Memory Lane | Dances with Dragons

Memory Lane | Dances with Dragons

On Saturday April 1 2023, Glasgow will play Dragons RFC for the 44th time in their history. In the Warriors’ first ever home European knockout tie, and with progression to a quarter-final at stake, there will be more riding on this encounter than ever before – against an opponent that has provided some intense battles in the past.

Nearly 20 years have passed since Glasgow first met Dragons in a Celtic League fixture during the 2003/04 season. There have been Heineken Cup clashes and even a Rainbow Cup match-up in the interim. As things stand, the Warriors recent victory at Rodney Parade has seen their winning percentage creep over 50%, with 22 victories, three draws and 18 losses against the Welsh side.

It’s certainly been a rollercoaster along the way! Glasgow only won one of their first nine games against Dragons, including losing five in a row on home soil, as the least fashionable of the Welsh regions built up a reputation as the Warriors’ bogey team. There were agonising losses by a single point (at Hughenden in 2006) and two points (at Firhill in 2008) as the team from Newport seemed to demonstrate a preternatural ability to find any way possible to win.

The tail end of Sean Lineen’s time at the club saw Glasgow begin to get a handle on their opposition. Every game was a scrap but only losing once in seven attempts (four wins and two draws) was a huge step forward from what the Warrior Nation had suffered through previously.

The 2012/13 season and the birth of the Townsend era finally seemed to destined to put to bed any lingering notion of Dragons being the Warriors’ kryptonite. The new boss’s first season in charge brought with it two bonus-point wins and an aggregate score of 97 – 9. Happy days and time to move on from the previous nervousness any time the Welsh side turned up on the fixture card, surely?

Dance with dragons, though, and you will almost certainly get burned – which is what happened to Glasgow the following year when they were defeated both at Scotstoun and in Newport. For a side who only lost four regular season fixtures in that PRO12 campaign (the others were against Munster and Leinster) it was a shock to the system but proof positive that no side – particularly Dragons – can ever be underestimated.

Gregor Townsend certainly didn’t allow any let-up over the next three seasons, seeing his side bag six wins from six. A hard-earned victory Rodney Parade in the early days of the championship-winning season of 2014/15 – in a game when the Warriors had to play almost the entire second half a man short after Tyrone Holmes’ red card – was a particular highlight.

Any thoughts that the Dragons jinx might be over for good, however, was soon dispelled as Glasgow stumbled to just two wins from their next six matches between 2018 and 2021.

The Rainbow Cup in May 2021 kicked off the current streak in the confrontations between these clubs – the Warriors left Cardiff City Stadium with a well-deserved bonus point win. That was repeated, first at Scotstoun and more recently at Rodney Parade, marking the first time in their history that Glasgow have managed three consecutive bonus-point victories over Dragons.

Previous history suggests caution when approaching a fixture of this magnitude against Dragons. The Warriors are more than capable of winning but the Welsh region have, time and time again, shown themselves well able to come up with a superb performance when facing Glasgow. The men from Newport already have two wins at Scotstoun (only Leinster, Munster and Scarlets have more) and will provide a tough test as the Warriors look for just their second win in a European knockout tie.

This article initially appeared in Issue 16 of Warrior, the Official Magazine of Glasgow Warriors. For more, click here.

Spread the word

Newsletter Sign-up

Sign up to our newsletter today to receive the latest updates, content and releases from Glasgow Warriors.