Two late tries from Newcastle Falcons saw Glasgow Warriors suffer defeat in the 2021 The Famous Grouse Pre-Season Challenge, on a night where the noise of the Warrior Nation returned to Scotstoun.
3,464 supporters made themselves heard under the Friday night lights, with the home side running out in front of their fans for the first time in 559 days.
With the noise inside Scotstoun still ringing around the stadium as Duncan Weir hoisted the kick-off high into the evening sky, both sides set about testing their opposition. An early half-break from Sione Tuipulotu had the Warrior Nation’s volume levels rising, whilst the Falcons pack set about battering away at the defensive line inside the Glasgow 22.
The first real half-chance came on 11 minutes, and it came the way of the home side. A Weir 50-22 saw the Warriors set up inside the Newcastle 22, only for an inside ball from Sean Kennedy to Johnny Matthews to agonisingly slip through the latter’s fingers.
Matthews more than made up for that moment seven minutes later, however, playing his part in the game’s opening score. Spotting the loose ball at the base of the ruck, the hooker picked up and raced clear, his pace taking him from inside his own half to within 35 metres of the Newcastle line. Stafford McDowall’s line break kept the play alive, before the centre flipped the off-load inside to Weir. The fly-half had a simple run-in for the try, converting his own score with the Scotstoun crowd making their delight known.
The momentum was with the home side, as they continued to look for gaps in the opposing defence. A clever chip and chase from Sean Kennedy saw the scrum-half taken out off the ball by Will Welch, the Newcastle captain sent to the sin-bin as a result.
Wilson’s men were looking lively with ball in hand, pressurising their visitors at the set-piece. A steal from Kiran McDonald saw the Warriors break into the Newcastle 22, before the ball was switched back down the blindside. Ryan Wilson thought he’d delivered the scoring pass to McDonald, only for the covering Ollie Lindsay-Hague to bring down the flanker inches short.
That would be the best chance for the remainder of the half, with continuity an issue for both sides with ball in hand. Ollie Smith almost found a way through with the clock ticking over 40 minutes, but it would be a seven-point advantage for the hosts at the break.
The second stanza saw the Warriors continue on the front foot, almost registering their second try just three minutes after the restart. Great work from Tuipulotu saw the centre release Rufus McLean, with the winger scampering into the Newcastle 22 only to be denied by the Falcons scramble defence.
McLean then came even closer with 46 minutes on the clock; swift hands from McDowall and Weir put the youngster into space. A despairing tackle from Mike Brown was the only thing to prevent the Warriors winger sending the Scotstoun faithful into rapture, as the hosts looked to extend their lead.
Even wholesale changes on 51 minutes couldn’t disrupt the Glasgow momentum, as Jamie Dobie immediately introduced himself to the Newcastle defence with a sniping break through the middle. In defence, too, the Warriors replacements made themselves known, with academy talents Max Williamson and Rory Jackson wasting no time in getting into the action.
The attacking impetus was all Glasgow’s, with Nick Grigg almost sent over the whitewash for a score with his first touch after coming off the bench. Instead, though, it would be Newcastle who would strike with 13 minutes to play; picking off a loose pass in midfield, Callum Chick would hold off the attentions of Rob Harley to touch down under the crossbar. Will Haydon-Wood converted, and the scores were level at 7-7.
Indeed the Falcons were finishing the game strongly, and the visitors would steal the victory right at the death. A wide ball saw Chick and George Wacokecoke combine, with the latter having enough pace and strength to hold off the challenge of Logan Trotter to score in the corner. The conversion drifted wide but it was of little consequence, the final whistle blowing to bring the curtain down on proceedings.
Yet despite the result, it was a performance with plenty of positives for the home side. The focus now turns to next week’s trip to Sixways, with Worcester Warriors providing the club’s final pre-season test ahead of the new campaign.
Kick-off 2:00 pm