Glasgow Warriors 29-20 Scarlets
Despite losing Alex Allan to a red card early in the match, the 14-man Warriors were more than good value for the win and now head into the European double-header in impressive style.
It was the visitors that struck the first blow, Rhys Patchell on target with a penalty to give his side a 3-0 lead after seven minutes.
Glasgow soon responded, with Brandon Thomson unerring from the tee with 13 minutes on the clock after a Scarlets transgression at the breakdown.
The game’s major incident arrived on 18 minutes Alex Allan was shown a red card by referee Frank Murphy. The call left the home side playing with 14 men for over three quarters of the match, and with a major challenge in front of them.
If the Warriors felt any trepidation at the task in store, it was far from obvious. The introduction of Oli Kebble into the front row resulted in an immediate penalty to the hosts, Thomson on target from 40 metres to give his side the lead on 21 minutes.
Indeed, Glasgow – far from playing the long game – were beginning to express themselves. Superb handling in midfield set Robbie Nairn racing free down the touchline, the young winger covering 40 metres to break into the Scarlets’ 22. A further surge from Kebble took the Warriors to within five metres, before Scarlets’ second row Lewis Rawlins was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul.
From the resulting penalty, the hosts took full advantage. Kicking to the corner instead of for the posts, a clean lineout win set up position to attack the Scarlets’ line. It was eventually left to Thomson to find the gap and touch down, the South African converting his own try to give his side a 13-3 advantage on the half-hour mark.
That sparked the Scarlets into life, with last season’s beaten finalists pressing for a score before the break. The Warriors defence stood resolute in the face of the oncoming attack though, and when some outstanding counter-rucking presented George Horne with turnover ball, the scrum-half’s pass to Niko Matawalu saw the Fijian sprint from 22 to 22, relieving the pressure to a chorus of delighted home fans as the referee’s half-time whistle soon followed.
Yet Dave Rennie’s men knew that they would need to keep their standards high in the face of the expected onslaught from the visitors. The start to the second half, therefore, was the stuff of dreams for the Warrior Nation. Chris Fusaro’s turnover inside his own half allowed the ball to be spun wide to Ruaridh Jackson, who chipped into space. The bounce may have beaten the Glasgow full-back, but Nick Grigg was following up at pace to gather and race home for a try on his 50th cap for the club. Thomson was on target once more, and Glasgow led 20-3 just three minutes into the half.
It almost got even better for the home side from the very next phase of play, as Nairn thought he had crossed for a try-of-the-season contender following some intricate handling involving Horne, George Turner and Scott Cummings. The score was ruled out by the TMO, however, Cummings’ pass to Horne in the build-up having been deemed to have travelled forward.
To compound the blow, the visitors then crossed for their first try of the evening, exploiting the overlap to send Jonathan Davies over out wide. Patchell’s conversion drifted wide, though, leaving the score at 20-8 to the hosts.
Thomson brought a measure of composure to what had been a manic start to the half on 50 minutes, kicking his third penalty of the game to extend his side’s advantage.
Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Glasgow pack was dominant. Kebble and Siua Halanukonuka’s scrummaging prowess earned their side a penalty, which allowed the Warriors to establish themselves in the Scarlets’ 22 once more. A solid five minutes of phases followed, with the forwards’ power eventually earning a penalty in front of the posts. Thomson once more dispatched the kick with aplomb, taking the score to 26-8 to the home side.
There was to be no let-up from Rennie’s men, as they continued to monopolise possession. A high tackle from Scarlets replacement Tom Phillips saw the back-rower become the second Scarlet of the evening to be shown a yellow card, yet this time the Welsh outfit would be the next to score. An interception from Davies saw the British and Irish Lion run fully 80 metres, before two long passes sent Steff Evans over in the corner. The conversion was missed, with Glasgow’s lead at 13 points going into the last 10 minutes.
The Scarlets now had their tails up, and brought themselves back to within a converted try with five minutes remaining. A searing break from Patchell and sharp handling saw Clayton Blommetjes dive over, with Patchell converting to make it 26-20 to Glasgow and ratchet up the pressure on the home side.
Yet once more Thomson had the answer. When the Scarlets found themselves punished for holding on to the ball, Glasgow’s fly-half made no mistake to seal a 29-20 victory, a win that was roared to the rafters by the Scotstoun faithful on the full-time whistle.