Glasgow Warriors booked their place in the last-eight of the EPCR Challenge Cup in clinical fashion this evening, putting a dogged Newcastle Falcons side to the sword with a 27-17 victory at Kingston Park.
Two tries from Player of the Match Kyle Steyn, allied to tries from Josh McKay and Johnny Matthews, secured the Scotstoun side’s progress in the competition and keeps them in the hunt for European silverware.
In front of a superb travelling party from the Warrior Nation, Danny Wilson’s men could not have asked for a better start. A monopoly of early possession eventually told with less than three minutes on the clock; some excellent footwork from Sione Tuipulotu and soft hands from Ryan Wilson sent McKay racing down the touchline, before flipping the ball inside to Ali Price. The scrum-half in turn found Matthews, the hooker diving over for his ninth try of the season. Ross Thompson converted, and a 7-0 lead was Glasgow’s.
It was almost a quickfire double from the Warriors, as straight from the kick-off Sebastian Cancelliere broke down the touchline. His inside ball was cut out by Luther Burrell, but a hack downfield from Rory Darge saw Louis Schreuder forced to scramble clear.
Almost directly from the resulting lineout, the visitors struck for their second score of an ideal opening 10 minutes. Price’s long ball allowed Sam Johnson and Thompson to free Tuipulotu, who found Cancelliere on the loop. All that was left for the Argentinian was to draw the last man and send Steyn over unopposed in the corner, and whilst the conversion flashed wide Glasgow were looking strong.
Newcastle, however, were in no mood to lie down. A counter-attack from Adam Radwan put the Warriors defence on notice, before a well-timed turnover from Thomas Gordon cut out the opportunity. For the Warriors, an opportunistic snipe down the blindside from Price saw the British and Irish Lion almost go over for a sensational score, with the Falcons forcing a knock-on to survive.
It would be the hosts who would score next, Brett Connon knocking over a penalty from 30 metres after the Warriors strayed offside. However, the last word in the opening stanza would go to the Warriors. A loose kick from Schreuder allowed Steyn to gallop into Newcastle territory, before the visitors went patiently through the phases in the face of some brutal physicality from the Falcons. That patience was eventually rewarded, as another snipe from Price saw McKay on hand to apply the finishing touch under the posts. Thompson added the extras, giving the Warriors a 19-3 lead at the interval.
Knowing they needed to respond to keep their own European hopes alive, the Falcons came out swinging at the start of the second half. Full-back Tom Penny thought he was over for a try with 49 minutes played, only to see his effort chalked off by the Television Match Official.
The Falcons wouldn’t be denied for long, however. A sustained period of pressure in the Glasgow 22 eventually paid off, as Will Montgomery found a way over from close-range to dot down. A tricky conversion was nailed by Connon, bringing the Falcons within range.
Glasgow duly responded by stringing together the phases themselves, with repeated close-range penalties illegally brought down by the home side. At the fourth time of asking, the opportunity arose for the Warriors to make the pressure count. Once more the score owed much to the subtlety of the midfield handling, as Johnson released McKay into open prairie. The full-back duly picked off the three-on-two with Cancelliere, sending Steyn over for his second of the evening. The conversion drifted wide, but Glasgow had a 24-10 lead.
That advantage was extended just after the hour mark, as the Warriors looked to strengthen their grip on proceedings. Another counter-attack saw Rory Darge put Steyn through a gap, the winger racing up to the Newcastle 22. Only an offside defender could prevent the visitors’ momentum, allowing Thompson to strike the penalty through the uprights from the 22.
It was a lead that would be short-lived, as the Falcons hit back with 15 minutes to play. A strong carry from Luther Burrell took the home side to within 10 metres of the Glasgow line, before Joel Hodgson spotted enough of a gap to dart over for the try. The replacement fly-half converted his own score to bring the deficit down to 10 points, and the Kingston Park crowd urged their team on once more.
Yet there was to be no late drama under the Good Friday lights, as the Warriors saw out proceedings in clinical fashion. A quarter-final trip to Lyon now awaits for Wilson’s men, after a titanic trip to South Africa for a United Rugby Championship double-header that kicks-off next weekend.
Kick-off 5:30 pm