Glasgow Warriors 35
Cell C Sharks 24
DAVID BARNES @ Scotstoun
FOR 50 minutes of this match, Glasgow Warriors were at something close to their rip-roaring best, but they then fell away during the final half hour, which allowed their distinctly average opponents to score two late tries to secure a respectably on the scoreboard they scarcely deserved.
The catalyst for Glasgow’s drop in performance level seems to have been the decision by referee Ben Whitehouse, in consultation with the TMO, to chalk off what had looked like an excellent team try by centre Sione Tuipulotu because of an obstruction by Tuipulotu earlier in the move. It is hard to fathom why that would cause Warriors to go off the boil so dramatically, but they certainly struggled to make it out of their own half from then onwards.
Fortunately, Danny Wilson‘s side already had the bonus point in the bag, and had put enough daylight between themselves and their South African guests to ensure that they didn’t ever look like they were in any danger of letting the win slip through their fingers.
“I thought the first 50 minutes was outstanding,” said head coach Wilson afterwards. “We played some really good rugby and scored some great tries. Had that try been allowed on 50 minutes, I think we could have scored again and found another gear, but it was disallowed and for some reason the wind went out the game.
“There were loads of stoppages, loads of delays, loads of watching the screen. Then we made some changes, which was the right time to make them, and slowly but surely the momentum seemed to disappear.
“On top of that we fed them a couple of times to get field position because we couldn’t seem to get down the other end of the pitch,” he added. “They’ve got some good players, they’re dangerous, so credit to them for working their way back into it when they were really dead and buried with us having scored five tries on 50 minutes. They could have rolled over, but they didn’t.”
Warriors were straight onto the offensive with No8 Jack Dempsey collecting the kick-off and releasing Rufus McLean with a nice back-handed offload out of contact, triggering an attack which established the field position for stand-off Ross Thompson to loop round between his centres and dot down under the posts.
Sharks had a chance to get off the mark, but full-back Curwin Bosch pushed his penalty attempt following a Warriors offside to the right of the posts, and the home side capitalised on that let-off by marching straight back up field to score again through co-captain Ryan Wilson, who peeled off a maul and burrowed home.
With Thompson converting both those early tries, Sharks found themselves 14 points down with just 14 minutes played, and to compound their situation they were also temporarily reduced to 14 men when blindside flanker Dylan Richardson paid the price for his team’s persistent infringements.
Jamie Bhatti was next in on the act, marking his first Warriors start since returning from two years in exile at Edinburgh then Bath by muscling in for his first try in six seasons of pro rugby.
Sharks did rally briefly as the clock ticked past the half hour mark and got their reward from a period of sustained pressure when second-row Le Roux Roets managed to get downward pressure amid a pile of bodies on the Warriors try-line, and Bosch whipped over the easy conversion.
However, Warriors were soon back on top and claimed the bonus point when a long and lucid passage of play culminated in McLean sending Cole Forbes in for try number four.
Bosch’s scrum penalty which made it 28-10 suggested that this was already an exercise in damage limitation for the visitors.
Warriors were straight back on the offensive at the start of the second half, with Forbes collecting his own chip ahead to claim his second try of the match three minutes after the restart, and Thompson extended his immaculate goal-kicking record with a fifth consecutive conversion.
Then came the turning point. A back-row move saw George Horne escape on an arching run, before feeding Tuipulotu on his inside for a powerful thrust to the line, and when the score was chalked off, Warriors lost their mojo.
Thomas Du Toit and Ntuthuko Mchunu scored consolation tries as Sharks dominated the final half hour. The visitors got closer than they really deserved to be, but didn’t really threaten to upturn the applecart.
“I don’t want to be too negative about the way it drifted away, we should be positive about a bonus point win against a side we don’t know a lot about but which has a lot of talented players,” concluded Wilson.
“Two points in Ulster followed by this bonus point win gives us a reasonable start, and if we can go and get a win next week then that’s a good start,” he added.
“That first 50 minutes is up there with the best we’ve played since I’ve been here. To be as dominant as we were makes it the best we’ve played. It’s a template for how we want to play.”www.
Glasgow Warriors: C Forbes; K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, S Johnson (S McDowall 55), R McLean; R Thompson (P Horne 77), G Horne (J Dobie 62); J Bhatti (B Thyer 50), F Brown (G Turner 50-78), M McCallum (M Walker 62), R Gray (L Bean 70), S Cummings, R Wilson (A Miller 70), T Gordon, J Dempsey.
Sharks: C Bosch (T Meyer 70); Y Penxe, W Kok (J Ward 50), M Koster, T Abrahams; B Chamberlain, R Pienaar; K Mona (N Mchunu 55), F Mbatha (K van Vuuren 51), T du Toit (L Adriaanse, 76), L Roets (H Andrews50), R van Heerden, D Richardson, G Grobler (T Bholi 55), P Buthelezi (J Venter 67).
Referee: B Whitehouse
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Thompson, Wilson, Bhatti, Forbes 2; Con: Thompson 5.
Sharks: Try: Roets, du Toit, Mchunu; Con: Bosch 2, Pienaar; Pen: Bosch.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0; 21-0; 21-5; 21-7; 26-7; 28-7; 28-10 (h-t) 33-10; 35-10; 35-15; 35-17; 35-22; 35-24.
Yellow cards –
Glasgow Warriors: Bean (73mins)
Sharks: Richardson (14mins)