La Rochelle 24
Glasgow Warriors 27
GLASGOW’s best performance of the season saw them revive their Champions Cup play-off hopes with a narrow but richly deserved victory at the Stade Marcel Deflandre. Down 18-6 just before half-time, they ended up winning the try count 3-2, and just as importantly they performed magnificently in defence.
The result takes the Warriors to eight points in Pool Two, two behind leaders Exeter, who meet Sale on Sunday. The Chiefs remain favourites to top the group, but they still have to visit Scotstoun. First up, though, is the rematch with La Rochelle, who are all but out of the running now, having lost their first three games.
If Glasgow can play with the determination and organisation they showed here, they will surely complete the double over the French team. And if they do that, what has been at best an undistinguished season so far will take on a decidedly brighter look.
“We showed a lot of character to come back into this game,” Warriors coach Dave Rennie said. “I felt in the first half we needed to earn the right to go wide and we were in too much of a hurry to spread the ball. What we found in the second half when we were more direct and went multiphase, we put them under a lot more pressure which is something to think about for next week.
“We lacked a little bit of discipline late in the game. We had the dominant scrums until their loosehead was allowed to stand up and walk about and all of a sudden, we’re getting penalised.
“Regardless of that, a massive amount of character from the boys. It was an arm wrestle and we’re happy to get the result. It’s important to get four points away from home and next week is massive again.”
Adam Hastings gave the visitors the lead with a second-minute penalty, but La Rochelle responded rapidly, with Vincent Rattez breaking a tackle from Fraser Brown and evading George Horne and Niko Matawalu before offloading for Dany Pliso to touch down. New signing Jules Plisson added the conversion.
Around the mid-point of the first half, the stand-off was also on target with two penalties to give his team a ten-point advantage. Glasgow had competed well enough in the set piece up to that point but were by some way second best in the loose. After half an hour, though, they got a slightly stronger foothold in the game when Hastings scored another penalty, and another boost to their morale followed when a Brown turn-over ended a La Rochelle attack deep inside his own 22.
However, that good work was undone in the closing minutes of the half when they gifted La Rochelle their second try. Scott Cummings won a defensive lineout deep inside the Warriors 22, but the ball was missed by Horne then fumbled by DTH van der Merwe, and Zeno Kieft seized on it to touch down.
Plisson missed his kick for the first time in the afternoon to leave the score at 18-6, which would have been a healthy lead for the Top 14 team to take into the second half, but Glasgow hit back in style bang on half-time when they chose to send a penalty to touch instead of going for goal. Cummings won the lineout well and fed the ball to captain Callum Gibbins, who was driven over by the maul, with Hastings’ conversion narrowing the deficit to a metre five points.
Plisson increased it to eight with a penalty early in the second half, but opted to kick for touch on the next two occasions he had a kickable award, and each time the Warriors defence was up to the task of keeping the lineout maul at bay. Better still, the second attack was ended spectacularly when Matawalu intercepted a wide pass and sprinted 80 metres to touch down in the right-hand corner, with Hastings’ conversion putting his team just a point behind.
A fourth successful Plisson penalty continued the ebb-and-flow pattern of the match, then Warriors substitute Aki Seiuli was held up short of the line after a rampaging break by Cummings. The visitors won two penalties then a free-kick from the ensuing series of three scrums, but at the fourth time of asking La Rochelle turned over after Matt Fagerson had driven from the base. They stopped Nick Grigg, too, in the next Glasgow attack, with the home crowd responding raucously as if their team had scored.
But before the Warriors had time to be dispirited by their failure to score from that lengthy period of pressure, they regained the lead with another breakaway score. Advantage was being played as a counter-attack began, and Hastings punted to the far left, where Kyle Steyn was lurking. The substitute outstripped the cover defence to touch down, and the stand-off added the two points to put his team 27-24 up.
With quarter of an hour still to play, there seemed sure to be two or three further twists to come. Tommy Seymour was just beaten in a race to touch down in goal after Steyn chipped through, and a score at that point might just have been enough to seal the win.
La Rochelle went back on the attack after that let-off, and seemed to be on the verge of scoring when Rattez was hauled down by Ali Price. They recycled, and with two minutes to go Matt Fagerson was penalised for a high tackle. The kick went to the corner, but a magnificent defensive effort by Glasgow held the drive up to win a scrum.
It was the last play, but they conceded a penalty. The French side scrummed again then drove, but a knock-on metres from the line ended their hopes and what had been an exhausting encounter.
La Rochelle: K Murimurivalu; V Rattez, J Sinzelle, P Aguillon, Pierre Boudehent; J Plisson, A Bales; D Priso, J Orioli, R Herrera, T Jolmes, M Tanguy, Z Kieft, K Gourdon, V Vito (captain). Subs: B Lebrun, R Wardi, S Puafisi, T Lavault, Paul Boudehent, T Kerr Barlow, B James, B Plessis-Couillaud.
Glasgow Warriors: T Seymour; N Matawalu, N Grigg, S Johnson, D van der Merwe; A Hastings, G Horne; A Allan, F Brown, Z Fagerson, J Gray, S Cummings, C Gibbins (captain), R Wilson, M Fagerson. Subs: G Turner, A Seiuli, A Nicol, R Harley, T Gordon, A Price, P Horne, K Steyn.
Referee: L Pearce (England).
La Rochelle: Tries: Priso, Kieft. Con: Plisson. Pens: Plisson 4.
Glasgow: Tries: Gibbins, Matawalu, Steyn. Cons: Hastings 3. Pens: Hastings 2.
Scoring sequence (La Rochelle first): 0-3, 5-3, 7-3, 10-3, 13-3, 13-6, 18-6, 18-11, 18-13 half-time, 21-13, 21-18, 21-20, 24-20, 24-25, 24-27.