Connacht 34-26 Glasgow Warriors
Glasgow Warriors suffered a first defeat of the 2023/24 BKT United Rugby Championship season at The Sportsground this afternoon, as Connacht emerged with a 34-26 victory after an end-to-end encounter.
Tries from Kyle Rowe – on his competitive debut -, Tom Jordan and Jamie Dobie, allied with a second penalty try in as many weeks, ensured that the Warriors would at least take home a four-try bonus-point for their efforts.
On a bright afternoon in Galway, both teams started as they meant to go on with the tempo at a sky-high level from the opening whistle. It was Connacht who would be first to trouble the scorers, JJ Hanrahan dispatching a penalty from straight in front on the Glasgow 22 after Gregor Brown was penalised for not rolling away.
A second penalty would double the hosts’ lead just three minutes later, as the men in green stuck to their traditional style of running from everywhere. Hanrahan made it three penalties from three on 13 minutes, navigating a swirling breeze to make it 9-0 to the home side after a high tackle in Glasgow’s scramble defence.
Yet straight from the restart, the Warriors would strike. There was more than an element of fortune around the score as the ricocheting restart bounced into the arms of Rowe, but the winger was in no mood to hang about, racing over for a score on his Glasgow Warriors debut. George Horne converted, and Glasgow were up and running.
Almost immediately, Connacht responded with a try of their own. Turnover ball from a lineout allowed Caolin Blade to grubber in behind the defence, with the chasing Diarmuid Kilgallon given the benefit of the doubt by the officials after jostling with Rowe in pursuit of the ball. The conversion drifted wide, leaving the score at 14-7 in Connacht’s favour after 19 minutes of breathless play.
Back came the Warriors once more, as the forwards began to exert some serious pressure on their opposite numbers. Back-to-back penalties were kicked to the corner by Jordan, and a third successive rolling maul was too much for the hosts to stop. Jarrad Butler was sent to the sin bin for an illegal collapse, with the resulting penalty try levelling the scores at 14-14.
Neither side was giving an inch, with every breakdown and every loose ball sparking feverish competition for possession. A full-blooded charge from Sione Vailanu took the Warriors deep into Connacht territory, as the visitors searched for a breakthrough.
It arrived with the final play of the half, as Franco Smith’s men duly unlocked the Connacht door with clinical precision. Vailanu and Horne combined to slip the ball to the onrushing Huw Jones from a lineout maul, who in turn showed deft hands to feed Jordan on his inside. The fly-half stepped the final two defenders on his way to the line, giving Glasgow a 19-14 half-time advantage.
Once again, it would be Connacht who would be first to trouble the scorers following the restart, hitting back with their second try of the afternoon. A series of close-range charges would eventually see Dylan Tierney-Martin squeeze over next to the posts, Cathal Forde converting for a 21-19 lead after 46 minutes.
Forde would add two penalties of his own – the second from almost 50 metres – to extend Connacht’s advantage further, before the hosts struck once more as Glasgow began their chase for a way back into the match. It came from Kilgallon, the winger reading the pass to perfection to intercept and race home from halfway, Forde converting to take the score to 34-19 on the hour mark.
Glasgow were relentless in pursuit of a fourth try of their own, one that would see them take a bonus-point home from Galway for their efforts. Jordan and Jamie Dobie would keep the tempo high as the backs continued to probe, whilst Rory Darge and Greg Peterson brought fresh impetus from the bench as the Warriors continued to fight.
Their efforts would eventually be rewarded with 90 seconds to play; Duncan Weir’s inside ball saw Rowe sprint through the gap, before finding Dobie on his shoulder for the run-in. Weir quickly converted, with a losing bonus-point now also within reach.
That would prove a bridge too far, however, albeit not for want of Glasgow effort. Three full minutes of possession would ultimately be suffocated by the hosts, the referee’s full-time whistle sounding soon after.
Instead, Smith’s men will have to remain satisfied with a single point, with no time to dwell upon what might have been; a six-day turnaround and the 2023 runners-up await, as the DHL Stormers visit Scotstoun this coming Friday.