Emirates Lions 35-24 Glasgow Warriors
Glasgow Warriors saw their unbeaten run come to an end in Johannesburg this afternoon, as the Emirates Lions edged a breathless encounter to condemn their visitors to a 35-24 defeat.
Tries from Eli Caven – on his professional debut -, Cole Forbes, Tom Jordan and Thomas Gordon ensured the Warriors would at least fly home with a four-try bonus-point, as attentions turn to next weekend’s clash with Zebre Parma at Scotstoun.
With temperatures peaking at 30 degrees Celsius as the opening whistle sounded, the Warriors set about their business with purpose in the opening exchanges. Their early endeavour was rewarded with eight minutes played, as Franco Smith’s men crossed for the game’s opening try. A superbly-worked set-piece move saw Johnny Matthews send Sam Johnson slicing through a gap, the club’s newest centurion finding Caven on his shoulder to send the winger over the whitewash. Tom Jordan converted, giving his side a 7-0 lead.
It almost got even better for the visitors just three minutes later, as Forbes found himself denied on the Lions goal-line by an excellent turnover by Jaco Kriel. It was a warning that the hosts wouldn’t roll over, and that warning was reinforced with score out of almost nothing on 21 minutes. Quan Horn and Edwill van der Merwe combined well on the counter-attack, before the latter found Sonele Nahamba on his shoulder. The scrum-half would race home from 40 metres, Gianni Lombard converting to level the scores.
Almost immediately, the Lions struck once more. A loose pass in midfield saw Frencke Horn pick up on halfway and set sail for the try-line, the number eight having enough pace to hold off the covering defence. Lombard would once again convert and the Lions had the lead.
The hosts were now playing with their tails up, forcing the Glasgow defence into mistakes and earning advantage upon advantage from referee Adam Jones. Their third try would come after a barrage of phases on the Glasgow five-metre line, as Manuel Rass would fight his way out of the tackle of Forbes and hold off Josh McKay to touch down. This time the conversion would sail wide, but the Lions were in control.
With Sione Vailanu sent to the sin bin as a result of repeated infringements from the Warriors, the Lions were on the hunt for a bonus-point before the break, and would be rewarded with 37 minutes on the clock. Whilst a close-range maul would be stopped short, Lombard’s wide ball would send van der Merwe over in the corner for the fourth try, a score that would give the Lions a 24-7 lead.
Glasgow knew that they needed to score next to keep their hopes alive, and they did so immediately. Jordan’s hanging restart was missed by everyone, with Matthews showing good awareness and skill to hack the ball through and regather before delivering the scoring pass to Forbes on his inside. Jordan converted, narrowing the gap to 24-14.
Lombard would extend the Lions lead by three points with the last kick of the half, giving the Warriors a 13-point deficit to combat at the start of the second half. It was a challenge that Smith’s men would meet head on after the restart, Jordan and McDowall leading the charge. Only a cynical play from van der Merwe would deny the latter a score, the Lions winger earning a yellow card for his trouble.
Yet the Lions would be undeterred, and it would be the hosts who would be next to cross the whitewash. A short-range series of carries eventually saw Ruan Venter make the final metre to touch down, the second-rower visibly emotional at the end of a week that saw him suffer the loss of his father.
Back would come the Warriors once more, relentless in their pursuit of a way back into the match. Their persistence was rewarded on 56 minutes; a centre field scrum inside the Lions 22 would see Vailanu and Johnson batter away at the home defence, before McKay’s wide pass found Jordan. The fly-half would dummy the last defender and dart over the whitewash, and whilst he couldn’t convert his own score the Warriors had a foothold back into the match.
With Quan Horn in the sin-bin following a deliberate knock-on, Glasgow had wind in their sails once more. A fourth try – and a bonus-point – would arrive on 61 minutes, a clever short-range lineout providing the platform for Thomas Gordon to drive his way over the line for the score. Jordan’s conversion drifted wide, but the gap was down to eight points.
The drama of a breathless encounter would ratchet up once more on 66 minutes, as the home side found themselves reduced to 14 men on a permanent basis. A dangerous clear-out from Ruan Dreyer saw the replacement prop shown a straight red card by referee Jones, with Glasgow almost taking immediate advantage. A length-of-the-field counter attack saw Jamie Dobie sent in pursuit of the line, with only a desperate cover tackle from Rabz Maxwane herding him into touch five metres out.
Lombard would settle any nerves from the home side with five minutes remaining, converting a penalty from 40 metres after Glasgow were over-zealous at the breakdown in their search to regain possession, and try as the Warriors might that was to be the end of the scoring.
The end of an unbeaten run, then, but a result that could yet prove important come the end of the season. Smith’s men will have an instant chance to return to winning ways in just six days’ time, however, as they welcome Zebre Parma to Scotstoun this Friday night.