Glasgow Warriors v Lyon: Niko Matawalu double yields win but no bonus

Rennie's men get off to a flying start but come up against stout French resistance

Niko Matawalu dives over the line
Niko Matawalu dives over the line for his second try for Glasgow Warriors against Lyon. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson.

Glasgow Warriors 21

Lyon 10


ON the dreichest of days, Glasgow Warriors got off to the brightest of starts with a first-minute try against Lyon, but while they deserved to win in the end, they failed to gain a potentially vital bonus point. Niko Matawalu got that early score and claimed another midway through the first half, but with the freezing rain worsening after the break, chances to play expansive rugby were few and far between.

Lyon, already all but eliminated from the competition before kick-off after losing their first three games, played with a lot more spirit than they showed in the first game between the teams a week earlier. Dave Rennie’s team are now on 14 points to Saracens’ 18 at the top of Champions Cup pool three after the English club beat Cardiff Blues 26-14, and only need one point from their remaining two games against those clubs to ensure they will be runners up at least in the group. A bonus-point win against the Blues may be enough to take them through as one of the three best second-placed sides, but even making allowances for the poor conditions, failure to pick up five points here has to go down as an opportunity missed.

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“They were tough conditions, but we need to be better next week,” Rennie said, referring to the first 1872 Cup match against Edinburgh, at Murrayfield on Saturday. “Sitting in the coaches’ box in the dry we were scratching our heads over some of the errors, but it was difficult. But we’re happy: we’ve got ourselves in a good spot in Europe, our destiny is in our own hands and we’re looking forward to Cardiff.

“We needed to control the game in the last part of the first half. We just needed to keep playing territory, put pressure on them and try and force some errors, but we made a couple of errors ourselves down our end and then we played without the ball for the last quarter of an hour of the first half.

“But look, it was tough conditions, and both sides made a lot of errors. We were just trying to get the ball down the right end of the field and register some points from that. We got a penalty from that, but we probably should have scored when we were going round the edge. Maybe going wide in these conditions wasn’t the best idea.”

 It was certainly a profitable idea at first, as, with the wind at their backs, Glasgow wasted no time in taking control, and grabbed the opening score after just 44 seconds. A break by Adam Hastings made good ground thanks in part to some half-hearted tackling, then Ali Price recycled to Stuart Hogg. The full-back put a grubber behind the onrushing defence, and Niko Matawalu was fastest to react, seizing the ball then touching down.

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Hastings was off target with the conversion attempt as the wind sent his kick to the left of the posts, but he was more successful with subsequent efforts. He made it 8-0 after 13 minutes when Lyon were penalised for collapsing the scrum, and added another three points five minutes later as the visitors’ defence again resorted to illegality.

The trio who had combined to create the first try got together again just past the midway point of the half to stretch the Warriors’ lead, after a lineout drive had established good position. An inside pass from Hastings to Hogg made the space, and the 15 then passed to Matawalu, who sped over the line and round behind the posts to allow Hastings a simple conversion.

French side grows into the match

The scrum was the one aspect of play in which the Warriors had struggled, and in the closing minutes of the half Lyon gradually piled on the pressure. Twice in quick succession their forwards drove over the line, but they were held up the first time and knocked on the second.

Glasgow were further stretched, however, when Callum Gibbins was shown the yellow card after 35 minutes for delivering an open palm to the face of replacement scrum-half Quentin Delord, who had come off the bench after Charl McLeod failed a head-injury assessment. Lyon seemed sure to score off the back of a scrum minutes later, but they pushed early and the Warriors got a free-kick. They soon pressed again, though, and after a lengthy hold-up for injuries to Hamza Kaabèche and George Turner they got off the mark at last with the last kick of the half, a Jean-Marc Doussain penalty.

The Frenchmen continued to dominate the game in the early stages of the second half, including once Gibbins returned to restore Glasgow to 15 men. With the conditions worsening, they eventually got the score their play deserved after 52 minutes. Xavier Mignon kicked ahead then regathered after the ball came back off Stuart Hogg, and Pierre-Louis Barassi was up in support to gather and dot down in the right corner.

Doussain’s conversion made it an eight-point game, and from being well in control Glasgow had a real struggle on their hands. They began to get the better of the arm wrestle around the start of the final quarter, and although the Lyon defence continued to show a solidity it had so glaringly lacked very early on, a Hastings penalty with a dozen minutes to go extended their lead back into double figures.

That score edged Rennie’s team closer to victory, but with time running out they were still those two tries short of the bonus. They received a boost 10 minutes from time when Etienne Ousthuizen was red-carded for elbowing Hastings in the face, but both sides had all but expended their energy, and there was no further score.

With attention now turning to the two derby games between now and the New Year, Rennie’s main worry about his squad will be at hooker if Turner fails to recover from his ankle injury in time to take part against Edinburgh. With Fraser Brown already out for eight to 10 weeks after suffering a knee injury in the first match against Lyon, Grant Stewart, a replacement here for Turner, will be next in line.

“They come in groups, don’t they?,” Rennie added. “We lost Fraser last week and then George this week, but hopefully it’s not too bad. Grant Stewart played today and he’s played a lot of footie for us in the past. Kevin Bryce has obviously played a bit of prop and a bit of hooker, so I’m reasonably comfortable with that.”

Teams –

Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour, H Jones, S McDowall, N Matawalu; A Hastings, A Price;  O Kebble, G Turner, S Halanukonuka, T Swinson, J Gray, R Wilson, C Gibbins, M Fagerson. Substitutes: G Stewart, J Bhatti, P du Plessis, R Harley, C Fusaro, N Frisby, P Horne, R Nairn.

Lyon: J Buttin; X Mignot, P Barassi, T Regard, A Palisson; J Doussain, C McLeod; R Chaume, V Lacombe, H Kaabèche, E Oosthuizen, H Roodt, L Goujon, P Sobela, D Fourie. Substitutes: J Maurouard, A Buckle, K Yaméogo, F van der Merwe, C Fearns, R Wulf, A Seguret, Q Delord.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)


Scorers –

Glasgow: Tries: Matawalu 2. Con: Hastings. Pens: Hastings 3.

Lyon: Try: Barassi. Con: Doussain. Pen: Doussain.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors first): 5-0; 8-0; 11-0;’ 16-0; 18-0; 18-3 (h-t) 18-8; 18-10; 21-10.


Yellow card –

Glasgow Warriors: Gibbins 


Red card –

Lyon: Oosthuizen 

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About Stuart Bathgate 1407 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.