PRO 12: GLASGOW WARRIORS 12-6 LEINSTER

BY the end of this match, the Warriors had Grayson Hart (the starting scrum-half) filling in on the wing and Fraser Brown (who had played the first 61 minutes at hooker) deployed at open-side flanker.

On top of that, Rory Clegg at stand-off was playing his first game in over six weeks. He had only re-joined the club after a disappointing sojourn in France on Wednesday evening and had managed the grand total of one full training session with the team before taking on the role of chief playmaker in the absence of Duncan Weir and Peter Horne on international duty, and Finn Russell and Gregor Hunter who are concussed. It is little wonder that his hamstrings had tightened up to the point where Glenn Bryce needed to take over kicking duties during the last quarter.

Winger Rory Hughes was lost to concussion after only eleven minutes, while caqptain Peter Murchie succumbed to the same problem at half-time. Nick Grigg, a 5ft 9inch and 89kig centre who was making his debut at professional level, had replaced Sam Johnson in only the 33rd minute.

With twenty minutes to go, head coach Gregor Townsend had already cleared his bench –with every switch being forced upon him by injury.

Despite all this, the home team never really looked like being in danger during that final 20 minutes of surrendering the 12-6 lead they had built up through four Clegg penalties (against two from veteran Leinster winger Isa Nacewa) earlier in the match.

The significance of this result will only become clear when we find out if the Warriors have managed to make it into the end of the season, but as a performance which showcases the guts and sense of community within the club, it is hard to argue against the suggestion that this was right up there amongst the best ever.

“No matter what happens between now and the end of the season, this is the biggest win we will have in the campaign,” agreed Townsend. “We had some good play to get ahead, and then the backs to the wall character we showed to repel Leinster was a real credit to the club.”

“Leone Nakarawa was captain in the second half and he really put his body on the line for us, which was really great to see. He takes his job very seriously and you can see what this club means to him. Teams are now defending him on his own – it’s one-on-one marking – and with having to deal with the captaincy, the line-out calling, and getting a crucial turnover at the end, I think that was one of his best ever performances.”

All of which means, the quest for an end-of-season play-off place continues after a match which will not go down in the annals of history as a classic, but was nowhere near as mundane as the bold statistics of six penalty goals and no tries suggests.

The Warriors have now climbed to sixth in the table but are equal on points with Munster, who lost away to Cardiff, and they have a game in hand over the Irishmen. Ulster, who occupy that elusive fourth spot are four points ahead, but the Warriors have a game in hand there, too.

Glasgow’s destiny is in their own hands, and with their sizable international contingent returning from Six Nations duty next week, their home clash against Ulster in six days’ time has the potential to be colossal.

“There are six games left and they are all tough. We have four away games and two home games, and we are going to have to play better than we played tonight to win all of those – but I have never been prouder of this group of players,” said Townsend.

“We knew these two games [against Leinster this week and Ulster next week] were going to be massive, even before the injuries and the disruption with players being called up to Scotland. At least we’ll have a much bigger squad to pick from next week,” he added.

It was 6-6 at the break, but there had actually been a fair bit of ambition and invention on display, with both sides managing to sniff out several half breaks. Unfortunately, with one notable exception, nobody was able to really burst clear, and both sides were happy to surrender a penalty rather than allow a quick recycle.

Three of the four penalties kicked during the first half were awarded for ruck offences. The other one was the result of referee George Clancy being only person in the stadium to spot an off the ball hit by a Warriors player on Leinster stand-off Cathal Marsh.

The one time during the first half when the pot looked like going from simmering to boiling over was in the 26th minute, when Garry Ringrose found himself in space on the left touchline, raced past Lee Jones with a perfect chip and catch, before feeding the ball back inside at just the right time. Play quickly swept back across the field, and after Hayden Triggs had made his considerable weight count with a powerful surge in the middle, a three man overlap appeared on the right. All Marsh had to do was pick out one of the waiting crowd, but his pass landed about two feet behind Nacewa and bounced harmlessly into touch.

That passage seemed to boost Leinster and they finished the half as the dominant side, and they should have taken a lead into the break when another scrappy ruck ended with Nacewa being handed an opportunity to claim three more points, but he uncharacteristically pushed his shot at goal to the right of the posts.

The pendulum swung back towards Glasgow after the break, and after nine minutes camped deep inside Leinster territory, the home team got their reward when Clegg clipped over three more points after yet another ruck in which there was too many bodies rolling about on the ground.

A slick set move off the back of a scrum almost sent Lee Jones on a clear run to the line, but a desperate last-gasp tackle from Ringrose saved the day for Leinster, and the Warriors had to settle instead for a fourth Clegg penalty a few moments later, when the visitors were called out for pulling down a line-out.

There was now clear daylight between the two sides, but Leinster were not going to slope off into the night without a fight. The Scotstoun crowd did not like it when referee George Clancy penalised Girgg for a high tackle on Isaac Boss, but it was absolutely the right decision, and the kick into the corner meant that there was few a tense minutes for the home team spent defending under the shadow of their own posts.

The Warriors support were singing a very different tune when the Irish whistler then awarded two more ruck penalties in their team’s favour, meaning that the pressure release valve could be activated and the final few minutes could be played out in the relative safety of the area ten yeards of either side of the halfway line.

Scorers:

Glasgow –

Pens: Clegg 3 (13,18, 50, 58)

Leinster –

Pens: Nacewa 2 (3, 30)

Glasgow: P Murchie (captain; rep: A Price, 40) , L Jones, M Bennett, S Johnson(rep: N Grigg, 33), R Hughes (rep: G Bryce, 11); R Clegg, G Hart; G Reid (rep: G Yanuyanutawa, 62), F Brown, S Puafisi (rep: Z Fagerson, 55), G Peterson (rep: S Cummings, 55), L Nakarawa, J Eddie (rep: T Holmes, 46), S Favaro (rep: J Malcolm, 61), A Ashe.

Leinster: Z Kirchner, I Nacewa (captain), G Ringrose (rep: J Carbery, 77), B Te’o, D Kearney; C Marsh (rep: N Reid, 77), L McGrath (rep: I Boss, 73); P Dooley (rep: J Loughman, 73) , J Tracy, T Furlong (rep: M Bent, 73), M Kearney (rep:P Timmins, 65), H Triggs (rep: R Molony, 54), D Ryan, D Leavy, J Murphy.

Referee: G Clancy (Ireland)

About David Barnes 2967 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.