Glasgow Warriors 21
THE scoreline doesn’t do the visitors – as a collective – justice. They showed great spirit and some flashes of excellent rugby to make a real contest of this match for most of the second-half, but an awful start, plus two yellow-cards and one red-card over the course of the 80 minutes, left them with too much to do, and they ran out of steam during the final 10 minutes when they were down to 13 men.
Any team going to the RDS has to do an awful lot right and not very much wrong in order to come away with a positive result. Warriors managed the first part of that equation, but fell well short in the second part, which left them nursing the wounds of another heavy defeat.
It was another frustrating night for Warriors head coach Danny Wilson, and a troubling one for his national team counterpart Gregor Townsend, who will now have to wait and see what sort of suspension Adam Hastings receives after his 37th minute sending-off for dangerous play. The stand-off was playing only his second game back after nearly four months out with a shoulder injury, and was expected to make his return to the national squad for the three remaining games in this year’s Six Nations, but that is all up in the air now.
Richie Gray is also a concern. The big second-row picked up a head knock midway through the second half, having already missed a large chunk of the start of the season with concussion. “Hopefully it is just a minor one but we know he’s had a couple of bangs on the head so we’ll have to wait and see,” said Wilson afterwards.
It started badly for Glasgow when Ollie Smith slipped as he cleared the kick-off to gift Leinster the field position from which Harry Byrne jinked over for the opening try with two minutes and 11 seconds on the clock, and the home stand-off then added the conversion for good measure.
Warriors then lost possession at the next line-out and with nine minutes played they found themselves 14-0 down and reduced to 14 men for the next 10 minutes when debutant Cole Forbes tackled Cian Kelleher in the air as he gathered a well-judged cross-field kick from Byrne on the try-line.
Glasgow rallied to pull seven points back when a strong line-out drive rolled the backline into gear, setting things up nicely for Huw Jones – back at outside centre – to hit a brilliant angle with pace and power, before offloading from the deck for Thomas Gordon to scramble over.Hastings added the conversion and we had cause to believe that this might be a genuine contest.
But Glasgow were coughing up penalties at an alarming rate and allowed Leinster back onto the front foot, with some half-hearted defending around the fringes being punished when Scott Penny powered over for try number three for the hosts. Byrne’s conversion took Leinster’s to 21 points with the same number of minutes played.
A well worked back move almost sent Rufus McLean in for Glasgow, but he was scragged just short, and Sam Johnson lost possession after a quick recycle. It was one of several times the initiative was too easily surrendered by the visitors in the strike-zone, with the out of shape Leone Nakarawa a habitual offender.
Then came a major blow for Glasgow when Hastings misjudged a high ball, and his right boot flew up kung-fu style to catch Kelleher in the face, prompting a red-card for dangerous play from referee Frank Murphy.
“By the letter of the law it’s a red card, I suppose, but there’s certainly no intent or anything like that,” said Wilson. “I suppose we’ll have to wait and see what they say about the red and how they deem that in terms of weeks and sanctions.”
Penny quickly compounded Glasgow’s misery by taking a quick tap from a scrum penalty and blasting his way over the line to claim his second try of the match and his ninth of the season. That brought up the bonus point, and replacement stand-off David Hawkshaw – on for the concussed Byrne – added the conversion as the final act of the first half.
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The second half started in a much more positive manner than the first had for Warriors when Grant Stewart ducked and weaved through a couple of tackles and then offloaded well to send McLean streaking up the right touchline for a fine try. It was the 20-year-old’s first score in his third appearance at this level, and fellow youngster Ross Thompson’s touchline conversion was the icing on the cake.
There was a real buzz about Glasgow now, and they laid siege on Leinster’s line with a long sequence of tight drives, winning two penalties for no-arms tackles, before finally getting their reward when Jones – who was excellent all night – carried two men with him over the line.
Game on – but we all knew Leinster would come back at Glasgow, which they duly did, aided by a soft penalty from Forbes for coming round the side of a ruck. However, Warriors dug deep to repel that onslaught, then went down the other end and will be annoyed that a loose line-out let Leinster off the hook on the Irishmen’s five-metre line.
Time was running out but Warriors were only seven points behind and very much in the contest, before a moment of madness delivered a grievous self-inflicted blow to the away team’s chances.
TJ Ioane picked up a yellow-card for leading with the shoulder into a Leinster player’s back at a ruck, and in the current climate he can count himself exceptionally lucky that it wasn’t red. Regardless, with only 10 minutes to play, it meant Warriors would have to see out the match with 13 men. It also reversed a penalty advantage for Warriors to hand all the momentum back to their opponents. In terms of stupidity on a rugby pitch, this will take some beating.
“The replay we had didn’t show too much but I saw afterwards that he’s cocked his arm and charged into something carelessly and cost us a yellow card,” said Wilson afterwards. “It’s not good enough but these are the harsh lessons that we are going to have to learn.”
Leinster made their two-man advantage count 30 seconds later when Dave Kearney sent Luke McGrath over to kill off whatever vague dream Warriors might still have been harbouring of squaring the contest.
Then, with four minutes to go, Kelleher brought the home tally to 40 , giving the scoreboard a lopsided look which most of the Warriors players really didn’t deserve.
“If I’m honest I was really frustrated with our defence in the first half – I thought defensively we were as bad as we’ve been,” said Wilson. “Lack of intent, lack of collision, lack of discipline. We just kind of soaked up and handed them three tries, and all of a sudden you’re looking down the barrel.
“That said, I was really proud of the return from that, because you could collapse from that – you could concede a load of points straight after half-time and the game’s done – but we didn’t do that, and I thought with 14 men we showed a lot of fight and spirit.
“We won the period after half-time then late in the game the yellow card killed us, because you’re already tired with 14 men, then you’ve got 13 men against Leinster away from home.”
Glasgow Warriors: O Smith (R Thompson 40); R McLean, H Jones, S Johnson (R Fergusson 75), C Forbes; A Hastings, J Dobie (S Kennedy 64); O Kebble (A Seiuli 60), G Stewart (J Matthews 66), E Pieretto (D Rae 54), R Gray (T Ioane 66), L Nakarawa (G Brown 40), R Harley, T Gordon, R Wilson.
Leinster: J O’Brien, C Kelleher (M O’Reilly 37-40), J Osborne, R O’Loughlin, D Kearney, H Byrne (D Hawkshaw 35), L McGrath (R Osborne 75); P Dooley (M Hanan 75), S Cronin (D Sheehan 60), M Bent (T Clarkson 48), D Toner, S Fardy, J Murphy (A Soroka 58), J van der Flier, S Penny (J Dunne 75).
Referee: F Murphy (Ireland).
Leinster: Tries: Byrne, Penalty Try, Penny 2, McGrath, Kelleher; Con: Byrne 2, Hawkshaw 2.
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Gordon, McLean, Jones; Con: Hastings, Thompson 2.
Scoring sequence (Leinster first): 5-0; 7-0; 14-0; 14-5; 14-7; 19-7; 21-7; 26-7; 28-7 (h-t) 28-12; 28-14; 28-19; 28-21; 33-21; 35-21; 40-21
Yellow cards –
Glasgow Warriors: Forbes (9 mins), Ioane (71 mins).
Red card –
Glasgow Warriors: Hastings (37 mins)