A last-minute Kiran McDonald try secured a vital bonus-point victory for Glasgow Warriors this evening, as the club overpowered a stubborn Dragons side to claim a 27-16 win at Cardiff City Stadium.
Kyle Steyn, Ross Thompson and George Turner also touched down for the visitors, who go into their final fixture still in with a shot of reaching the Rainbow Cup Final.
Needing the victory to keep their Guinness Rainbow Cup hopes alive, it was the visitors who started the brighter under the Cardiff City Stadium floodlights. An early drive for the line from George Turner was halted only by the referee’s whistle, whilst Kyle Steyn’s soaring take saw the Scotland winger beat two defenders and make good ground in midfield.
Their early pressure was almost rewarded with the game’s opening try on nine minutes, the result of some slick handling in the 22. It was Rory Darge who sparked the move, racing into Dragons territory after a turnover on halfway before recycling possession. Quick ball saw the play shifted out wide, before eye-catching hands from Adam Hastings and Cole Forbes saw Nick Grigg dive over in the corner. However, an earlier infringement was called down to the referee by the TMO, and the try was chalked off.
Instead, it was the Dragons who struck first. Successive penalties saw the hosts launch a strike play from a lineout inside the Glasgow 22, from which Aneurin Owen was able to dive over for the score. Sam Davies converted, and the Welsh side led 7-0 after 13 minutes.
Davies extended his side’s lead with a penalty as the match’s opening quarter drew to a close, as Glasgow were penalised for not rolling away on their own 10 metre line. It was a marker that Ross Thompson cancelled out with aplomb on 26 minutes, the Glasgow fly-half finally registering the points his side’s possession had deserved with a penalty from 45 metres.
Thompson’s kick seemed to sting the Dragons into action, as the home side set about hammering away at the Glasgow defensive line inside the 22. However, a resolute defensive shift saw the visitors repel all attempts to breach the line, with Davies eventually settling for a drop-goal to restore the 10-point gap.
With four minutes left in the half, though, the Warriors finally found their way through a stubborn Dragons rearguard. A no-arms tackle on Turner saw referee Chris Busby play advantage, from which Sam Johnson and Hastings combined to send Steyn over in the corner. Thompson’s conversion attempt rattled the uprights, but Glasgow were the team with the momentum.
Yet just when the Dragons thought they would reach the interval with their lead intact, the Warriors clicked in trademark fashion. A superb line break from Turner saw the hooker feed Scott Cummings, whose offload found Ali Price roaring up in support. The scrum-half in turn turned a sublime offload back inside to Turner, before one final offload sent Thompson racing over next to the uprights. The conversion was a simple one, and Glasgow led 15-13 at the break.
A fired-up Glasgow started the second half as they finished the first, extending their lead on their first visit to the Dragons 22. After a well-worked try from Forbes was ruled out for a knock-on in the build-up, an earlier penalty saw Thompson kick to the corner. From a short-range lineout, Turner found Cummings before rumbling over for the try, Thompson converting superbly from the touchline for a 22-13 advantage.
There was no doubt as to who had the upper hand now, as Glasgow exerted the pressure upon their hosts in all facets of the game. Only the TMO could prevent Price from dotting down for the bonus-point score on 52 minutes, as a crossing offence in midfield denied the British and Irish Lion’s excellent snipe around the breakdown.
The match was being played nearly exclusively in the Dragons half, with another darting run from Price pinning Rio Dyer in his own corner and Darge continuously carrying hard into contact. Yet the visitors knew that they needed to remain on their guard defensively, Steyn epitomising this attitude with a shot on Ioan Davies that had the Glasgow replacements on their feet.
The home side were not about to go down without a fight, however. Slowly but surely the Dragons were rediscovering their feet as the game entered its final 10 minutes. Another Davies penalty cut the gap to six points, setting up an edgy finale to proceedings.
With just seventy seconds to play, though, the all-important bonus-point try was finally delivered. A break from Hastings and a pinpoint looping pass over the top saw Rufus McLean race up the touchline, before lifting the ball to perfection into the arms of McDonald. A first Glasgow try for the second-rower, and what a time to score it.
Kick-off 12:15 pm