Scarlets v Glasgow: Warriors overcome jitters to book place in Challenge Cup Final

Franco Smith's side will face either Toulon or Benetton in Dublin on 19th May

Glasgow Warriors defeated Scarlets to book a place in the Challenge Cup Final in Dublin on 19th May. . Image: © Craig Watson -
Glasgow Warriors defeated Scarlets to book a place in the Challenge Cup Final in Dublin on 19th May. . Image: © Craig Watson -

Scarlets 17

Glasgow Warriors 35

DAVID BARNES @ Parc Y Scarlets

HISTORY still beckons for Franco Smith’s Glasgow Warriors with an impressive third quarter of a high-octane clash against Scarlets in Llanelli enough to book their place in the Challenge Cup Final in Dublin on Friday 19th May. They took their chances when they needed to and rode their luck at times to get the job done.

Warriors will face the winner of tomorrow [Sunday] afternoon’s match between Toulon and Benetton at the Aviva Stadium in three weekends’ time as they hunt their first piece of meaningful silverware since winning the PRO12 – as the URC was then known – in 2015.

“The talk at half-time was about settling down because even some of our internationals were just a little bit too nervous, which shows what this means to them,” explained head coach Smith afterwards.  “They didn’t want to lose tonight, and I thought we started off so well, but we got a little bit jittery.

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“But the plan didn’t change. The plan was specific for this week, and I thought we stuck to that even though Scarlets did extremely well to unsettle us and rattle us.  I’m proud of the boys because solving problems in-game and on the field is something we’ve been working on all season.”

Warriors now have seven days to recover before their next big match, which is a URC play-off quarter-final at Scotstoun “Munster are lurking, so there’s still a lot of work for us to do this week,” added Smith.  “I thought our experience against them a few weeks ago was almost like a semi-final, but there’s a lot of learnings to take from that game and this game. We have the ability, we have the skillset – we just need to now use the lessons learnt from this week better.”

After a frantic first three minutes, Warriors raced into the lead when Jack Dempsey stepped inside his man and carried into the home team’s 22, setting up the field position from which Stafford McDowall charged over a few minutes later, with the centre brushing off Steff Evans, Joe Roberts and Gareth Davies on his way to the line.

After George Horne added the conversion, Scarlets looked to counter-punch straight from the restart, and Dempsey did well to pinch the ball from the marauding Vaea Fifita‘s grasp as the giant Tongan tried to offload five yards from Warriors’ line.

The home side’s cause was not helped by the loss through injury of two players – Scotland capped prop Javan Sebastian and centre Johnny Williams – during the first seven minutes. Warriors had also been disrupted by the loss before kick-off of Richie Gray, who was set to make his 100th appearance for the club, through illness. He is expected to be fit to play next weekend.

The home side and their supporters were flustered, with chants of ‘cheat, cheat, cheat’ reverberating around the stadium when a couple of marginal calls did not go their way near the 15 minute mark, but they hung in there and a not-rolling-away penalty which was turned in to three-points by Sam Costelow on 24 minutes settled Scarlets’ nerves.

Then, when an offside from Sione Vailanu at a line-out handed Costelow another easy shot at goal, the Scarlets playmaker had no problem reducing the gap to a single-point.

Now it was Warriors who were flustered, with McDowall firing a simple pass over Kyle Steyn’s head, before both Steyn and McDowall failed to tidy up the loose ball.

Warriors then overthrew a line-out five-yards from their own line and Scarlets capitalised with a couple of tight phases under the visiting posts before Johnny McNicholl sent the unmarked Steff Evans over on the right with a long miss-pass.

Scarlets kept their side of the scoreboard ticking over with another Costelow penalty from right in front of the post just before half-time. That scoring opportunity was a result of Zander Fagerson coming round the side of a ruck to take out Gareth Davies from an offside position.


Warriors were on the rack, with their line-out a shambles and their discipline falling apart. The break came at just the right time for Smith’s men, who were refreshed and refocussed when they reappeared for the second 40 minutes, powering right back into the contest when George Horne finished off following a powerful sequence of carries from Dempsey, JP Du Preez and Scott Cummings. Horne added the conversion for good measure, to make it all-square,

Scarlets replacement prop Sam Wainwright was sin-binned for a high-shot on Rory Darge during the lead-up to that score but they bounced back well despite being down to 14 men, with a fourth Costelow penalty following a high tackle by Cummings on Ioan Nicholas putting the home team back in front.

However, Warriors now had the bit between their teeth, and the tournament’s top try-scorer, Johnny Matthews, announced his arrival off the bench by dotting down off the back if a powerful maul. That was his seventh try in this Challenge Cup campaign and his 13th in all competitions this season.

This time Warriors kept their foot on the gas and moved further ahead when Darge muscled over from close range.

Scarlets rallied and spent a long spell between the 60th and the 75th minute camped deep inside Warriors 22. Twice they were bundled into touch a matter of feet from the try-line and it looked like a penalty try (and yellow-card) would be awarded when Ollie Smith reached one-handed to knock a certain try-making pass off its flight path, but referee Mathieu Raynal decided after consultation with the TMO that the full-back had managed to get a second touch on the ball before it hit the deck meaning the knock-on wasn’t deliberate.

Having weathered that mini storm, Warriors finished with a flourish when they kicked a penalty to the corner and Ali Price sent McDowall over with a neat inside pass.


Teams –

Scarlets: J McNicholl; Steff Evans, J Roberts, J Williams (I Nicholas 7), R Conbeer; S Costelow, G Davies (K Hardy 54); W Jones (K Mathias 54), K Owens (Shaun Evans 72), J Sebastian (S Wainwright 4), M Jones (C Tuipulotu 35), S Lousi, J MacLeod, D Davis, V Fifita (I Rees 48).

Glasgow: O Smith; S Cancelliere (S Berghan 72), S Tuipulotu,  S McDowall, K Steyn; T Jordan (D Weir 79), G Horne (A Price 72); J Bhatti (N McBeth 46), G Turner (J Matthews, 46), Z Fagerson, S Cummings (R Wilson 79), J du Preez, R Darge, S Vailanu (M Fagerson 51), J Dempsey (L Bean 72).

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)


Scorers –

Scarlets: Try: Steff Evans; Pens: Costelow 4.

Glasgow Warriors: Tries: McDowall, Horne, Matthews, Darge; Cons: Horne 4.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 0-5; 0-7; 3-7; 6-7; 11-7; 14-7 (h-t) 14-12; 14-14; 17-14; 17-19; 17-21; 17-26; 17-28.


Yellow cards –

Scarlets: Wainwright (44mins)


Attendance: 13,077

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About David Barnes 3383 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.


  1. Franco Smith has done an absolutely fantastic job. To be in both competitions at this time of the season is where you want to be. All to play for and on the scarlets, the fans can boo the ref but you’ll never win conceding as many tries as they do. C’mon Glasgow win some silverware!

  2. I couldn’t believe the first half we seemed to want to give Scarlets points and lost it. Until we learnt to go through the phases, suck in their defence and then go wide. We can be too frenetic and Horne’s box kicking was awful just giving them back possession.
    Second half was the difference between night and day.

  3. Disappointing to see some posters descending to the level of those they criticise with their nationalistic abuse.

  4. It’s goodnight Llanelli. Stunning second half performance to silence that pantomime crowd. Dempsey was massive again, while Zander was not far behind for MOM. Great to see and hear travelling fans, for thee team is worth it.

  5. Great result. Id love to hear what was said at halftime because it worked. I think Smith will have a challenge picking his best 15 for the championship matches to come.

    I’m not sure the back row of Darge, Vailanu and Dempsey is quite the right blend although individually they are all excellent. The first instinct of all 3 is to carry with the ball and when they do it gives Glasgow the fast ball to play with. In the first and third quarters it was so fast the rucks never had time to form. In defence Darge does the most tackles but he’s the most natural jackler so you want him on his feet. Scarlets bossing the breakdown in the 2nd quarter brought them back into the game. I think it was only in the last quarter when Fagerson came on and immediately won a turnover penalty that we bossed the breakdown.

  6. Like others I was very disappointed with the shockingly unsportsmanlike behaviour of the Scarlets fans. Well done the Warriors.

  7. Great win for Glasgow despite a rocky 1st half’s last 30 minutes. We missed Gray at the line out for a while but the scrum went well again. Great performances from Zander and a cameo from his brother, Dempsey immense again , all the backs were good , Smith especially (despite the attempted catch), Horne dynamic as usual and ,Mathews yet again what can you say he is a try machine and has some great breaks every game he is fast becoming my favourite Warrior.
    We are in the final I assume against Toulon that is a tough ask, but we are there and that’s progress. The URC might be a bridge to far with Munster and Leinster to come to get to the final, but who thought we would get this far this season. Thanks Franco for getting us this far remembering where we were last season.

  8. Occasion got to us in that first half, but we’ll learn from that…

    A tremendous second half to secure the victory, Smith lucky not to get yellow and a penalty try but wouldn’t have changed the outcome IMO. Ref made quite a few poor calls such as the Bhatti penalty when the scarlets 9 clearly had the ball in hands and clear of the ruck so in open play.

    Bench all made an impact which was great to see and a very telling factor in the win. Next up Munster!

    • Yes unusually for him, thought the ref was poor too … ball was clearly knocked out of Horne’s hand. First one should have been red, but balanced by Smith not getting Yellow.

      Game was excellent, but Glasgow still have a bit of a habit of playing too much rugby in their own 22, but couldn’t fault much else …..

      Must be about the only away win … ?

      • Ponderings – The aggressive rush defence is the way to nullify Glasgow but it takes a really good/fit team to do it for 80mins .
        Smith should’ve seen a YC but so should’ve McNicholl for taking Steyn out in the air.
        Z Fagerson seems to be knocking on the door of being a a top international player, McBeth & Matthews must be close to the World Cup squad.
        Dempsey phenomenal, his footwork is exceptional for an 8.
        Lack of a kicking game makes Glashow slightly one dimensional but the rolling maul is a proper weapon.
        No surprise pertaining to the myopic Welsh fans, I’ve been at several games in Wales and thats what they are all like.
        Glasgow defence a thing of beauty, the management/coaching team have done a great job.
        Bench were excellent with M.Fagerson N.McBeth providing 1st class contributions.
        On another note re pro teams squads McDowall to Edinburgh, Glasgow sign another 10 (Jordan to centre)

      • Think we have won about 6 out of our last 7 away games, including against the likes of Munster. Only loss was Lions away when missing a bunch of our internationals

    • I agree. I’ve thought for years that the Scarlets fans are the most whiney fans in the URC, and they certainly lived up to that today. They seem to spend more time booing the opposition and the officials than actually cheering their team on. I doubt whether this atmosphere of negativity does anything to help their team. Lighten up guys and enjoy the game! Great result and tremendous progress this season regardless of what happens in the coming weeks.


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