ADAM ASHE put in a monstrous shift for Glasgow Warriors as they got their competitive season off to a winning start against Connacht in wet and windy Galway. The conditions prevented either side fully realising their attacking ambition, although they both gave it a good shot. But what this contest lacked in artistic merit was compensated for in rugged determination.
Ashe had 19 carries, which was more than any other player in the game, gaining a grand total of 31 yards – which gives an indication of just how claustrophobic the action was. He was also the top tackler with 21.
Connacht dominated possession and territory, especially in the first half when the wind was at their backs; but the Warriors were more clinical and two well-taken second half tries proved decisive.
An indication of just how big a factor the wind was arrived in the ninth minute, when it caught hold of Pete Horne’s penalty attempt from almost directly in front of the posts and blew the ball back into the field of play. Happily for the Warriors, they earned a penalty at a subsequent scrum, and on this occasion Horne was able to drill his shot at goal home.
Warriors struggled to keep the ball under control during the opening 40 minutes, conceding several turnovers, but a heroic defensive effort restricted Connacht to just nine points from the boot of Dan Carty, and put them in an excellent position to kick on with the wind at their backs after the break.
It took seven minutes of the second half for the Warriors to eclipse Connacht’s lead, with Horne firing home a penalty to reduce the deficit to just three points. It got even better a few minutes later when the visiting inside backs defied the deteriorating conditions to work a slick move off the back of a midfield scrum which was beautiful in it’s simplicity. Ali Price fed Adam Hastings, who ran at the channel between Connacht’s stand-off and inside centre, before excellently timing a short pass to Peter Horne cutting back against the grain at full pace. That pierced the defence, and all that was left to do was execute a two-on-one with Price for a fine score, which was not as easy as it sounds on such a miserable night, but was executed impeccably.
Carty reduced the gap to a single point with a well struck penalty into the wind with 20 minutes to go, but Warriors kept their composure continued to create opportunities with intricate link plays in the right areas of the park.
It helped that Connacht’s back three struggled to cope with Warriors’ tactical kicking, committing a handful of fumbles which presented the visitors with possession deep inside Irish territory.
With just under 10 minutes to go, Price spotted replacement wing Leonardo Sarti unmarked on the left touchline, he had the wit and ability to send over a perfect cross-field kick, which the Italian winger collected on the bounce, stepped inside Darragh Leader and outside Cian Kelleher before popping off the deck to send Lee Jones home.
Connacht came back hard during the final five minutes in a desperate attempt to salvage the game, but Glasgow stood strong, meaning that both Scots professional sides secured wins on the road this weekend – to get this season’s league campaign off to the most encouraging of starts..
Connacht: D Leader; C Kelleher (T Farrell 49), E Griffin, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty (T Ronaldson 70), K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, F Bealham, U Dillane, J Cannon, E Masterson (S O’Brien 49), J Butler, J Muldoon.
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; L Masaga, A Dunbar, S Johnson (A Hastings7, L Sarto 58), L Jones; P Horne, A Price (H Pyrgos 72); J Bhatti (O Kebble 37-40, 45), G Turner (J Malcolm 72), Z Fagerson, T Swinson (G Peterson 72), S Cummings, R Wilson, M Smith (M Fagerson 60), A Ashe.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse
Connacht: Pens: Carty 4
Warriors: Try: Price, Jones; Con: Price; Pen: Horne 2
Scoring sequence (Connacht first): 3-0; 3-3; 6-3; 9-3 (h-t) 9-6; 9-11; 9-13; 12-13; 12-18
Talking point: There is a raft full of internationalists still being rested or out injured – who fancies picking the strongest Warriors team when they are all fit?
Man of the match: This was a day for players who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get the dirty work done – and Adam Ashe was the ultimate Warrior.