Glasgow v La Rochelle: Warriors lose control of their own Champions Cup destiny

Danny Wilson's side now relying on Montpellier and Ospreys coming up short in the final pool matches

Warriors full-back Josh McKay is stopped by Dillian Leyds and Remy Picquette. Image: © Craig Watson -
Warriors full-back Josh McKay is stopped by Dillian Leyds and Remy Picquette. Image: © Craig Watson -

Glasgow Warriors 30

La Rochelle 38

DAVID BARNES @ Scotstoun

THEY might still make it to the last 16 of this season’s Champions Cup but this one-sided defeat, hot on the heels of last weekend’s pummelling at Sandy Park, reinforced that Glasgow Warriors are currently a long way off being serious players at Europe’s top table. Two late tries meant the final score-line flattered the hosts.

Glasgow will progress to the knock-out phase of the tournament if both Montpellier (who were humiliated 89-7 by Leinster last weekend) fail to claim a single match point from their home encounter with Exeter Chiefs at 5.30pm on Sunday and Ospreys (pointless in the tournament so far) fail to secure a bonus point win with a 16-point margin away to Sale Sharks at 1pm.

The frustrating thing from a Warriors point of view is that despite having so little of this game, they were still in a strong position to win the match after Josh McKay‘s try early in the second half, but then handed over the initiative with some really weak defending and sloppy discipline which was in stark contrast with the resilience shown during most of the first 40 minutes.

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“When you play the heavyweights of Europe you cannot give them those sorts of error opportunities, and that’s what happened tonight,” reflected Warriors head coach Danny Wilson. ” We gave them too many soft points, we scored 30 points and lost at home and that’s disappointing.

“We still have a lifeline in this competition,” he added. “We wanted it to be in our own hands, we genuinely felt we could win today at home where we have a really good record, but it wasn’t to be.

“It was a good side we were playing against – a big, physical side – and perhaps some of the errors you get away with in other games you won’t get away with here. This side will score, that’s why they are where they are, and reached the European Cup Final last year.

“What we can’t afford to do, which we have done in the last two weeks, is make two errors on the bounce.”

The hosts were on the back foot from the very beginning and visiting loose-head Danny Priso thought he’d managed to get the ball down over the line after several minutes of relentless pressure. He didn’t get the benefit of the doubt, but La Rochelle kept their foot on the gas and Warriors were reduced to 14 men when captain Fraser Brown was shown yellow for dropping a maul a few yards from his own line.

Warriors’ survival during this period was aided when visiting stand-off Pierre Popelin – appearing to erroneously think that his side was playing an advantage – sent a wasteful cross-kick straight into touch. It was about the only time the Frenchman put a foot wrong during a man-of-the-match performance.

That loose kick prompted one of the more peculiar sights of this Champions Cup campaign so far of scrum-half Ali Price deputising for Brown to throw in at the line-out, and he managed to find his man with a slightly wobbly arrow to Scott Cummings in the middle.

Price then demonstrated the range of his repertoire when he sent an excellent kick for position up to La Rochelle’s 22 a few phases later, and when the visitors compounded a knock-on with a player picking the ball up from an offside position, it handed Thompson an opportunity to kick the home side into a three-point lead against the run of play.

For the first but not the last time in this match, Warriors conceded soft points immediately after scoring themselves, this time as a consequence of Scott Cummings going off his feet, which allowed Popelin to immediately square it.

La Rochelle continued to dominate proceedings and Warriors did well to keep them out during the remainder of that 10 minute period with 14 men, but no sooner had Brown rejoin the fray and the dam finally burst, with Raymond Rhule stretching out of Sam Johnson‘s tackle and over the line, with Popelin nailing the tricky touchline conversion for good measure.

When Warriors made it into La Rochelle territory for only the second time in the match on 25 minutes, they again took something from it, with Thompson firing home another penalty. Then, with 32 minutes played, the stand-off reduced the gap to a single point when Romain Sazy was penalised for being in front of the kicker.

The prospect of an improbable half-time lead for the home side developed whenMcKay broke clear, but he stepped inside when a pass to Kyle Steyn on his outside was on, and despite Rufus McLean on the left touchline and Jack Dempsey in the middle of the park both making dents, Warriors couldn’t find a way through.

A dropped pass allowed La Rochelle to hoof the ball 60-yards down field, with Steyn scuttling back to tidy up, but Price then kicked his clearance out on the full despite referee Karl Dickson warning that he was outside his own 22. From there, La Rochelle delivered a gut-punch with a try for Paul Boudehent off the back of a powerful line-out maul in the last play of the half.

Despite this, Warriors won’t have been too despondent at 9-16 down going into the break. They had shown tremendous resilience to absorb so much pressure and had been pragmatically clinical in collecting three sets of three points on those rare occasions they’d got within range. La Rochelle’s behemoth pack has history of tiring later in matches, so the home side will have fancied that they could turn the tide after the break.


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The hosts certainly fired out of the blocks at the start of the second half, with Thompson ghosting through a gap in midfield and releasing McKay for a fine try, which Thompson then converted to edge his side into an unlikely – based on the balance of play in the first half – lead.

The key now was for the home team to kick-on, but Warriors fell apart instead, coughing up 20 points inside a lamentable five minute window.

First, a scrum free-kick followed by weak tackling allowed hooker Pierre Bougarit to power in his team’s third try, Popelin converted, then kicked a penalty awarded against Thompson for holding-on, before Pierre Boudehent piled on the misery with a breakaway try, with Popelin again converting and kicking another penalty.

By the time Warriors finally managed to steady the ship, it was too late. So, while two tries from replacement full-back Ollie Smith grabbed some respectability, it wasn’t even enough to secure a bonus-point which would have made Montpellier’s challenge against Exeter that significant bit harder.

Ihaia West also scored a late penalty for La Rochelle.


Teams –

Glasgow Warriors: J McKay (O Smith 74); K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, S Johnson, R McLean; R Thompson (D Weir 68), A Price (G Horne 61); O Kebble (J Bhatti 47), F Brown (G Turner 47), Z Fagerson (S Berghan 63), S Cummings, R Gray (K McDonald 61), M Fagerson (R Wilson 63), R Darge, J Dempsey.

La Rochelle: B Dulin; D Leyds, R Rhule (E Buliruarua 72), J Danty, P Boudehent; P Popelin ( I West 63), T Kerr Barlow (T Berjon 64); D Priso ((L Aouf 63), P Bourgarit (F Bosch 47), U Atonio (G Papudze 58), R Sazy (G Papidze 58), R Picquette, R Bourdeau (M Tanguy 63), P Boudehent, G Alldritt.

Referee: Karl Dickson


Scorers –

Glasgow Warriors: Tries: McKay, Smith 2; Cons: Thompson 2, Weir; Pens: Thompson 3.

La Rochelle: Tries: Rhule, Paul Boudehent, Bourgarit, Pierre Boudehent; Cons: Popelin 3; Pens: Popelin 3, West.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors first): 3-0; 3-3; 3-8; 3-10; 6-10; 9-10; 9-15 (h-t) 14-15; 16-15; 16-20; 16-22; 16-25; 16-30; 13-32; 16-35; 21-35; 23-35; 23-38; 28-38; 30-38.


Yellow cards –

Glasgow Warriors: Brown (5mins)

La Rochelle: Alldritt (67mins), Leyds (74mins).


Attendance: 6,723


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Edinburgh v Brive: Mike Blair’s boys turn on the style in 10 tries to zero victory

About David Barnes 3911 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. I think some of the reaction on here is over the top, you have to put the calibre of the opposition when considering Glasgow’s performance, they are last seasons top14 and European finalists, they have dominated teams such as Racing and pushed Toulouse all the way last season, of course the will force the opposition to make mistakes.

    I think Glasgow did very well to stay competitive despite the early pressure and were actually the fitter/dominant team towards the end.

    Compare this Glasgow teams to last season and you can see huge improvement.

    Perhaps a skills coach would be helpful for the team under pressure, i remember white-line fever was a thing mid-noughties and it took the likes of Jason O’halloran to coach that out the Scotland team.

    Onwards and upwards.

    • Spot on! Edinburgh’s successful season has so far been mainly against the lower half of the URC and in the second tier Euro competition. Their performances have been good, but will come under greater pressure in the coming games. Fingers crossed for both teams getting a run at the Challenge Cup, we could still see a Scottish name on the trophy yet.

  2. On the plus side, at least we don’t have to face Leicester over two games. Big fear is that we get Edinburgh in the Challenge Cup

  3. I was at Exeter last weekend to watch the humiliation, loath as I am to single out a player, Oli Keeble has been found out, and some agree on this forum. His work rate in mauls and rucks is laughable, yes okay at scrum time he can hold his own, but after that, virtually nothing. I ask you to watch the highlights from both Exeter & La Rochelle and you’ll get a feel for his work rate, I watched him for the best part of the second half at Exeter and he was definitely not looking for work?
    Glasgow do not have the luxury to support a key forward who is coasting?

  4. Well – were out. Just saw Montpellier beating Exeter. They had the heavy mob out today and not the motley crew that folded to Leinster last week .With the bizarre format this year we will join Edinburgh in the Challenge cup.
    Very disappointing to see all four Irish provinces in the Champions Cup last 16 and not a single Scottish or Welsh side. The Irish sides are just so savvy when it comes to Europe. They know how to win and we don’t. Even Connacht look good in the Champions Cup.

    • On the plus side, at least we don’t have to face Leicester over two games. Big fear is that we get Edinburgh in the Challenge Cup

  5. Pro rugby like football is a results business so time up for Danny Wilson. Team bereft of any game plan and quality players seem to lack belief and are making schoolboy errors. As home team and after last week’s capitulation we needed to make a huge start and Cummings dropping the kick off ball which he had clear sight of followed by Brown’s yellow card for illegally pulling scrum down was grim.Sight of Kebble at 20+stone flitting around the back of mauls instead of being part of them is of no use. Felt taking Turner off for Brown v Exeter was the start of our woes down there and to select him ahead of Turner v LR showed coaching weakness. Our performance last night only gained momentum when Turner came on and Horne added real zip. Coach talking up about scoring 30 points at home as a plus but reality was last 14 points came when LR were tiring and had a man in the bin. Feels like fans are starting to vote with their feet as Wilson’s acquisitions have been iffy and not addressed the pirennial problem of no 2nd row of size and power since we chased Joss Strauss out of the club. Much as certain players have been great servants time to shed the deadwood and get Wilson, Brown, Harley etc off the payroll and pay the money to get big powerful forwards that are awash in all the successful nations

  6. Same old, same old! Mistakes at crucial times like not catching the kick off, messing up a lineout on the opposition 5 yard line and the Lions scrum half kicking out on the full. These sort of errors have dogged Scottish teams for years. I expect it will be the same in the 6 Nations with our best squad for years we will do well to finish 3rd.

  7. The Score flattered Glasgow – we were poor at the breakdown. very poor so don’t say the back row had a good game this is their area and they were very second best. Glasgow backs used to score tries for fun and are now struggling badly in attack. Work at the breakdown is poor, schoolboy lapses in defence – yet we are close to being there..hmmm? Time for a change of coach and attack coach this was lamentable for the second week in a row.

  8. TR…..with Edinburgh you know what they are trying to do. They have the personell and the coach all on the same page (will be very interesting to see Edinburgh v The Irish provinces). Glasgow have a good squad but see to struggle to impose their game plan consistently. Losing Hastings was a big blow. Thompson is an excellent player but needs a wee bit help.

    • Totally agree John. I was pleased when they signed up the Connacht attack coach given the attacking style they’ve played for years, but don’t see it implemented at the Warriors yet.

  9. Halfbacks failed to control game, thought the Introduction of Weir earlier when Thompson struggling to impose himself might have helped. Need a better exit plan at kickoffs individuals failing to step up.

  10. Absolutely no idea what Glasgow’s game plan is, and if there actually is one then they don’t appear to be sticking to it. Total lack of composure and nous at key moments. They were also completely outmuscled, it looked like men v boys at times from a physical point of view.

  11. Just watched the highlights, for me the game hinged on the LR try just on half time, we were pressing hard in their 22, the ball got lost and they went up the other end and scored. We came back after half time and took the lead but we then went to sleep made a series of errors and we were down 16-35 and almost out. The last 10 minute comeback was the only positive to take from the game all be it against 13 men in the end but our effort and pressure lead to the cards. Best game from Horne this year , Smith took his tries well , back row again very good against a much bigger team, Turner gave it his all. Think team went better after the 60 minute subs particularly Gray going off. However the game plan of trying to bash through a much bigger team particularly a French one, failed again, there was not enough mixing it up and the kicking when attempted was poor. Not sure if the results go well today if we deserve to qualify 1 win from 4 is not top European level. I watch the improvement of Edinburgh under Blair and Ulster under McFarland and again I ask is Wilson the right man for the job after all there were a host of Scottish internationalists in that team and still we looked off the game.

    • Gray didn’t go off, Cummings did

      I agree Glasgow lost on the basis of individual errors. Huge lack of composure – there is a limit to how much a coach can do about that, except to cut the individuals. I suspect given the worst offenders that might cause some outrage

      • Yes you are right went back and watched the highlights again (despite the pain)and Gray was still there at the end.

  12. It was poor again from Glasgow. I have very little confidence in Danny Wilson. He had a fairly full squad to choose from, which included players signed on his watch, so his previous excuses of injuries/covid/legacy squad no longer wash. Got absolutely hosed by Exeter and it’s lucky it wasn’t a similar scoreline last night, on our home turf.

  13. Another poor display from Glasgow. It was summed up by the the try where Glasgow were attacking about 10m fro the line – a wild pass that goes to no one and La Rochelle hack it all the way down the pitch to score. We threw another pass just like it before half time when we were attacking just 5m from their line. We seem to lose composure and go for the wide pass too early when we looked like we could score through the forwards. Too many bad choices at key moments and as has been said too many people getting isolated and turned over. Remarkably we can still qualify to play Leicester

    What has happened to Kebble – whilst he was OK In the scrum, outside of that he just doesnt use his size at all – takes the ball standing still and his maul defence is laughable – he stands upright and barely pushes usually at the wrong side of the maul. At one point he didn’t even join the maul and just stood at the back watching the mud rumble over the line.

  14. Glasgow seemed to have the edge in the set piece – especially the scrum which was a total surprise. But the breakdown on our own ball was woeful – not clearing out – isolated players with no support – so we coughed up penalty after penalty when we had ball in hand and should have been attacking. For me, that is where the game was lost…..I think the errors are a symtom of the problems in contact more than the cause. (I am surprised by this as we matched them quite well in this aspect in away game where they won 20-13)

    Key question is why was it so… bad? La Rochelle are a top side and we matched them in many departments but crucially we failed so miserably in one. If this can be addressed the Glasgow will become very competitive again.

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