Glasgow Warriors 26
DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield
ONLY 671 hardy souls made it along the M8 to watch Glasgow pick up a bonus-point win which keeps them on track to qualify for the knock-out stages of the Challenge Cup this season (with nine points collected so far from a possible 10) – so it was a surreal sort of atmosphere at the national stadium, which perhaps contributed to the ‘home’ teams scratchy performance.
There was some really positive aspects in Warriors’ performance, but they were also inaccurate at key moments, and three times they switched off after forcing their way into commanding leads to let their opponents back into the contest. In the final reckoning, however, they were worthy winners and head coach Franco Smith was generally upbeat in his post-match assessment.
“We are very happy with the bonus-point victory, but we know we were inaccurate at times,” he said. “With the changes we made to the team, you could see that a lot of guys need to get out on the field again and play some rugby. They hadn’t played for a while.
“Especially in the second part of the game, we were inaccurate,” he added. “We maybe overplayed at times. But we are still excited to come away from the game with five points.
“Our DNA is all about playing rugby. That’s understandable. But we maybe just overplayed slightly at times and that led to inaccuracy. That’s definitely a work-on for us.”
Warriors started brightly, playing with tempo to dominate territory and possession, but a lack of precision inside Perpignan’s 22 meant that they failed to make it count on the scoreboard until the 18th minute when Duncan Weir kicked a penalty into the corner rather than go for the posts, and after the line-out drive pulled Perpignan’s defence in, possession was cross field with slick hands for Rufus McLean to go over unchallenged.
Weir fired home the conversion, and Warriors were soon back on the attack, with Richie Gray stealing a line-out just inside enemy territory, and Sione Vailianu and Huw Jones – Glasgow’s two most prominent runners – making good ground, before another ruck penalty was sent to the corner once again.
Glasgow were keen to repeat the trick of a few minutes earlier, but the maul was brought down and when the ball was sent in-field Sione Tuipulotu had to check his stride, but he had the wherewithal to send an excellently weighted chip ahead into the in-goal area, which Jones tracked down to claim his second try in as many weeks since recovering from the back injury which side-lined him for the first three months of the season.
Warriors then lost their focus, falling into the trap of reacting to Perpignan niggling, and they paid a price when Tuipulotu lost possession in contact and visiting captain Mathieu Acebes streaked up the left touchline, collected his own kick ahead, and Jake McIntyre floated through three Warriors tacklers to score a few phases later. The conversion was missed.
The Warriors squad members not in the match-day 23 were enjoying a night out, scooping some beers and making a pretty good fist of bridging the noise gap created by a lack of ticket holders making the 40 mile trip east for the game for most of the first half, but they went very quiet at this point as their team struggled to re-assert themselves on the pitch.
Perpignan narrowed the gap to six points 15 minutes in the second half when centre Dorian Laborde kicked the goal following Vailanu obstruction, and it went from bad to worse for Warriors just two minutes later when Perpignan’s replacement scrum-half Sadek Degmache spotted that there was a numerical mismatch on the short side of a ruck on halfway and scampered clear, before sending a well-time pass to send Lucas Dubois home.
Laborde drilled home the conversion to edge Perpignan into a single-point lead, and that seemed to jolt Warriors out of their slumber.
They powered deep into Perpignan territory and forced their opponents to concede a series of penalties close to their line, before English referee Anthony Woodthorpe lost patience and sent second-rows Tristian Labouteley and Posolo Tuilagi to the sin-bin in quick succession, and with the second of those offences he also rewarded a penalty try for a collapsed maul.
Back in front and with two extra men, Warriors really should have been of increasing their cushion and securing the bonus-point try, but they started playing headless chicken rugby, and a second Laborde penalty made it a three-point game with six-minutes to play.
Fortunately for Glasgow, that’s as close as the French side got, and Warriors once again knuckled down to get that bonus-point when some powerful driving play from the pack followed by good hands from the backline sent Sebastian Cancelliere over.
Glasgow Warriors: J McKay: S Cancelliere, S Tuipulotu, H Jones, R McLean; D Weir (T Jordan 67), G Horne (A Price 46); J Bhatti (N McBeth 67), G Turner (J Matthews 67), M Walker (S Berghan 46), L Bean (S Manjezi, 55), R Gray (J du Preez 79)_, M Fagerson, S Vailanu (E Ferrie 79), J Dempsey.
Perpignan: T Tedder (L Dubois 51); G Tilsley (B Goutard 51), A Taumoepeau, D Laborde, M Acebes; J McIntyre, T Ecochard (S Degmache 46); G Tetrashvili (X Chiocci 46), S Lam (M Tradjer, 46), S Halanukonuka (A Joly 40), T Labouteley, P Faasalele (P Tuilagi 46), L Velarte, K Gellatier (L Bachelier 63), G Lemalu.
Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe (England)
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: McLean, Jones, Penalty Try, Cancelliere; Con: Weir 2.
Perpignan: Tries: McIntyre Dubois; Con: Laborde; Pen: Laborde 2.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 14-5 (h-t) 14-8; 14-13; 14-15; 21-15; 21-18; 26-18.
Yellow cards –
Perpignan: Labouteley (65mins), Tuilagi (67mins)