Glasgow Warriors 33-24 Cardiff Blues
In challenging conditions, the crucial result keeps the Warriors in contention for a place in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup, with the hosts running in five tries to seal an invaluable bonus-point.
On an afternoon when Scotstoun rose to acclaim Glasgow’s first double-centurion, it was appropriate that a member of the pack was the first to cross the whitewash. An unstoppable driving maul from five metres out eventually saw Grant Stewart touch down for his first try in a Warriors shirt. Brandon Thomson converted in excellent fashion from out wide, using the gusting wind to his advantage for a 7-0 lead after 26 minutes.
Straight from the kick-off, there was almost another score to savour for the Warrior Nation, as Tommy Seymour sliced through the Cardiff defence to race 50 metres upfield. The British and Irish Lion kept his composure to find the supporting Tim Swinson, who was dragged down just short, before Stewart was denied a second try in as many minutes as the visitors managed to prevent him from grounding the ball.
It mattered little, as from the resulting scrum the Warriors struck once again. A strong carry from DTH van der Merwe took play to within two metres, before a delightfully delayed pass from Ali Price saw Scott Cummings crash over unopposed. Thomson made no mistake with the simple conversion, and the hosts led 14-0.
Almost unbelievably, there could have been a third try in a ten-minute spell for the Warriors. The wind played havoc with Thomson’s up-and-under, with Nick Grigg hacking the loose ball forward and haring after it, with the ball agonisingly rolling over the dead-ball line before the Glasgow centre could apply the finish.
Instead, it was the Blues that were next to cross the whitewash. With advantage being played, Owen Lane’s break and chip ahead was gathered by Dan Fish, the Cardiff full-back then providing the return pass for Lane to touch down. Steven Shingler was off target from the tee, leaving the score at 14-5 at the break.
Chasing the bonus-point, and with the wind now against them, the hosts made their intent known from the outset of the second half, running the ball at every opportunity. Once again, it was the pack that did the damage, with the Warriors rewarded with their third try on 49 minutes with a near-carbon copy of their first score of the game after another dominant maul. This time, it was Chris Fusaro who emerged with the ball, with Thomson making a mockery of the gale to add the extra two points for a 21-5 lead.
Once again, however, the Blues responded, with a flowing move and some impressive handling allowing Harri Millard to dive over in the corner on the stroke of the hour. Shingler was again unable to convert, with the Warriors holding an 11-point advantage going into the final quarter.
With the first play of that final quarter, though, the home side secured the crucial try bonus-point as Scotstoun saluted try number four. Regathering the kick-off, the Warriors battered their way towards the Cardiff line, before Oli Kebble smashed his way through two Blues for the all-important score. Thomson maintained his perfect record from the tee, extending his side’s lead to 28-10 to the delight of the Warrior Nation.
Yet Cardiff refused to go quietly, with the Blues crossing for their third try of the afternoon on 64 minutes. The ball was worked from touchline to touchline, before Josh Navidi cantered over to score. Shingler’s third conversion attempt of the evening split the uprights, bringing his side back to within two scores.
Indeed, the momentum was with the visitors as the game entered its final ten minutes, and the Blues were rewarded with a try bonus-point of their own on 71 minutes. A set-piece play from a scrum saw replacement fly-half Jarrod Evans send Lane under the posts, with the conversion making it 28-24 to the Warriors and ensuring a nervy finale for those in the stands.
With the game on the line, though, Dave Rennie’s men stood up to be counted. Relentless pressure inside the Cardiff 22 eventually told, as replacement scrum-half George Horne took advantage of a gap close to the line to snipe over for a game-securing score. For the first time in the match Thomson was unsuccessful with the conversion attempt, but with the score reading 33-24 in favour of the Warriors, it made no difference to the overall result.
The referee’s final whistle blew shortly afterwards, sealing a vital five points for Glasgow as they battle for a place in the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals. With the qualification picture becoming clearer, Rennie and his squad travel to Saracens next weekend knowing that they are well and truly in the hunt for a coveted berth in the last eight.