Late try deprives Glasgow Warriors of bonus point in Champions Cup opener

Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Exeter Chiefs 24

Glasgow Warriors 15

A LATE try from home number eight Sam Simmonds meant that Glasgow Warriors did not even get a bonus point from a match in which they were serious contenders for the full 80-minutes despite being starved of possession for long periods.

The visitors defended heroically – and often pushed their luck in terms of competing on the deck – but were not quite at their razor-sharp best with ball in hand on a greasy night, and they were sloppy at key moments. Ultimately, the Warriors can have no major complaints about the result.

“They managed to choke us down our end of the field. All three tries came from pick-and-go and conceding pressure. There was too many errors from us down that end of the field. We had opportunities to play a little bit more territory and probably didn’t kick enough,” said Warriors head coach Dave Rennie afterwards.

“We had a couple of chances to get our noses in front late in that second half but you’ve got to give them credit – they certainly defend well and they punish you when they get the ball close to the line.”

“It’s a tough pool and you’ve got to grab points so it is disappointing [not to pick up a bonus point]. But at the end of the day, our fate is still in our own hands – we’re just going to have to win the rest of them,” he continued, before stressing that Leinster at home next week is now an absolutely must-win match.

“You can’t go down two. Leinster picked up five points today as well. We’ll regroup, we’ve got a pretty positive mindset, and we know that we got shaded tonight but we’re ready to front up next week.”

This game got off to an inauspicious start for Finn Russell and his team when the stand-off sent the kick-off out on the full, and then had a chip ahead charged down. Fortunately, he is not the type of character to let that sort of thing ruffle him, and he showed his irrepressibility to slot a scrum penalty after just three minutes, and then go one better by angling an excellent cross-field kick for Tommy Seymour to out-jump Phil Dollman and claim the game’s first try on the eighth minute.

Russell nailed the conversion from the touchline for good measure, but Tim Swinson failed to gather the restart and the Chiefs were awarded the scrum.

Warriors had looked dominant during the first few set-pieces, but had lost hooker Fraser Brown to a knee injury just after the try, and they struggled in this area thereafter. Replacement George Turner put in a mighty performance all over the park, but lacks Brown’s bulk.

A penalty conceded when the two packs next came together gave the Chiefs an opportunity to kick to the corner and we then saw wave upon wave of forward drives from the hosts until tight-head prop Harry Williams eventually muscled over.

Another solid Chiefs scrum allowed scrum-half Nic White to break from the base, and centre Ian Whitten carried the move on to within a few feet of the line, before Olly Woodburn knocked-on as he dived for the line.

It was a temporary reprieve for the Warriors, because another line-out drive earned the hosts their second try just before the half hour mark, with second-row Jonny Hill burrowing over.

A high tackle by Ruaridh Jackson allowed Gareth Steenson to extend the home team’s lead to 17-10 at the start of the second half, before the Warriors showed just how dangerous they can be if given half a chance They caught the Chiefs napping with a ferocious counter-ruck to snaffle possession, and when White made a dog’s dinner of dealing with Russell’s kick ahead, Lee Jones was on hand to pounce for the score.

Russell missed the conversion which meant his team were still two points adrift, but it was a pretty promising position to be in given how little possession they had been working with. Warriors certainly had more of the ball during the third quarter but struggled to get outside Exeter’s rush defence, so they had to be patient and try to thread the ball through the middle instead.

They did create a couple of half chances as the game moved into the final quarter, but the final pass didn’t quite stick. The Chiefs coped with that mini-rebellion and then, after Steenson hit the post from another scrum penalty, Simmonds delivered the killer blow.

“Against a team like Glasgow, who want to play rugby, and in conditions like this, it was night for tucking the ball up the jumper so we are happy with the four post we got today. I don;t think we’re too disappointed about not getting the bonus point,” said the try scorer afterwards.

Teams –

Exeter Chiefs: P Dollman; L Turner (J Short 62), H Slade, I Whitten, O Woodburn; G Steenson, N White; B Moon (C Rimmer 62), J Yeandle, H Williams (T Francis 51), M Lees, J Hill (O Atkins 57), D Armand, J Salvi (T Waldrom 62), S Simmonds.

Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; T Seymour, N Grigg (S Johnson 57), P Horne, L Jones (N Matawalu 73); F Russell, A Price (H Pyrgos 63); J Bhatti (A Allan 73), F Brown (G Turner 7), Z Fagerson (D Rae 63), T Swinson, J Gray (S Cummings 58), R Wilson (R Harley 58), C Gibbins, A Ashe.

Scorers –

Chiefs: Try: Williams, Hill, Simmonds; Con: Steenson 3; Pen: Steenson.

Warriors: Try: Seymour, Jones; Con: Russell; Pen: Russell;

Scoring sequence (Chiefs first): 0-3; 0-8; 0-10; 5-10; 7-10; 12-10; 14-10 (h-t) 17-10; 17-15; 22-15; 24-15.

Referee: A Ruiz (France)

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