Glasgow Warriors 33
DAVID BARNES @ Scotstoun Stadium
ONE swallow does not make a summer, and as Warriors head coach Danny Wilson pointed out after this bonus-point win, his team will have to be much more accurate as a collective against the higher calibre opposition they will face in the European Champions Cup over the next two weeks. However, this was definitely the sort of riposte which was required after last weekend’s late capitulation away to Benetton.
Warriors flew out of the blocks with real drive, and although they made life hard for themselves with 17 turnovers conceded over the course of this match, the intensity of their play both sides of the ball throughout meant that they were always in almost complete control.
No 8 Jack Dempsey brought real edge in his man-of-the-match performance – making big yards with ball in hand and aggressive in defence – but there was strong showings across the park. Debutant Josh McKay demonstrated what he can do with ball in hand on a couple of occasions, and made an excellent, try-saving tackle on Sam Davies during the second half. Sebastian Cancelliere, on his first home appearance for the club, was a real handful on the right wing. But it wasn’t just the new boys who showed up well, with Ali Price commanding the game like the Lions Test No 9 that he is, and forming an excellent half-back hinge with the classy Ross Thompson.
“I’m pleased with the response after last week, it was a good bonus-point win with five tries so a lot of positives, but, if I’m brutally honest, I think there is a lot more to come from us because we were a little bit inaccurate at times,” said Wilson afterwards. “I feel like we got the job done but that we did it a little bit under par.
“I think we had 17 turnovers which is way too high, so we have to improve that when we go to La Rochelle next week, and when Exeter Chiefs come here the week after that.”
“Having said that, talking about room for improvement after a bonus-point win like that is a nice place to be.”
Warriors dominated the opening period, although those accuracy issues Wilson referred to meant that it wasn’t until the 15th minute that their near complete domination of possession and territory began to be reflected on the scoreboard.
The opening try came after an offside penalty was kicked right into the corner with razor-sharp precision by Thompson, and from a clean line-out take Price sent Sione Tuipulotu home. Thompson added the conversion and with nerves settled, Warriors then produced a series of disciplined defensive sets to repel Dragons in their only real period of pressure in the first half, before eventually earning another offside penalty, which allowed the home side to activate the pressure-release valve.
Warriors then extended their lead on 26 minutes when a quick tap penalty in midfield created the opportunity for new McKay to jink run through a crowd of white jerseys. Cancelliere kept the move going, and when a quick recycle sent the ball back in field, Thompson initially looked to pass, but then showed the presence of mind to change tack, then the technique to send an inch-perfect cross-kick to the unmarked Kyle Steyn on the left touchline, for the simplest of run-ins.
It looked like try number three was on the cards when Dempsey escaped up the side of a ruck on halfway then released Price into acres of space. The scrum-half chipped the last man but George Turner couldn’t quite gather after the ball on an awkward bounce.
That meant it wasn’t until the final minute of the first half that Warriors had tstruck again, with the home pack shoving the Dragons scrum off their own ball and Dempsey rampaging home from 30-yards, riding tackles from Dan Babos and Sam Davies on his way to the line.
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Dragons regrouped during the break and slowly but surely worked their way back into the contest. A brilliant piece of skill from Sam Davies – collecting his own chip ahead – required McKay to demonstrate that he is not just a threat with ball in hand, with the full-back’s tackle preventing a near certain score.
Warriors weathered that mini-storm and while a huge hit by Josh Lewis on Cancelliere stopped a promising Glasgow attack in its tracks, there was no halting the home team a few minutes later when Dempsey sniffed out another gap at the edge of a ruck and carried deep into the Dragons 22, leading to the bonus-point try scored by Price a few phases later.
The win was in the bag, but Warriors were pumped-up, and they defended ferociously as Dragons went in search of some consolation points – too ferociously, as it happens, because they gave away a series penalties and ended up conceding a try to hooker Ellis Shipp.
The hosts wasted no time in making amends, charging to a fifth try through Johnny Matthews, which was converted by Thompson in his last act of the match before being replaced at stand-off by another debutant in Argentinean Domingo Miotti.
Dragons got a second consolation try through Mesake Doge, but by this point all the tension had evaporated from a game which had been dominated by the hosts.
Sure, they can be more accurate, but rugby is a game of momentum, and when Warriors play with this sort of intensity they remind us of how compelling a proposition they can be.
Glasgow Warriors: J McKay (N Grigg 69); S Cancelliere, K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, C Forbes; R Thompson (D Miotti 72), A Price (J Dobie 69); O Kebble (N McBeth 66), G Turner (J Matthews 54), Z Fagerson (M McCallum 62), R Harley (L Bean 60), R Gray, R Wilson (K McDonald 60), R Darge, J Dempsey.
Dragons: J Williams (J Lewis 31); J Holmes, A Owen, J Roberts, R Dyer; S Davies, D Babos (T Knoyle 46); A Seiuli (J Reynolds 60), E Shipp (J Benjamin 66), L Brown (M Doge 66), W Rowlands, J Maksymiw (J Davies 60), H Keddie (capt), O Griffiths, A Wainwright.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Tuipulotu, Steyn, Dempsey, Price, Matthews; Cons: Thompson 4.
Dragons: Tries: Shipp, Doge; Cons: Davies 2.
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