Glasgow Warriors opened their 2022/23 pre-season account with victory in Inverness this evening, running in four tries to claim a 22-17 win over Ayrshire Bulls.
Sione Vailanu, George Horne, Fraser Brown and Jack Dempsey all crossed the whitewash for Franco Smith’s side, with the Bulls providing an impressive display in response despite only having 72 hours to prepare for the fixture.
In front of over 3,000 fans at the Caledonian Stadium, Glasgow’s attacking intent was clear from the opening kick-off. An eye-catching cross-kick from Domingo Miotti to Walter Fifita sent the big Tongan rampaging into space, whilst Stafford McDowall and Tom Jordan immediately showed their fluidity as a combination.
The Bulls, however, had also travelled north with the intention to play. Jamie Shedden and Lee McNamara each made themselves known to the crowd with enterprising counter-attack, as Jordan Lenac steered his side around the field from scrum-half.
A fast and furious opening quarter almost finished in the best possible fashion for the Warriors, as Smith’s men almost converted an attacking lineout into points. A strong maul saw Johnny Matthews free George Horne and Miotti, before Fifita was sent towards the line. An almighty defensive effort from the Bulls saw the winger just squeezed into touch, though, and the chance went begging.
Whilst one Tongan was stopped, though, the Bulls could do nothing about his countryman on 29 minutes. With successive penalties kicked to the corner, the pressure eventually told; an unstoppable rolling maul sent Sione Vailanu over the line for the opening score, Miotti’s conversion drifting wide to leave the score a 5-0 to the Warriors.
Richie Simpson cut the arrears with a penalty five minutes later, but almost immediately Smith’s side hit back with a clinical counter-attack. When Cole Forbes sliced his way through the defensive line and up to the Bulls 22, it was a simple task for the full-back to draw and pass to the supporting Horne, the scrum-half racing over under the posts. Miotti converted, giving his side a 12-3 half-time lead.
With a raft of changes at the interval for both sides, you’d have been forgiven for expecting the second-half to begin in a stop-start fashion. Far from it. Straight from the restart, the Warriors went on the offensive, and were rewarded with their third try of the night. When Joel Hodgson kicked a penalty into the corner, the lineout maul once again worked like clockwork. Fraser Brown’s feed found JP du Preez, before Brown himself was smuggled over for the score. The conversion went astray, but Glasgow led 17-3 after 45 minutes.
It would almost be a quickfire double from the home side, as Horne’s turnover on his own five-metre line sparked a counter-attack involving Forbes and Fifita into life. Only Simpson’s quick reaction prevent a fourth try for the Warriors, as the benches continued to empty.
Another of those replacements would be the next to cross the whitewash, and indeed with practically his first touch of the ball. A Stafford McDowall line break just before the hour mark took the Warriors to within five metres of the visitors’ try-line, with Jack Dempsey on hand to pick up and dot down for the score. Once more the conversion drifted across the face of the posts, leaving the score at 22-3.
Yet the Bulls refused to go quietly, and were rewarded with a well-earned score of their own as the game entered it’s closing stages. Will Hunt – on for the Bulls despite being named as a Glasgow replacement – directed the visitors to the corner from a penalty, and the resulting maul saw Bulls replacement and Glasgow academy hooker Jamie Drummond touch down. Hunt converted, and the crowd were in full noise for the visitors’ efforts.
With 90 seconds remaining, the gap would narrow yet further. This time it would be Hunt himself to cross the whitewash, the fly-half racing over after spotting a gap 10 metres from the Glasgow line before converting his own try to make it 22-17.
The Warriors would see out proceedings, however, with Euan Ferrie applying an agricultural boot to bring down the final curtain on an entertaining evening. Next up for Smith and company will be a long-awaited return to Scotstoun, as Ulster come to town next Friday night.
Kick-off 1:45 pm