A brace of bonus-points were all that fell the way of Glasgow Warriors in Cardiff this evening, as Danny Wilson’s men slipped to a narrow 32-28 defeat at Cardiff Arms Park.
Sebastian Cancelliere’s first tries for the club, coupled with scores from Sam Johnson and Fraser Brown, were to ultimately prove in vain, with Cardiff crossing for four tries of their own in an end-to-end affair.
In the spring sunshine at the Arms Park, any latecomers would have missed a firecracker of a start. Three turnovers in the opening two minutes set the tempo for the match, with the home side coming out firing; only a try-saving turnover from Ali Price and Josh McKay denied Theo Cabango, whilst Kyle Steyn was causing the Cardiff defence all manner of issues.
The first try belonged to the home side, though, with Uilisi Halaholo at the heart of proceedings. The centre’s line break took Cardiff into the Glasgow 22, before getting up and spinning the ball wide to Jason Harries. The winger finished well under pressure from Cole Forbes, and whilst Jarrod Evans couldn’t add the extras from out wide the home side had the early lead.
That lead was added to on 10 minutes courtesy of an Evans penalty, as the Cardiff defence was proving their mettle in front of the home support.
Yet out of nothing, the Warriors showed exactly what they can do. A lineout steal from Ryan Wilson on his own 22 saw the ball spun to Steyn in midfield, with the centre splitting the defence and bursting clear. A smart ball to Cancelliere on the Cardiff ten-metre line sent the Argentinian slaloming past the covering defender, racing over under the posts for his first try in Glasgow colours. Ross Thompson added the extras, and suddenly the Warriors were in the groove.
A frenetic opening quarter was summed up by the sight of Zander Fagerson sidestepping his man in midfield, with each and every Warrior comfortable with ball in hand. A second try felt inevitable, and it duly arrived on 23 minutes. A well-worked counter-attack from McKay and Price took Glasgow into the 22, before going through the phases in Cardiff territory. Scott Cummings came close to busting down the door on a couple of occasions, but it would be Johnson who applied the finish, stepping his man to give himself the space to muscle over for the score. Thompson’s conversion gave the Warriors the lead, and the visiting support was in full voice.
The set-piece was proving particularly fruitful for the visitors, and it was no surprise that the lineout would be the catalyst for their next score on the half-hour mark. Three successive maul penalties marched the Warriors downfield, the third of which proved unstoppable. Brown was the man to emerge with the ball after rumbling over, the conversion sailing over for a 21-8 lead.
However, Cardiff were not in the mood to go quietly into the break. With five minutes of the half remaining, the hosts struck back. Halaholo was involved heavily again, with the centre and James Botham carrying well in the Glasgow 22. When the ball squirted loose, Cabango reacted quickest, gathering to step inside the defence and touch down. Evans converted, leaving the score at 21-15 to the Warriors at the interval.
The second half would start in just as frenetic fashion as the first, only this time Glasgow would be the ones smiling. Faced with a two-on-one, Cancelliere chose his moment to perfection, flying in to pick off the interception and sprint 65 metres to the line for the score. The conversion from Thompson put the gloss on the bonus-point score, extending the visitors’ lead.
Once more, though, the home side responded. After wave after wave of attack, Halaholo would be the one to identify the mismatch and capitalise, getting on the outside of Oli Kebble to dot down. Evans converted well from out wide, and the gap was down to six once more.
Cardiff well and truly had their tails up now, and would retake the lead to a roar of approval from the home crowd on 67 minutes. Sustained pressure inside Glasgow territory eventually stretched the Warriors’ defence enough for Cabango to find his way over for Cardiff’s fourth try, Evans adding the extras to put his side 29-28 in front.
It would be the home side that would close out the victory, then, despite the visitors throwing everything at them in pursuit of a vital turnover. A final flourish from Evans saw the fly-half add a 79th minute penalty to round out proceedings, leaving the final score at 32-28 to the hosts and leave Glasgow with just the two bonus-points with which to console themselves.
The Warriors won’t have to wait long before their first chance to bounce back, however; a now crucial home clash with Zebre Parma awaits on Friday night at Scotstoun, as the pursuit of a play-off place becomes ever more heated.
Kick-off 5:30 pm