Glasgow v Lions: home team holds on for narrow but deserved victory

Rufus McLean
The Lions' Rabz Maxwane tackles Glasgow's Rufus McLean. Image: © Craig Watson.

Glasgow Warriors 13

Lions 9


GLASGOW had to fight until the very last second of a match that might well have been in the bag by half-time. But, while failure to turn possession into points in the first half is always a concern, they can take a lot of credit from the way in which they grinded out the win.

Danny Wilson, for one, was delighted with the character shown by his side, especially late in the second half when, having been unable to build up a sizeable lead, they had to dig very deep to close out the game. “The character element of it was pleasing,” the Warriors head coach said. “We had to dig in. We could have folded a little bit at the end, but we didn’t.

“We dug in and got the win – and that’s 11 points from the first three games. We’ve gone to Ulster and played two big South African teams who we didn’t know much about. So it’s a good start.

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“Our character defensively in our own 22 was much better than last week,” Wilson continued, referring to the home win against the Sharks that saw his side struggle late in the game after dominating the first 50 minutes. “We worked harder and kept the opposition out.

‘We played so well in the first half and created so much, but it was a little bit forced with the offloads. We were trying to force the issue when we should have been more patient.

“In the second half, the weather came in and there were more scrums. We didn’t want that, because we knew the scrum was a really powerful weapon for them.

“The game died a death a little bit in the second half, a little bit like last week. But we looked really dangerous in the first half.”

The wet conditions were not conducive to the Warriors’ natural running game, and they cannot have been to the Lions’ liking either, but they did allow the visitors to slow things down in the second half after they had been in danger of being over-run in the first.

In fact, it took the hosts barely two minutes of playing time to open the scoring. When Cole Forbes was taken out in the air as he collected a high clearance, Ross Thompson sent the penalty to touch. The line-out was taken cleanly, and a few phases later Jamie Bhatti celebrated his 50th appearance for the team by touching down. Thomson added the conversion, but the Lions were soon off the mark too when EW Viljoen was on target with a penalty from around 35 metres.

The South Africans, who had won at Zebre in their first outing in the new competition before losing convincingly to Scarlets in week two, were busy in defence for the remainder of the first quarter. They were solid enough at the breakdown, but were eventually penalised for not rolling away, and Thompson put them seven points behind from the award. 

If Glasgow had a fault, it was the old, familiar one of trying to play too much rugby too soon. Wave after wave of improvised attack provided great entertainment for the fans, but a slightly more structured offence might well have proven more fruitful against opponents who stuck doggedly to their task. 

A second penalty from Viljoen reduced the gap to four points again around the half-hour mark, and although some inspired footwork from Rufus McLean then came close to securing a second Glasgow try, the visitors were able to snuff out that and other dangers in what remained of the first half. 

They were also capable of mounting some enterprising attacks of their own, and when one early in the second half was ended by a high tackle from Jack Dempsey, Viljoen converted the penalty from the 10-metre line to make it a one-point contest. Wilson had warned his squad not to under-estimate the South Africans, but it was still a surprise, given the Warriors’ greater share of possession, that there should be so little in the game at that stage. 


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Sione Tuipulotu had replaced Sam Johnson late in the first half after the starting centre had sustained a head knock, and Matt Fagerson came on for Dempsey ten minutes into the second half as the home team struggled to impose themselves. They had lost almost all of the zip that had been on display in the first 40, and the longer the game went on, the more confident the Lions became of getting something more than a losing bonus from it.

But then a big defensive set put new heart into the Warriors, and a sudden breakaway saw them get close to scoring before Nick Grigg knocked on when trying to scoop up a loose ball on the Lions’ five-metre line. As the game entered its last quarter the Lions were increasingly intent on running the clock down, and each set piece took an age.

A Viljoen penalty attempt from a metre inside his own half fell short, then, after Duncan Weir had come on for McLean, a fumble by Lions full-back Divan Rossouw gave the Warriors an attacking scrum deep in opposition territory. An offence by the defence saw a penalty awarded within the 22, and Thompson made no mistake. 

There were still eight minutes to play at that point, and the Lions remained dangerous. A 50-22 attempt by Weir went dead, then at the subsequent scrum a penalty was awarded against the Warriors. That was despatched to touch, but an overthrow allowed Glasgow to regain possession, and another attack was also repelled to complete a narrow but deserved victory.


Teams –

Glasgow Warriors: C Forbes; K Steyn, N Grigg, S Johnson (S Tuipulotu 37), R McLean (D Weir 68); R Thompson, J Dobie (G Horne 48); J Bhatti (B Thyer 75), F Brown, J Matthews 62)), M McCallum (M Walker 51), L Bean (R Harley 59), R Gray, R Wilson, R Darge, J Dempsey (M Fagerson 51). 

Lions: D Rossouw; S Pienaar, M Rass, B Odendaal, R Maxwane; E Viljoen, A Warner; S Sithole (M Naude 67), J Visagie (PJ Botha 72), J du Plessis, R Schoeman, P Janse van Vuren (W Simelane 80), J Kriel (S Sangweni 61), V Tshituka (R Nothnagel 72), R Straeuli. 

Referee: G Gnecchi (FIR).


Scorers –

Glasgow: Try: Bhatti. Con: Thompson. Pens: Thompson 2. 

Lions: Pens Viljoen 3.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3; 10-3; 10-6 (h-t) 10-9; 13-9.


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About Stuart Bathgate 1363 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. Checked the highlights on youtube x 0.25. You are right the ball wasn’t grounded but the ref was 1m abway and the Lion’s player came IN FROM THE SIDE and scooped the ball away … probably just before the grounding… we have ref brilliantly positioned, making a split second decision…..I suppose technically you are correct….ref got it wrong….ball was not grounded so strictly speaking it should have been a penalty try and a yellow but ref saw sense and awarded the try. Would you have preferred the ref to give the penalty try and the yellow?

  2. With a bit more luck composure and kinder weather glasgow could’ve been 20 ahead in first 25mins. As other poster said SAs did well to be in touch. Forwards a worry (especially front row). Fagerson Keeble Brown Bhatti will be away with Scotland too. As last week Sam Johnson going off a body blow.

  3. The Glasgow game was one for the purists in the second half, but the first showed just how dangerous they can be with ball in hand. Not many sides would be able to resist such an avalanche, so kudos to the Lions after conceding a try in just the second minute. Every time young McLean gets the ball you feel a thrill, while interesting that Thompson was moved to full back – despite Cole’s strong performance there – to make way for sub Weir. Wonder if the Warriors will make a habit of fielding two stand-offs – one left-footed, the other right – in the latter stages? As for Rory Darge, it seems he is man of the match in just about every game he plays. Incredible power for a smaller guy and Hamish will be looking over his shoulder. I wouldn’t swap either of them for that England lad who was so extremely lucky to play in all three Lions tests. Saffers beginning to hit their straps, so this is going to be one heck of a competition.

  4. No mention of the try being remotely controversial. It isn’t, it clearly wasn’t a try. Never made the line and was never grounded. But still, if we accept you’re going to be a Scottish focussed media platform that’s not neutral, then you can at least acknowledge it as controversial or close. Quite frankly the standard of officiating for that try wouldn’t be accepted in a school game. The officials would have been lynched.

  5. Nice job keeping Scottish rugby in the limelight guys. But I find it hilarious that not a single European site (including yours) I’ve come across has mentioned that at minimum the try was controversial. Rationally, it just should never have been a try. The ball never made it to the line and was never grounded. That’s clear from the replays that were shown after the conversion, no review and no intervention from the TMO. If we look at it objectively it was an atrocious, sub-par piece of refereeing that should see the entire officiating team reviewed and frankly wouldn’t be acceptable in a school game. I get your site is Scottish… But even in South Africa our media would have labelled it controversial. Please. From one journalist to another at least make some mention of it!.

    • Checked the highlights on youtube x 0.25. You are right the ball wasn’t grounded but the ref was 1m abway and the Lion’s player came IN FROM THE SIDE and scooped the ball away … probably just before the grounding… we have ref brilliantly positioned, making a split second decision…..I suppose technically you are correct….ref got it wrong….ball was not grounded so strictly speaking it should have been a penalty try and a yellow but ref saw sense and awarded the try. Would you have preferred the ref to give the penalty try and the yellow?

  6. Glasgow are showing a lot more grit but they’ll be glad to get the SA teams out the way early on as they are starting to look better and better even without their SA internationals.

  7. Well that was a close game. Try in 2 minutes thought this will be a romp again, but no the Lions dug in and put on a very good 2nd half performance. Glasgow seemed to go off the boil when Johnston went off. Bit worried about the scrum, big bunch of guys shoved us off to often, La Rochelle are just as big worrying!. That said great couple of runs from McLean, maybe to quick for his own good , he runs away from support runners. Good to see Fagerson back and putting in a good set with some great counter rucking Darge again was excellent. For the Lions Warner was a pain all afternoon. Still a wins a win as they say.

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