Aviron Bayonnais 11-12 Glasgow Warriors
Glasgow Warriors earned a famous away victory in the Investec Champions Cup this evening, refusing to yield with the clock in the red to edge a 12-11 victory over Aviron Bayonnais.
Scores from Ally Miller – on an Investec Player of the Match-winning display – and Josh McKay would secure a vital win for Franco Smith’s men, putting them firmly back in the hunt for qualification for the knockout stages.
In front of an electric atmosphere at the Stade Jean Dauger, it was Glasgow who almost made the perfect start. Advantage in hand, Ollie Smith reeled in Ross Thompson’s cross-kick superbly to cross in the corner after just 90 seconds, only for the TMO to spot the winger’s trailing foot had stepped on the whitewash and disallow the score.
Undeterred, the Warriors pack would then go to work, George Turner just a metre short when bundled into touch just moments later. Yet the hosts would begin to establish themselves, exerting phase upon phase of pressure in Glasgow territory as Gela Aprasidze and Camille Lopez dictated play. Only try-saving efforts from Josh McKay and George Horne would prevent the hosts from opening their account, as the Glasgow defence would bend but not break.
Sustained pressure would eventually take its toll on the Warriors on 27 minutes, with Zander Fagerson the man dispatched to the sin bin after an accumulation of penalties against those in black. Lopez would take advantage from 35 metres, striking the ball through the uprights for the opening score of the night.
Eventually, the home side would make their possession tell, however. The maul would be the weapon of choice for the home side, Facundo Bosch just about having enough in the tank to ground the ball. Lopez’s conversion attempt would drift wide, though, leaving the score at 8-0 with five minutes to go in the half.
Glasgow’s response was swift and clinical. Advantage in hand from a Sione Tuipulotu burst, Horne’s bulleted pass wide found the arms of Miller in the wide channels. The number eight duly turned on the afterburners, rounding two defenders to race home for his first try in Glasgow colours from 25 metres out. Thompson added the extras, making it a one-point game at the interval.
Keen to continue the momentum with which they had ended the half, it would be the Warriors who would once again make the brighter start to the half. A sublime line by Huw Jones would send the centre clean through from 22 to 22, with only a scrambling Bayonne tap-tackle denying him the score. Tom Jordan – on for the injured Smith – and Fagerson would also go close, and while Lopez extended the Bayonne lead to 11-7, the next score was coming.
It would arrive in spectacular fashion on 56 minutes, as Glasgow made their territory count. George Turner would carry from a tap penalty five metres out as if shot out of a cannon, drawing another advantage from the referee. That would prove all the invitation needed for Thompson to throw the ball wide to McKay, the New Zealander producing a sensational flying finish to get the ball down in the corner under all kinds of pressure. The conversion drifted wide, but Glasgow had the lead for the first time in the match.
It would be a lead that would remain intact as the game entered its final quarter, Reece Hodge missing the chance to restore Bayonne’s lead with a penalty from halfway just moments after coming off the bench. At the other end, Tuipulotu and Jordan combined to send the latter en route to the line, only for Rodrigo Bruni to snare the Glasgow replacement.
With just five minutes to go, Hodge had the chance to edge his team back in front once more, the Australian sizing up a penalty from 55 metres on the angle. The ball would sail wide of the upright, however, and the Warrior Nation urged their team on.
In the face of one final attacking onslaught from the hosts, the Warriors held firm. With the clock in the red, one final intervention from Horne saw the referee’s arm lifted to award a penalty to the men in black, greeted with a roar of acclaim from the players on the field and the Warrior Nation in the stands.
The perfect way to bounce back in Europe’s top tier for the Warriors, then – and the perfect way to set up a titanic double-header as the 1872 Cup rolls into view, with Edinburgh visiting Scotstoun next Friday night.