Glasgow Warriors rediscover their attacking edge against Cardiff Blues

Not a complete performance, but Dave Rennie's men demonstrate that they still have the ability to do real damage wth ball in hand

Pete Horne celebrates
Man-of-the-match Pete Horne celebrates scoring the third of Glasgow Warriors' five tries in a bonus point victory away to Cardiff Blues. Image: Fotosport

Cardiff Blues 34

Glasgow Warriors 38

THEY’VE not quite got back to the level they set themselves at the start of the season, but Glasgow Warriors took a significant step towards their scintillating best – at least in an attacking sense – during this exhilarating encounter in the Welsh capital, which reminded us all that there is still good rugby to be had outside the Six Nations at this time of year.

However, if Warriors want to be serious contenders in the latter stages of both the PRO14 and Champions Cup as we move into the business end of the season, then they are going to have to be a hell of a lot more clinical in defence, and generally savvier around the field, to match that sharpness in attack.

“It was a hell of a game if you didn’t have a vested interest in either side, I would imagine,” said Warriors head coach Dave Rennie afterwards. “We’re not happy with the way we defended at times – system-wise we were fine but we fell off some soft ones as individuals. We were keen to slow it down at the end of the game, the clock was going to be our friend, and we just needed to get our hands on the pill – but we didn’t do that.

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“You’ve got to give credit to Cardiff, they played with a lot of width,” he added. “But we knew what was coming and still tackled poorly, so they played great footie and and almost stole it.”

This was the fourth meeting in as many months between these two sides, and on each of the three previous occasions Warriors have blasted out of the blocks to set up fairly comfortable victories. This encounter followed a rather different pattern, and it made for a far more captivating spectacle – although Warriors coach Dave Rennie did not welcome the crank up in drama.

One of the major sub-plots to this encounter was how tight-head prop Zander Fegrson would fare in his comeback match after five months out recovering from a broken ankle suffered back in September – with  view to whether the 22-year-old might be able to help fill the huge gap left in Scotland’s scrum capability left by the calf tear which WP Nel picked up against Italy a fortnight ago.

While it was another player on the comeback trail in hooker George Turner who really made an imprint on the match, Fagerson did manage to get through 50-minutes of unforgiving rugby before making way for Siua Halanukonuka for the final half hour.

“I though George was phenomenal, he’s a massive ball-carrier, an explosive athlete, a punishing defender and his line-out play was excellentl,” said head coach Dave Rennie. “Zander got a good 50 minutes in him as well, so they were important coming back today.”

Turner is unlikely to head his way ahead of either Stuart McInally or Fraser Brown in the Scotland pecking order for next week’s Six Nations clash against France, but Fagerson has a very good chance.

The Blues raced into an early lead when Jarrod Evans rollded his team into gear with an excellent outside break before Harri Millard sent an excellent chip over the top which Aled Summerhill latched onto for the try.

Pete Horne narrowed the gap with a penalty, and Warriors then snatched the lead when Ruaridh Jackson gobbled up a loose cross-field kick from Evans and sent Nick Grigg over unchallenged. The visitors struck again two minutes later when Horne burst onto Ali Price’s flat pass off first phase scrum ball near halfway, then found Grigg in support, who sent Price over to finish the move he started.

Debutant Kyle Steyn will have been disappointed that he couldn’t hold onto what would have been a scoring pass after a quick line-out from Ruairidh Jackson had instigated a Warriors attack from deep, but the South African winger made partial amends when he managed to ride a tackle for Ray Lee-Lo on the right towards the end of another Warriors sweeping attack, and when he was stopped just short he had the presence of mind and technical proficiency to pop off the deck for Horne to score.

Warriors now seemed to be in complete control, but Blues had other ideas, and they hauled themselves right back into the contest just before the break when full-back Matthew Morgan took full advantage of a mis-match in the middle of the park against Rob Harley to cut the away team wide open before sending Summerhill over on the right.

Then, almost straight from the restart, Blues scored again when some more slick handling reached Owen Lane on the right touch-line, and he showed plenty power and pace to charge home from 30-odd yards. Williams missed the conversion but nailed a penalty ten minutes later, and all of sudden it was a two-point game.

Now it was Warriors turn to reclaim the initiative, and they did so in emphatic style as the game entered the final ten minutes, with replacement scrum-half Nick Frisby dummying then diving over from close range after a punishing line-out drive, and straight from the restart Turner – playing his first game since injuring his ankle – topped an excellent personal performance with a ferocious rejoinder from the restart, squeezing through a gap on his own 22 and running right over the top of Morgan on halfway, before releasing Tevita Tamielau who thundered home from 30-metres..

Still Blues wouldn’t lie down and secured a bonus point when an Evans grubber sent Summerhill in for his hat-trick. Even that wasn’t enough. Straight from the restart, the home team surged back upfield, initially through Evans who then  kicked ahead; Horne cleared but Morgan took a quick throw-in and streaked past three Warriors defenders on a 40-yard counter, before replacement prop Rhys Carré took up the running and charged for the line; then Evans sent another cross-kick to Summerhill who linked with Lee-Lo before sending replacement Garyn Smith in for a sensational try, and Evans nailed the touch-line conversion which got his team back to within four points for the home team.

With two minutes and 10 seconds left in the match, it was anyone’s game, and Carré launched another attack from deep, but somehow Warriors held on for the win.

Teams –

Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; K Steyn (R Nairn 73), N Grigg, S McDowall (A Hastings 64), R Hughes; P Horne, A Price (N Frisby 64); A Allan (J Bhatti 56), G Turner (K Bryce 71), Z Fagerson (S Halanukonuka 50), T Swinson (T Tamielau 69), S Cummings, R Harley, T Gordon (K McDonald 75), A Ashe.

Cardiff Blues: M Morgan; O Lane, H Millard (G Smith 71), R Lee-Lo, A Summerhill; J Evans, L Williams; R Gill (R Carré 46), K Dacey (L Belcher 46), D Arhip (S Andrews 54), S Davies, R Thornton (M Cook 61), J Turnbull (S Lewis-Hughes 39), Olly Robinson, Nick Williams.

Referee: George Clancy


Scorers –

Not a complete performance, but Dave Rennie’s men demonstrate that they still have the ability to do real damage wth ball in handTries Summerhill 3, Lane, Smith; Cons:  Evans 3; Pen: Evans.

Glasgow Warriors: Tries; Grigg, Price, Horne, Frisby, Tamielau; Cons: Horne 5; Pen: Horne.

Scoring sequence (Cardiff Blues first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3; 7-8; 7-10; 7-15; 7-17; 7-22; 7-24; 12-24; 14-24 (h-t) 19-24; 22-24; 22-29; 22-31; 22-36; 22-38; 27-38; 29-38; 34-38.

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About David Barnes 4026 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.