch.
If the Kings defence looked unduly lax at that score, it was simply posted missing in the three that followed. First, Matt Fagerson reacted most quickly to touch down from a metre out after George Horne had been held up, then captain Callum Gibbins barged through the middle of a lineout after another penalty had gone to touch, and then, from another lineout, Fagerson popped up a pass to Oli Kebble, who barrelled over from ten metres out to secure his team’s first try bonus of the season. Hastings converted the Fagerson and Kebble tries to take the score to 24-0.
Besides suffering from a porous defence, the Kings made things difficult for themselves by getting two men sinbinned in the first half – first Ruaan Lerm for foul play at a ruck just before Kebble’s score, and then, barely a minute after his captain had returned to the field, Sibusiso Sithole for a deliberate knock-on.
By the time Sithole saw yellow a few minutes before the break, Niko Matawalu had grabbed try No 5 for Glasgow – and this time the Kings could not be blamed for failing to stop the score as the Fijian delighted the home crowd with an individual piece of genius. Hastings had collected a turnover then floated a pass out to Matawalu, and from ten metres inside his own half the winger punted ahead, easily won the race for the loose ball, then picked up and flopped over.
The visitors enjoyed a spot of pressure late in the first 40 – if they could be said to enjoy anything about a half in which they were completely dismantled – but their one real chance to get on the scoreboard went abegging when Masixole Banda was off target with a penalty.
The night went from bad to worse for the South African side when centre Erich Kronje had to be stretchered off a couple of minutes after the restart, and they were soon further behind when Zander Fagerson claimed his team’s sixth try of the night – with Hastings getting his third conversion – following good breaks by Huw Jones and DTH van der Merwe.
With the game well won, Rennie rang the changes, including bringing on Ratu Tagive for a rare appearance in place of Matawalu. The rash of substitutions caused the contest to lose its shape for a while, but just inside the final quarter the Warriors took their tally to 43-0 with a penalty try, awarded after the Kings collapsed a scrum just short of their own line.
A clever long pass into space by Pete Horne put Tagive in for just his second try in Warriors colours, in what was his first appearance for the team since Fenruary 2018. Hastings’ conversion ran up the half-century. To their credit, the Kings kept pressing for a score in the closing minutes, but the Glasgow defence was more than equal to the task of keeping them out.
Glasgow Warriors: G Bryce; N Matawalu, H Jones, P Horne, D van der Merwe; A Hastings, G Horne; O Kebble, G Stewart, Z Fagerson, T Swinson, K McDonald, R Harley, C Gibbins (captain), M Fagerson. Subs: G Turner, A Allan, D Rae, A Davidson, C Fusaro, J Dobie, S McDowall, R Tagive.
Southern Kings: M Banda; C Hollis, E Cronje, T Kruger, S Sithole; J Jackson, J Allderman; J Schoeman, J du Toit, P Scholtz, B de Wee, A Fortuin, T Burger, T Bholi, R Lerm (captain). Subs: A van Rooyen, X Vos, R de Klerk, J Sexton, E Louw, G Mills, S Masuku, S van Breda.
Referee: J Neville (Ireland).
Glasgow: Tries: Stewart, M Fagerson, Gibbins, Kebble, Matawalu, Z Fagerson, penalty try, Tagive. Cons: Hastings 4.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 5-0, 10-0, 12-0, 17-0, 22-0, 24-0, 29-0 half-time, 34-0, 36-0, 43-0, 48-0, 50-0.
Yellow cards –
Southern Kings: Lerm, Sithole.