URC: Glasgow v Leinster: Warriors hit the ground running

Most points and most tries the Scotstoun men have ever scored in this fixture

Sebastian Cancelliere scores Glasgow Warriors' second try against Leinster. Image © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Sebastian Cancelliere scores Glasgow Warriors' second try against Leinster. Image © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Glasgow Warriors 43

Leinster 25

DAVID BARNES @ Scotstoun Stadium

START as you mean to go on. Warriors kicked off their 2023-24 URC campaign with a convincing – in the end – home win over one of the league’s heavyweights, and while their vaunted opponents were missing their sizeable Ireland contingent, there’s no such thing as a weak Leinster team.

The home team, who were also missing a half dozen of their internationalists, recorded their highest ever tries and points totals against Leinster. But even more pleasing for head coach Franco Smith was their organisation and resolve in defence. They will be frustrated that they fluffed their lines a few times after earning the chance to clear the danger, but that is fixable.

“A year ago we started off differently so we’re just going to take the positives out of this game,” said Smith, referencing the team’s 33-11 loss at Benetton in the first game of last season. “I think we needed to show that we are resilient in defence and we did that. The hit-out against Ulster [a fortnight ago] helped us. There is one side of the game which sometimes in Glasgow is neglected because we are a high-paced and attacking team so I’m really excited about that [defensive performance].

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“It’s in our DNA to score tries. I was asked during the week about what needs to get better and one area is definitely our defence. We defended much better last season but didn’t always get the reward on the board for that. Even tonight, although I thought we were exceptional in the amount of tackles we made, we still let a few tries in which I think we could have prevented”

Warriors looked sharp across the backline during the early exchanges with Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones and Stafford McDowall all making incursions through the Leinster defensive line. But there was some early season rust evident in their forward play during that period, such as when they won an early scrum penalty but were then beaten in the air at the subsequent line-out, then coughed up a penalty on the ground right under the shadow of the Leinster posts.

The deadlock was broken on 12 minutes when Rory Darge bumped and rolled his way through some fairly lame midfield defence straight off a line-out then sent Josh McKay under the posts, setting up an easy conversion for Tom Jordan, but the hosts then gave away an obstruction penalty straight from the restart which allowed Harry Byrne to fire home the visiting team’s first points of the match.

Just two minutes later, the Leinster stand-off doubled his and his team’s account with another straight forward penalty following a side entry.

It was scrappy stuff from the hosts, but when it clicked Warriors were deadly, as witnessed after a loose pass from Jordan to Zander Fagerson in midfield bounced kindly, with quick hands from McDowall and Jones sending Sebastian Cancelliere into space. Gregor Brown showed great pace in support before popping off the deck back to Cancelliere, who managed to get the ball down in the corner under pressure from Leinster’s cover defence.

The visitors were unruffled and they struck back after squeezing a scrum penalty out of Oli Kebble then kicking to the corner to create the platform for highly-rated 21-year-old loose-head prop Jack Boyle  to rumble over from close range, with Byrne adding the extras.

Now it was Glasgow’s turn to strike back, with McDowall hacking a loose ball ahead and Jones reading the bounce perfectly before rounding the final man to score.

The hosts threatened again when Kebble burst clear, surprising everyone, including himself it seemed, because the big prop fumbled the ball mid-stride without a Leinster player needing to tackle him. It only postponed the bonus point for a short while, however, with Kebble making some amends for his earlier error by helping Warriors to a scrum penalty, which was kicked to the corner, and Angus Fraser finished off the maul.


Warriors spent the final five minutes of the first half and the first four and a half minutes of the second half defending resolutely deep inside their own 22, before the pressure finally took its toll when replacement hooker Lee Barron broke off the back of a line-out maul and propelled himself over the line from five yards out.

Warriors then lost Cancelliere to the sin-bin when he was judged to have deliberately knocked the ball on as Leinster flanker Scott Penny looked to release Barron down the five-metre channel of yet another close range line-out

It was backs to the wall time for Warriors and it took a team effort from Jones, Kebble, Darge and Brown to prevent Boyle getting the ball over the line.

The hosts needed a spark, and it was almost inevitable that it would be Gorge Horne – just a minute after coming off the bench for his 100th Warriors appearance – would be the player to oblige, although his score in the corner owed a fair bit to Jordan for a brilliant collection of a high ball, and also to returning second-row Greg Peterson for providing the link.

Leinster weren’t done yet and a blindside break by Cormac Foley led to Liam Turner diving for the corner, only for a lengthy review of the video evidence to finally conclude that McDowall’s last-gasp tackle had pushed the attacking player’s foot into touch just before he got the ball down.

Another long period of visiting pressure with just over 10 minutes to go came to naught when Johnny Matthews managed to get over the ball on his own line to force a holding on penalty against Leinster, but a mix-up between Tom Gordon and Darge straight from the subsequent line-out led to a crossing penalty and handed the visitors another opportunity to haul themselves back into the game.

This time, the Irishmen executed, with magical hands from Charlie Ngatai and Sam Prendergast sending Tommy O’Brien over in the corner.

Byrne failed with the touchline conversion but it was still a four point game, but it was a bit too close for comfort – which was the conclusion the Warriors players also reached, and they lifted themselves to take control of the ball during the final five minutes, finally taking the game away from Leinster with two late tries, the first from Matthews off a line-out maul and the second a penalty-try which also came from a line-out maul.

The World Cup players who did not feature this week will now return to training tomorrow, but Smith was circumspect on whether they will be involved against Connacht away next Saturday. “We’ve got to see how they come in,” he said. “It is a short turnaround for Saturday and they haven’t been in the building for a bit so we’ll see how it works out.

Smith also praised the contribution of some of the less experienced players who got a chance in this game due to so many internationalists being rested, including 23-year-old hooker Angus Fraser.

“He’s a young Scottish player and he brings a different skillset, and Gregor Hiddleston is right behind him so we’ll have to tap into those guys this season with Johnny and George leading the pack,” he said.

“Across the team there’s a bunch of young players. I thought Gregor Brown was exceptional tonight, Ally Miller coming on and seamlessly fitting in, and JP de Preez’s injury Alex Samuel [a late replacement in this game] will come into contention somewhere along the line. Obviously, we want to develop players across the board.”



Teams –

Glasgow Warriors: J McKay; S Cancelliere, H Jones, S McDowall, K Steyn (G Horne 51); T Jordan (D Weir 75), J Dobie; O Kebble (N McBeth 51), A Fraser (J Matthes 51), Z Fagerson (L Sordoni 59), G Peterson, S Cummings (A Samuel 75), G Brown (T Gordon 63), R Darge, H Venter (A Miller, 51).

Leinster: C Frawley; T O’Brien, L Turner(S Prendergast, 66), C Ngatai, J Larmour; H Byrne, L McGrath (C Foley 50); J Boyle (P McCarthy, 50), J McKee (L Barron 25), T Clarkson (R McGuire 50), R Molony, J Jenkins (B Deeny 50), M Deegan, S Penny (W Connors. 73), J Culhane (R Ruddock, 50).

Referee: Craig Evans


Scorers –

Glasgow Warriors: Try: McKay, Cancelliere, Jones, Fraser, Horne, Matthews, Penalty Try; Con: Jordan 2; Horne.

Leinster: Try: Boyle, Barron, O’Brien; Con: Byrne 2; Pen: Byrne 2.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3;7-6; 12-6; 12-11; 12-13; 17-13; 19-13; 24-13 (h-t) 24-18; 24-20; 29-20; 29-25; 34-25; 36-25; 43-25.


Yellow cards –

Glasgow Warriors: Cancelliere (48mins)

Leinster: Larmour (75mins), Deeny (79mins)

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About David Barnes 4028 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.


  1. A great game, really exciting to watch. Hard to tell where we are as this was definitely Leinster ‘B’. But all power to Franco for planning the return of the players – as long as we look after them and do give them a break. Returning them in stages a great idea. I agree too much ref bashing – the only issue is if someone is still moving towards the line the ref calls release, you release and they score, what’s the result, surely it should be a penalty to the defending side? If we continue to use a 2 man choke tackle, which will generate a lot of these situations, we need to clarify this with the ref pre-game so we are all clear.

    • No Leinster team is a poor team, they came here to win and Glasgow did well to beat them. Let’s celebrate that achievement!

      • Yes. You can call that Leinster team a ‘B’ team….but that is Ireland’s main feeder to the national team …it was a combination of some experienced heads along with players being groomed for the national side. Their national side is going through player transition post RWC. It won’t be long before some of those lads feature. They are all groomed to play the same style of rugby as their national side so the transition is seamless. Franco and Glasgow showed many of the tactics that can beat the Irish sides style of play. Some of the same tactics should have been used against Ireland at the RWC ..but our coach just uses the plait wide or bust outlook..hence 9 straight defeats. Glasgow showed we have the players if we use them properly.

  2. Great performance. This is actually Leinster C Team (Kids) in the main but you can only play what’s in front of you. Leinster did have some regulars in there – Ruddock, Frawley, McGrath, and Larmour.

    I thought, like everyone else, the ref was weak. We were the dominant team in almost every area, and rightly so.

    Nice to see some of the RWC squad back…but I’d be concerned at them coming back so early. Especially the likes of Fagerson.

    • it was a fair bit stronger than their 3rds! but their front tows players were very young and frankly not able to compete at this level. Not a problem unique to Scotland apparently

      The returning RWC players will be rested in coming weeks as the others return. Its a very sensible approach rather than everyone out, then everyone back and starting over with basically a new team.

    • That is no 3rd team – the bulk of the backs played many games for Leinster last year and in the forwards as well as those you mention, Molony, Penny, Jenkins and Deagan also have played often for the first team. And as others have stated similar strength teams have beaten the Scottish teams in recent years.

  3. Refereeing continues to infuriate. I didn’t count a single tackle where a Leinster player didn’t end up on the wrong side of the ruck slowing the play down and the very first time a Glasgow player did it it was a penalty!
    It was obvious who had the upper hand in the scrum so the 2 penalties going against Glasgow were just farcical
    Did think Glasgow were guilty of doing a Scotland in those first 10 minutes hammering away aimlessly and then going for the corner when 3 points were on offer . At any moment I just felt Leinster were going to break away and score down the other end and the heads would go down.
    Even after having scored 5 tries to Leinsters 2 they wouldn’t go quietly. The failure to kick all the conversions may prove decisive in future games.
    An incredible high scoring win against the No1 team in the league, next week in Connacht will confirm we are on the right track.

  4. I was a bit worried how we would start the season with some hard matches and lots of the Scotland players resting. Glad to see a few back and playing well. 5 pointers against Leinster are rare enough, whoever they put out, so let us just enjoy this one.

  5. Agree that the officiating was a farce at times, for both sides and that needs to include the TMO who was the one pushing for the Leinster try to be awarded after Stafford’s tackle – and tbh it could have been a try – but how they didn’t spot the forward pass for the next Leinster try goodness knows. At least they eventually understood what was going on at scrum time but the first few were a joke – but hey, a terrific way to start the season, looked really coherent and cohesive at times, and great to see the fight in defence. We’ve been humbled by so called Leinster B teams when we’ve been near full strength in the past so to take the full 5 points and deny Leinster anything from a closely fought contest is a great result.

    Thought Jordan could have been MoM, terrific performance, especially that take to set up Georgies try.

    All about momentum, need to take it forward to Connacht.

    • Re jordan great game but let down by a poor kicking performance. Another reason to field wee George at 9.

  6. Good start to season, a BP win over one of our boggy teams Leinster. Really good first 30, fast , support rugby executed at speed. Cancilliere was excellent and the backs looked good. The scrum was impressive. Another great cameo from Horne to back up a good performance from Dobie.

  7. Have to agree on the ref. Desperate to rule out the Cancilliere try when it was fine from 1st replay and second Leinster try was a hugely squint throw in. Darge very hard done to at ruck area when competing legitimately. Thought the Glasgow half backs were outstanding. Jordan has always been solid but this was a different level. He’s very much moving into real deal territory. Both 9s wanting to provide quick accurate service rather than aimlessly kicking ball away.Line out aside the forwards showed a belligerence and intensity that Dalziel isn’t getting from Scotland. Great to see Darge et al really competing at the breakdown. Disappointed that Samuel only got a token 5 min at end. We need to blood young players and get them up to speed with this style of rugby. Not sure that Peterson did anything that Samuel couldn’t have and game time for a 32 yr old USA international shouldn’t be as big a priority as developing our youngsters… especially given the travails of the current u20 generation. Some will say that it’s a weakened Leinster side, but both Glasgow and Edinburgh have taken serious pastings off such Leinster teams so nice to see that scoreline at the end. Very encouraging for a start of season performance and that tempo / desire to play should be the Scotland template. It won’t be of course but still it’s best way to play to our strengths.

  8. Agreed. Not watched the game back on tv to hear what was said however the 4-5 mins of watching replay after replay of the Leinster centre having his leg pressed into touch before he touched down was a farce. I was 70m away from the smaller screen at it was obvious on the first showing. Similarly the Warriors scrum was marching the Leinster pack back at a rate of knots all evening to be penalised twice for Leinster walking sideways. Irrespective of the refereeing it was a decent Warrior’s performance against a Leinster side that was weakened but still well coached and dangerous. The substitutes towards the end upped the pace and took it away from the visitors.

  9. One of the worst refereeing performances I’ve ever witnessed. How did he get selected to officiate at the World Cup?
    Absolutely diabolical!!


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