Glasgow Warriors 22
DANNY WILSON refused to lay the blame for Glasgow Warriors last-gasp defeat here on Brandon Thomson, who missed a conversion from almost directly in front of the posts which would have edged his team into a one-point lead with the game already in deep into overtime.
Warriors trailed by six points from just before the hour mark but mounted a pulsating late rally during the final 10 minutes and finally got their reward when a breathless final passage of play – stretching to 36 phases – culminated with a penalty on the Dragons’ line in the third minute of injury time, which replacement hooker Johnny Matthews took as a quick tap to rumble over the try-line.
That left Thomson with a routine conversion, but he sclaffed his shot at goal to hit the post – passing up a golden opportunity for his team to pick up a morale-boosting win which would have propelled them right back into the PRO14 play-off race.
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“It is a tough one to swallow, there’s no doubt about that – but, look, we didn’t play well enough tonight,” said head coach Wilson. “I’ve praised this group and I’ve said that I think we’ve improved from week to week to week from a new group coming together, but that’s not the case tonight.
“We didn’t play well enough in the second half to put anything on Brandon’s shoulders,” he added. “That was a performance where we didn’t have enough pressure to turn into points due to lack of field position – and it all comes down to poor discipline. That’s the story – that’s what we’ve got to focus on – and that’s where we’ve got to be better.
“You saw at the end there that when we did get field position and were able to build pressure we came away with a good try after a lot of phases, but ultimately we weren’t good enough in that second half and we didn’t therefore deserve the win – so credit to the Dragons.”
The visitors took a fifth minute lead through a clever set-piece move which involved winger Jared Rosser bursting through the middle on an inside pass and racing home from halfway to set up an easy conversion for Sam Davies.
Despite losing Harrison Keddie to the sin-bin for killing the ball at a ruck, the visitors continued to look the more likely of the two sides, and they stretched the gap to 10 points when Davies slotted an offside penalty.
No sooner were Dragons back to 15 men than they lost another player to the sin-bin when Jack Dixon flattened Nick Grigg with a no-arms tackle, and this time Warriors made the numerical advantage count by scoring two quick-fire tries to establish a four-point half time lead.
The first of those scores came via flanker Fotu Lokotui, who spun out of a line-out maul and powered over the line, and the second arrived after Grigg broke the line and scrum-half Sean Kennedy appeared on his shoulder to finish the move off. Pete Horne fired home both conversions.
Dragons bounced back at the start of the second half when South African prop Brok Harris rumbled over from close range, and while Warriors managed to square it with another Horne penalty, the game was beginning to drift away from them.
Davies pushed Dragons into a six-point lead with his second penalty of the night followed by a huge drop-goal – and it went from bad to worse for Warriors when winger Lee Jones was sent to the cooler for a deliberate knock-on.
Ratu Tagive was lucky not to follow Jones onto the naughty step for taking out opposite number Rosser in the air, and it was looking increasingly like a lost cause for the home team until they finally managed to mount that late rally – but it wasn’t to be.
It will come of scant consolation to Warriors that they outscored their opponents 3-2 in the try count, or that they picked up a losing bonus point.
“We’re now going into a period where we’ve got 12 internationals coming back to us,” concluded Wilson. “We need to gel those guys back into the group as quickly as possible to be able to go Exeter away – European Champions way from home is now our next challenge.”
Glasgow Warriors: G Bryce; L Jones, N Grigg, R Fergusson, N Matawalu (R Tagive 62); P Horne (B Thomson 65), S Kennedy (J Dobie 60); A Seiuli (A Allan 62-69), G Stewart (J Matthews 69), E Pieretto (D Rae 55-69), L Bean, K McDonald, R Harley, F Lokotui (T Ioane 48), R Wilson.
Dragons: J Lewis; J Rosser, J Dixon (N Tompkins 56), J Roberts, A Hewitt; S Davies, R Williams; B Harris (C Maguire 62), E Shipp (R Hibbard 56), A Jarvis, B Carter (J Maksymiw 56), M Screech, H Keddie, T Basham (H Taylor 52), O Griffiths.
Referee: Chris Busby
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Lokotui, Kennedy, Matthews; Cons: Horne 2; Pen: Horne.
Dragons: Tries: Rosser, Harris; Cons: James 2; Pen: James 2; DG: James.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-10; 5-10; 7-10; 12-10; 14-10 (h-t) 14-15; 14-17; 17-17; 17-20; 17-23; 22-23.
Yellow cards –
Dragons: Keddie, Dixon