A six-try showing saw Glasgow Warriors return to United Rugby Championship action in some style this afternoon, overpowering Connacht to claim a 42-20 victory at The Sportsground.
Two tries apiece from Rufus McLean and Kyle Steyn, in addition to tries from Fraser Brown and Johnny Matthews, ensured that Danny Wilson’s men would be leaving Galway with all five points as they kept pace at the top of the standings.
Whilst a vociferous Sportsground crowd roared as referee Nic Berry blew to open proceedings, it would be the Warriors who came out of the blocks firing. An early steal from Brown saw George Horne almost put Sebastian Cancelliere away, only for the ball to bounce into touch just a metre from the try-line.
Yet Glasgow were not to be denied for long. With Richie Gray’s disruptive presence at the lineout earning his side a scrum, the visitors would strike for the game’s opening score. Heavy carrying in midfield from Sione Tuipulotu and Kiran McDonald sucked in the Connacht defence, before Horne identified a two-on-one to send McLean in at the corner. Duncan Weir’s conversion was blown astray, but the travelling Warrior Nation were in full voice.
Both sides were playing at a breathless pace, with Cancelliere looking lively in the opening exchanges. However, Glasgow’s endeavours were dealt a blow on eight minutes, as Gray found himself sent to the sin-bin for an illegal clearout at the breakdown.
The home side would make their numerical advantage count on 12 minutes, delighting the Sportsground faithful. After Tiernan O’Halloran’s 50-22 gave his side field position, the men in green set about exerting pressure on their opponents. In the end, it would be Sam Arnold who would collect the scoring pass from Cathal Forde to dive over, Forde’s conversion giving the hosts the lead.
Restored to a full compliment of players, the Warriors duly struck back seven minutes later. With Weir kicking a penalty to touch on the Connacht 22, a powerful maul took play to within 15 metres of the try-line. From there, it would be Tuipulotu who would draw the tackler and put Steyn through a gap, the centre racing away for a try on his 28th birthday. Weir converted, giving the Warriors a 12-7 lead.
The visitors were looking lively, with Ollie Smith’s line break almost sending Horne clear and Cancelliere beating defenders at will. There was a sense of urgency from the Warriors to strike once again before the break, and that urgency was converted into a third try with five minutes of the half to play. It was as textbook a lineout score as you could hope to see, with Brown finding Gray and then tucking himself away at the back of the maul to dot down for his second try in as many URC matches. The conversion was off target, but – despite a penalty from Forde on the stroke of half-time – it would be Glasgow who would go into the break in front.
Yet where it was Glasgow who started the first half on the front foot, it was Connacht who opened the scoring in the second stanza. Despite a superb try-saving tackle from Tuipulotu, Paul Boyle would eventually pick up from a metre out and dive over. Forde’s conversion levelled the scores, before trading penalties with Weir to leave the scores tied at 20-20.
Undeterred, the Warriors would go back on the attack in search of a bonus-point. Alert play from Horne sent Cancelliere clear and into Connacht territory, the winger slaloming back infield to set up play 15 metres from the Connacht try-line. Only a cynical slap-down from Boyle would deny the visitors from spinning it wide, referee Berry sending the back-rower for ten minutes on the sidelines.
Just like their hosts in the first-half, the Warriors would make full use of the extra man. Phase after phase of pressure inside Connacht’s 22 stretched the home defence, with McDonald taking play up to the five-metre line. It would then be up to Weir to loop a pass over the top to McLean and the winger did the rest, finishing brilliantly under pressure in the corner for his second of the afternoon. Weir couldn’t add the extras, but Glasgow were just getting started.
Indeed, it would be just 90 seconds later that the Warriors were celebrating once more. A scuffed clearing kick from the home side allowed Jamie Dobie to feed Tuipulotu on halfway, who in turn popped a basketball-style pass to Steyn. The centre, spotting the lack of cover in the back field, chipped ahead before turning on the afterburners, gathering the ball to make it a birthday brace. Weir’s conversion made it 32-20, and the Warriors were firmly in command.
With a perfectly-executed 50-22 from Smith pinning the hosts inside their own territory, Glasgow were in no mood to relent. Weir’s boot would extend the lead to 15 points with six minutes to play, securing the victory for the visitors.
There would be a final flourish from Danny Wilson’s men, though. A lineout steal from Gray on halfway was the catalyst for Smith to stick a kick in behind, with Steyn and Stafford McDowall bundling the covering Oran McNulty into touch on the five-metre line. From there, Johnny Matthews would not be denied, an unstoppable maul driving the replacement hooker over for Glasgow’s sixth of the afternoon. Weir’s conversion made it 42-20, and a job well done for the Warriors.
Kick-off 8:00 pm