Glasgow Warriors 38
DAVID BARNES @ Scotstoun
THIS comprehensive, five-tries-to-one, bonus-point win for Glasgow Warriors blew away the cobwebs of a frustrating festive season which brought two weekends of Covid-enforced inactivity, and lifted Danny Wilson’s side to fourth in the United Rugby Championship table, which is where they need to be at the end of the campaign to qualify for the play-offs.
It also sets them up nicely for next weekend’s trip to Sandy Park to take on Exeter Chiefs in the European Champions Cup, when they will hope to emulate the excellent 22-7 home win over the English giants they achieved back in mid-December.
However, Wilson was quick to highlight that, as pleased as he is with his team’s performances in their last four outings, a step up is going to be required if they are to get anything positive out of next weekend’s challenge, or, indeed, from the following weekend’s final Champions Cup pool match at home to La Rochelle.
“Overall, that was very pleasing after a disrupted couple of weeks,” said Wilson immediately after the match. “Even this week was disjointed in terms of people coming back from isolation, so with a couple of days only as a squad I think it was a top effort.
“We picked up where we left off against Exeter and I thought we were pretty dominant. We left a few tries out there, but all aspects of our game functioned tonight. However, we know we need to go another level to beat Exeter away from home next week.
“So, we’ll go down there fully aware of the size of challenge we are going to face, but that is something we are excited about.
“We came through tonight unscathed in terms of injury and we hope to have a few more boys coming back from Covid isolation next week,” he continued. “We’re beginning to play with some consistency and now we need to take that on into the biggest tournament of all, against two massive sides during the next fortnight.
“There is more to come from us. We’ve got more building to do in the short and the long term. But I’m certainly pleased with tonight and with our recent form.”
Those three weeks out of action perhaps contributed to a fairly scratchy start from Warriors, during which they gave away a series of penalties and failed with a routine restart collection, leading to a 6-3 deficit – two Gareth Anscombe penalties against one from Ross Thompson – after 20 minutes.
It probably should have been all-square, but Thompson missed a fairly simple shot at goal after an Ospreys side entry, which didn’t end up being costly on this occasion, but is the sort of lapse Wilson was referring to when he spoke about the importance of his team cutting down on marginal errors against Exeter and La Rochelle.
Warriors took the lead for the first time on 22 minutes when they built through the phases with Zander Fagerson, Kiran McDonald and Sam Johnson all carrying well to establish the field position from which the ball was sent wide to Cole Forbes on the left wing, who powered over the line with opposite number Mat Protheroe on his back.
Warriors conceded another penalty soon after the restart, against Sione Tuipulotu for playing the ball on the deck, which allowed Anscombe pull it back to a one-point game, but then some fine link play involving McKay and Ryan Wilson released Tuipoluto, who brushed off two tackles to run it home from halfway, with Thompson once again adding the extras.
A fourth Anscombe penalty kept the visitors in touch, with the scoreboard reading 17-12 at the break, although Warriors did threaten again before half-time when Darge burst past two tackles and galloped deep into the opposition’s 22, but Ospreys did well to scramble back and snuff out the threat.
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The home side started the second period as they finished the first, pressurising Ospreys into conceding three penalties in quick succession, which allowed Thompson to kick to the corner, but a mix-up between Johnson and Kyle Steyn in midfield let Ospreys off the hook and Luke Morgan cleared the danger.
Another rumbustious run from Darge took Warriors right back into the strike zone, and they scored try number three a few phases later when McKay collects a long pass from Thompson then stepped back inside Dan Evans and then Reuben Morgan-Williams to dot down under the posts.
Walter Fifita – the 6ft 5ins and 18½ stone Tongan winger – announced his arrival with a huge hit on Owen Watkin just 15 seconds after coming off the bench for Johnson on 50 minutes.
Warriors were now in complete control, and after a George Turner try wide on the left was chalked off for a forward pass, the home side finally claimed the bonus point when Tuipulotu took advantage of some half-hearted Ospreys tackling to sniff out a gap and sprint home, setting up an easy conversion for Thompson with just over an hour played.
Ospreys did manage a consolation try back with 10 minutes to go when Anscombe skipped through a gap and sent Evans over, but Warriors marched straight back up field and delivered the knock-out blow when replacement hooker Fraser Brown, making his comeback after almost three months out with a knee injury, touched down from a line-out.
“I thought Sione [Tuipulotu] was outstanding,” concluded Wilson. “He had some big collisions in defence, but it was really what he did with the ball in attack which stood out.
“And I thought there were other boys out there tonight who were also outstanding, like Rory Darge and Ross Thompson, who are two young guys who keep getting better week-on-week.
“Ospreys are a niggly, tough team to break down so I’m glad that we did that and scored the tries that we did, but I’m also pleased with the dominance we had at set-piece because their scrum and maul has really functioned well this season and in both areas but we fired in there as well. Add in a good defensive performance and it was a good night all-round for us.”
Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, S Johnson (W Fifita 50), C Forbes; R Thompson (D Weir 70), A Price (J Dobie, 67); J Bhatti (O Kebble 54), G Turner (F Brown 54), Z Fagerson (E Pieretto 62), S Cummings (L Bean 70), K McDonald, R Wilson (T Gordon 63), R Darge, M Fagerson.
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Forbes, Tuipulotu 2, MacKay, Brown; Cons Thompson 4, Weir; Pen: Thompson.
Ospreys: Try: Evans; Con: Anscombe; Pens: Anscombe 4.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors first): 0-3; 3-3; 3-6; 8-6; 10-6; 10-9; 15-9; 17-9; 17-12 (h-t) 22-12; 24-12; 29-12; 31-12; 31-17; 31-19; 39-19; 38-19.
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