Bath 19-22 Glasgow Warriors
A thunderous defensive effort saw Glasgow Warriors secure a first-ever win at The Rec this afternoon, as Franco Smith’s men earned a 22-19 win over Bath in Round One of the EPCR Challenge Cup.
Duncan Weir’s late penalty proved decisive for the visitors, with Lewis Bean, George Turner and Huw Jones all crossing the whitewash to seal the win.
With a firm pitch underfoot and blue skies overhead, it was the Warriors who showed their intent straight from the kick-off. A subtle inside ball from the returning Jones sent Kyle Steyn through a gap, with Bath’s scramble defence tested immediately.
Franco Smith’s men would turn early intent into points with just four minutes on the clock, as the visitors sprang into life from a free-kick on the Bath 22. Good identification of space from Jamie Dobie and Domingo Miotti sent Jones on an outside arc into the Bath 22, the centre dragged down just two metres short of the whitewash. There would be no stopping the somewhat larger frame of Bean in the next phase, though, the big second-rower thundering over the line for the opening try of the match. The conversion drifted wide, but the Warriors had an early lead.
Indeed Jones was not alone in enjoying a lively opening quarter; debutant Jack Mann was dynamic with his carrying, whilst Jamie Dobie was proving to be a pest for the Bath pack at the base of the breakdown.
A second try felt on the cards, and it arrived with 15 minutes played. Successive penalties kicked to the corner allowed Turner to hit his mark in the form of JP du Preez, before tucking himself away at the back of the maul and rumbling over the line. Miotti converted, and Glasgow led 12-0.
Bath were looking for a foothold of their own, with Piers Francis dictating play from fly-half with some canny tactical kicking. It was from this platform that the hosts would cross for their opening score; despite Glasgow repelling a maul superbly, Wesley White would manage to ground the ball on a second effort, despite the best efforts of Dobie. Francis would leave the conversion short, but the hosts were back in the game.
It would be the home side’s turn to exert repeated sets of pressure in Glasgow territory, and their persistence would be rewarded as the game approached the half-hour mark. Again it would come from close-range, Fergus Lee-Warner fighting through the contact to ground the ball. This time Francis would add the extras, and the game was tied at 12-12.
Yet the Warriors would regain their lead on the stroke of half-time, as Jones marked his half-century in style. A good carry from Cameron Neild in midfield gave the Warriors momentum and territory, before Dobie’s switch of play saw the ball find its way to Jones. The centre would step inside two defenders, showing good power after contact to touch down, Miotti adding the extras for a 19-12 half-time advantage.
The second half began in near-identical fashion to the first, with Glasgow immediately racing out of the blocks and onto the front-foot. Steyn’s kick-chase saw him regather Dobie’s early box-kick and race clear, with only a desperate tap tackle from Tom de Glanville denying the winger.
It would then be the turn of Glasgow’s other winger to come close, as Rufus McLean exploded into action. Gathering an offload from Ollie Smith, the Scotland flyer raced up the touchline, before re-joining the play to link up with Stafford McDowall in midfield. Once more Bath’s scramble defence rescued the hosts, holding up McDowall on the drive for the line.
Miotti would come even closer on 51 minutes, dancing away from one after Neild’s offload and diving for the corner. The Argentinian’s effort would be in vain, however, with the TMO spotting a foot in touch and scrubbing out the score.
Instead, it would be the hosts who would be next to trouble the scorers. A Josh Bayliss turnover on halfway allowed Francis to kick into the Glasgow 22, and from there the hosts would go to work. With desperate defence from the Warriors holding out the hosts at the expense of a yellow card for Bean, a wide ball would se Matt Gallagher squeeze his way in at the corner, Francis converting to level the scores as the match entered the final quarter.
It was time for the Warriors to dig in and show what the 2022/23 vintage of Glasgow rugby was all about, and dig in they most certainly did. With Richie Gray, Sean Kennedy and Duncan Weir introduced from the bench, and Ryan Wilson leading from the front in the pack, experienced heads came to the fore. A sublime take from Gray at a lineout on the Bath 22 forced the hosts to infringe, with Weir making no mistake from the tee to edge his side back in front with eight minutes to play.
To a man, the Warriors would front up and refuse to yield. Euan Ferrie and Angus Fraser – on his professional debut – would dig in up front, whilst a herculean tackle from skipper Steyn would send Joe Cokanasiga into touch with the seconds ticking down.
In the end, itwould be Neild who would have the honour of booting the ball into the stands and sending the Warriors into delirium – a first-ever win at The Rec, and a winning start to the 2022/23 Challenge Cup to boot.