PRO14: Glasgow Warriors blow Blues away before taking foot off gas

Matawalu scores twice in man-of-the-match performance

Niko Matawalu
Niko Matawalu on his way to scoring a try for Glasgow. Image: © Craig Watson -

Glasgow Warriors 40

Cardiff Blues 15

DAVID BARNES @ Scotstoun Stadium

A RIP-ROARING first half performance secured the four-try bonus point before the break and set up a comfortable win which extends Glasgow Warriors’ advantage at the top of the Guinness PRO14 Conference A table to 13 points (at least until second-placed Munster take on Zebre on Sunday) – but a flat, error-strewn second period meant that this was not quite the triumphant occasion the score-line suggests.

“I thought the first half was excellent – really clinical – we defended really well and, bar the last few minutes where they drove a few line-outs, they never really looked like scoring,” said Warriors head coach Dave Rennie. “But I’m not very happy at all with the second half, especially defensively. We tackled poorly and some individuals made some poor defensive reads, which put us under a lot of pressure. We scrambled pretty well but could well have conceded more points.

“So, it’s disappointing but maybe not a bad thing because we’ve got to play Scarlets next week who we know are pretty good out wide and will challenge the edge, so that was a little reminder.

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“We would have taken 40-15 before the game, but it’s all about the quality of performance and while there was a lot of good stuff in there we want to make sure we are defending a bit better than we did.”

The international window will have closed by the time the Scarlets pitch up at Scotstoun next Saturday, but the front liners will be rested.

“We made a commitment a while back to make sure a lot of those international boys get next week off. We’ve got two big games against Lyon and two big games against Edinburgh following that. We just want to make sure they come out of the international window refreshed. Hence the reason Peter Horne and Tommy Seymour played tonight as they have next week off.”

The visitors took an early lead when Jamie Bhatti was penalised for playing the ball on the deck and Jarrod Evans took the three points, but the hosts bounced right back to establish a strangle-hold on the match.

Running riot

Warriors really should have captured the initiative when Nick Grigg burst from midfield and fed Ali Price for what should have been a straightforward run in, but the scrum-half was swallowed up by Tom Williams and lost control of the ball as he went down.

It was only a short postponement of the opening try, with Adam Ashe going over less than a minute later after an exchange of passes with full-back Ruaridh Jackson down the short side from a ruck near the Blues’ 22.

Two ruck penalties conceded by Blues allowed Warriors to get right back on the front foot after the restart, and they doubled their account when Niko Matawalu – on the occasion of his 100th club appearance – came off his wing to take the ball straight from a line-out drive and zipped through a yawning gap in the middle of the park. The Fijian feinted to step inside a frantically back-pedalling Aled Summerhill but then stepped outside and scorched his way to the line.

The Blues had an opportunity to narrow the gap when Jackson was penalised for holding onto the ball on the deck, but Evans shanked his 40-yard pop at goal.

Price passed up another gilt-edged try scoring opportunity when Horne ghosted through a gap just inside his own half then fed the scrum-half – this time he failed to hook last man Tom Williams before trying to feed the supporting George Turner, and the visiting full-back was able to get a hand to the ball.

It didn’t alter the momentum of this match and try number three came along just before the half hour mark, when Price caught the Blues napping with a quick tap-penalty, and some great interplay from Stafford McDowall, Jackson and Grigg sent Gibbins on a 20-yard charge to the line.

Horne hit the woodwork with a penalty as the Warriors continued to run he screw, and the bonus point was in the bag with three minutes still to go before the break when Grigg found space on the right and then sent Seymour home from 30-yards.

The Blues had a short period of pressure at the end of the first half, with Warriors conceded a succession of penalties on their own line, but Matawulu did brilliantly to halt open-side Olly Robinson in his tracks as he propelled himself towards the scoring zone, and then Kiran McDonald showed the athleticism of a basketballer to reach above his rivals to claim the ball at a line-out with an unassisted standing leap.

Second half slump

The visitors were denied again at the start of the second half, this time by the Television Match Official, who chalked off Brad Thyer’s close range effort, but a penalty was awarded by way of consolation and there was no doubting that Kris Dacey had scored when he peeled off the back of a line-out drive and propelled himself over.

Warriors slowly wrestled their way back onto the front foot and re-established their 25-point advantage when Price’s clever grubber kick into the corner was pounced upon by replacement wing Rory Hughes. The winger left the field soon after nursing a shoulder injury, and Rennie was not able to give a prognosis last night.

But the home team could not sustain the intensity of their first half performance, and Evans went I. for a second Blues try when he collected the ball on a wraparound and shrugged off Grigg, although that score barely registered with a Scotstoun full-house who had become distracted by the lack fire from the men in black during a flat third quarter.

The game needed a hero to break it out of its slumber, and the Warriors had just the man. When Evans tried to move the ball leftwards, Matawalu read it a mile off and timed his intervention to perfection, to scamper home for a 70-yard interception try.

And the winger went hunting his second hat-trick in as many outings as the game entered the final five minutes, when he picked up the ball again on the right and chipped ahead, then grubbed past the last man, but he couldn’t quite get around his man to collect the ball for the run-in.

At least the Warriors winger had given the Scotstoun faithful something to get excited about towards the end of that disappointing second half. They will go away pretty satisfied in general with a bonus point win, and having seen at least one half of a cracking game of rugby.


Birlinn Books

Teams –

Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; T Seymour, (R Hughes 41, B Thomson 60), N Grigg, S McDowall, N Matawalu; P Horne, A Price (N Frisby 55); J Bhatti (K Bryce 69), G Turner (G Stewart 41), D Rae (P du Plessis 66), R Harley, K McDonald (T Swinson 55), A Ashe, C Gibbins, M Fagerson (M Smith 66).

Cardiff Blues: T Williams; A Summerhill, G Smith (S Shingler 64), W Halaholo (H Millard 55), J Harries; J Evans, L Williams (L Jones 69); B Thyer (R Carré 55), K Dacey (L Belcher66), K Assiratti (S Andrews 47), G Earle (J Down 55), S Davies, J Turnbull, O Robinson, N Williams (S Bennett 56).

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)


Scorers –

Glasgow Warriors: Try: Ashe, Matawalu 2, Gibbins, Seymour, Hughes; Con: Horne 5.

Cardiff Blues: Try: Dacey, Evans; Con: Evans; Pen: Evans.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 12-3; 14-3; 19-3; 21-3; 26-3; 28-3 (h-t) 28-8; 33-8; 33-13; 33-15; 38-15; 40-15
Attendance: 7,351


About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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.