Glasgow v Scarlets: Warriors book home URC play-off quarter-final

Franco Smith's men grind out a win after struggling to cope with monsoon conditions at Scotstoun

Ali Price tries to get the ball away for Glasgow Warriors against Scarlets on a wet night at Scotstoun. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Ali Price tries to get the ball away for Glasgow Warriors against Scarlets on a wet night at Scotstoun. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Glasgow Warriors 12

Scarlets 9

DAVID BARNES @ Scotstoun Stadium

JOB done, and Glasgow head coach Franco Smith ranked this as one of his team’s most pleasing performances since he arrived in the west of Scotland late last summer – because it was a triumph of substance over style. Under a deluge of rain, Warriors recovered from a slow start to secure the win they needed to book a home play-off quarter-final draw with one game of the regular URC season still to play.

That final league match is at home to Connacht next Saturday, and it is safe to say that some of the players who weathered the conditions and a fully-committed Scarlets performance in this game will be given the weekend off to recover and refresh ahead of the team’s next major challenge – which will once again be against Scarlets in Llanelli the following weekend when a place in the final of the Challenge Cup will be up for grabs.

“Who predicted that kind of weather? I know it’s Scotland, but I’m not sure anyone would have expected it to be quite like that,” said Warriors’ South African coach. “I’m really glad we grinded it out. That’s the type of games we’ll face going into the play-offs, [because] quarter-finals and semi-finals are always tight.”


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“That should be a big benefit for us. We found a way to win, which was fantastic to see. It was a really satisfying night in that regard for us. Sometimes you must have these tough, tight games. The weather obviously played a big role, but we found a way to win and it’s great to have a home quarter-final to look forward to.”

Warriors made a pig’s ear of collecting the kick-off, and Scarlets took advantage by battling through two dozen phases on the home 22 before Jamie Bhatti conceded a penalty for hands in a ruck which Dan Jones had no problem turning into three points.

By now, the skies had opened, and Warriors continued to struggle to find a way into the match, with basic errors like squint line-out throws costing them possession.  Jones extended Scarlets’ lead on 13 minutes when Sam Johnson was penalised for a high tackle on Kieran Hardy.

When a penalty kicked to the corner gave Warriors a chance to rumble that usually reliable maul over from close range on 17 minutes, it came to nothing because they lost the line-out at the front, with the torrential rain making continuity a near impossibility for both teams.

Slowly but surely, Warriors began to find their feet, reverting to a kicking game which Scarlets struggled to cope with and an Ali Price box-kick which bounced into Sione Vailanu‘s hands, then a clever toe-poke behind from Tom Jordan forced Tom Rogers to carry back over his own line. From the scrum-five, Warriors attacked hard, but Scarlets stood strong, and Ryan Wilson was held up over the line.

Finally, after weathering another minor Scarlets storm, Warriors got their side of the scoreboard rolling with four minutes left in the half. Good hands allowed Huw Jones and Cole Forbes to make ground in the wide channels, and after a bustling break from Johnny Matthews, a not rolling away penalty was ent to the corner. This time the line-out was caught cleanly in the middle by Wilson, and Vialanu burst from the back of the maul with a ferocity which was impossible for the three visiting defenders to withstand.

Tom Jordan’s conversion attempt from wide on the left was off target meaning that Scarlets retained a single-point lead going into the break, and they then struck first in the second half when Jones fired home a scrum penalty, in his last involvement in the match before being replaced by Wales international Rhys Patchell.

All of a sudden, Warriors managed to generate some momentum, with a scrum penalty quickly followed by a maul penalty rousing the Scotstoun faithful, and that in turn spurred the team on as they grabbed the lead for the first time in the match with 54 minutes played when Fraser Brown finished off a line-out maul.

Jordan fired home the conversion, and Warriors sensed an opportunity to kill-off their opponents, but they couldn’t find a way to extend their lead, and Scarlets nearly delivered a knock-out counter-punch when second-row Vaea Fifita stole possession from the base of a ruck just inside the home 22 then galloped the length of the pitch to touch-down in the corner.

It was an excellent piece of opportunism and athleticism, but referee Chris Busby referred it to the TMO, who ruled that the Tongan had swooped for the ball from an offside position, meaning Warriors breathed a massive sigh of relief.

“We’re really happy,” said man-of-the-match Zander Fagerson aftewards. “It was a big effort from the whole pack. Our pack love to scrum and we knew tonight would be a big battle against a good Scarlets pack.

“We got the job done, but we know we need to back it up in a couple of weeks when we play them again at the Parc y Scarlets.

“I think we’re getting better every week. We left a few points out there and could have scored more. We could have been more ruthless. We want to get better and it’s an exciting time to be part of this squad.”

 

Teams –

Glasgow Warriors: H Jones K Steyn, S McDowall, S Johnson, C Forbes; T Jordan, A Price (J Dobie 61); J Bhatti (N McBeth 61), J Matthews (F Brown 48), Z Fagerson (S Berghan 61), L Bean (R Gray, 48), J du Preez, R Wilson (S Cummings 45), M Fagerson (R Darge 72), S Vailanu.

Scarlets: T Rogers; S Evans, I Nicholas, E James (J Roberts 64), R Conbeer; D Jones (R Patchell 50), K Hardy (D Blacker 72); W Jones (S Thomas 48), S Evans (D Hughes 48), S Wainwright (J Sebastian 48), M Jones, V Fifita, W Shenton (A Shingler 50), J Macleod, C Tuipulotu.

Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)

 

Scorers –

Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Vailanu, Brown; Con: Jordan.

Scarlets: Pen: Jones 3.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 0-3; 0-6; 5-6 (h-t); 5-9; 10-9; 12-9.

 

Attendance: 6,815.


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About David Barnes 4012 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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.

13 Comments

  1. A wins a win but Glasgow seem to have fallen off a little in the last 2 weeks with poor ball retention too often conceding possession to the opposition. They need to learn to manage the game better in these sort of conditions and at times made the wrong choices in running the ball rather than kicking. Price had a mixed night with his kicking and whilst I like Jordans hard running he needs to know when to kick the ball down the park. We also seemed a bit loose at the rucks with poor ball retention. They will need to play better in the Semi and hopefully get a dry night.

  2. That was brutal weather last night. Still in spite of that Glasgow tried to play and credit to them. I did not think Scarlets would score if they played all night, apart from the first 10 minutes. The scrum went well and Glasgow proved in terrible conditions they can grind out wins. I criticized Dobies box kicking a few weeks ago tonight he was spot on and had a good game, not sure if Jones is the answer at 15, and Wilson was as always up for a good fight. They did leave a good couple of tries out there tonight and in two weeks they will need to be better. Well done Zander on MOM no idea where he gets the energy week after week often for 80 minutes. Finally commiserations to Fifita on your amazing run and disallowed try.

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  3. Horrendous weather – gotta be one of if not the wettest game I’ve seen in Scotstoun. Thought that our own handling errors were going to be our undoing but we just had enough. Zander was indeed immense, easily MoM, but most others were well off par – yet we won which we wouldn’t have last season!

    The disallowed try could have so easily gone the other way, so a bit of luck when Scarlets had been pushing the offside line all night and generally getting away with it! What it did show up was Matt Fagersons commitment in the chase 👍but more so SJ’s lack of pace. Price isn’t bringing the execution and steady hand that someone of his experience should be, I’d be starting Dobie in preference.

    Very different teams on both sides expected in two weeks, but still very close, Scarlets playing well, and much more streetwise than we have been, but we should have enough attack.

    Oh, and presume that it was SRU admin error and that was the Fifita we meant to sign!

    • Yes, Henry Pyrgos departing Edinburgh this season, on his day an excellent SH, and I suspect Ali Price approaching the same point … time for the young guys to step up.

      Though noting that Edin have also hedged our bets by signing Scott Steele …

  4. If I might indulge in pedantry young David. In your description of the Fifita non try, you name checked the referee as “Andrew Brace.”

    The man in charge was Chris Busby – had Brace had the whistle, with his track record in Warriors’ games, I suspect the try would have been allowed.

  5. What a surprise to find Andrew Brace refereeing this match when he was also refereeing a match many miles away, at the same time.

    • Glasgow seem incapable of playing the percentages. A horrendous night for playing open, free-flowing rugby, yet Glasgow intent of kicking to corners when a more pragmatic approach of taking a kick at goal may have served them. This was epitomised when the Scarlets lock ran 80 metres to score what would have undoubtedly been a match winning score. Instead of taken a shot at goal, Glasgow messed up another lineout and maul. Their supporters must like living on the edge.

  6. Zander was immense tonight and good value for his MotM. Hope he finally gets a week’s rest v Connacht next weekend.

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    • Zander was rested a fortnight ago against Dragons, and I expect he will be rested or benched next week against Connacht now that the home QF is sealed and it is so unlikely we can get 3rd, more is the shame (it would mean avoiding Leinster if a SF should Warriors get there)

  7. What I’m liking about Franco Smith is that he seems to react instantly and instinctively to what rolls out before him. Ryan Wilson gets involved in a bit of argy bargy near his own posts in a tight game – off (even though on this occasion Ryan, for once, was semi innocent). Ali Price, who’s kicking game was tonight was generously average at best, kicks out on the full from his 22 – off.
    The Scarlets game in two weeks will be tough and, like Wales, they appear to be able to suck the life from a game and make it a scrap-fest. However you need to be confident that in better conditions with a fully fit first team squad to choose from Scarlets will not be able to live with the Warriors attacking threats, despite their resolute defence. However am I confident enough to buy my tickets for Dublin tonight, no chance, still to tight to call.

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  8. Good win in terrible conditions, their disallowed try a little fortunate. I watched on TV in the US and is it just me, or were the commentators horribly biased? If I was a Scarlets fan I’d be upset at the commentary. Almost as bad as the Totally biased Irish guys we used to have to put up with.

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    • Our Scottish commentators are a lot-less biased than their Irish and Welsh counterparts; and certainly better than the English guys who cover their over-rated Premiership.

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