Glasgow Warriors suffered a first home defeat since February under the Friday night lights, as Leinster claimed a 31-15 victory at Scotstoun.
Tries from Jack Dempsey and Lewis Bean ultimately proved in vain, as the defending champions moved to the top of the United Rugby Championship table for the time being.
In front of the first sold-out Scotstoun since the return of crowds, the tone for the match was set straight from the opening kick-off as both sides refused to give an inch without a fight. It would be Leinster who would open the scoring, as Ross Byrne punished a high tackle by bisecting the uprights from 45 metres with an early penalty.
Indeed, the visitors were in the mood to move the ball at every opportunity, and struck for the night’s first try with seven minutes on the clock. An overlap saw the ball reach the hands of hooker Ronan Kelleher in the wide channels, with the Irish international having just enough to evade the covering Rufus McLean and touch down. Byrne converted, and Leinster had a 10-0 lead.
Yet the Warriors were in no mood to roll over in the face of early adversity. Back came Danny Wilson’s men, with Sione Tuipulotu causing mayhem in midfield with a series of half-breaks. It was from one of these darts that Leinster were penalised for not rolling away on their own 22, allowing Ross Thompson to narrow the gap from the tee with 16 minutes gone.
Glasgow were finding their groove as the end of the opening quarter ticked by; a barnstorming charge from Dempsey saw him skittle Leinster defenders from his path, before a booming Duncan Weir kick took Glasgow from 22 to 22 to the delight of the Warrior Nation.
Despite this, it would be Leinster who would strike next, with a score bearing all the hallmarks of Leinster rugby in recent season. Quick ball and relentless pressure eventually saw James Lowe break the line, offloading to Hugo Keenan for the simplest of scores. The conversion from Byrne made it 17-3 to the visitors, and Glasgow knew they needed to score next.
The Warriors duly set about their task with renewed vigour, and it would be Tuipulotu once more who would provide the catalyst. Another half-break saw the centre offload to Sam Johnson, who juggled and batted it on to Thompson. The full-back volleyed it ahead and leapt to regather, only to be cleaned out by Keenan. A penalty was awarded by the officials after a TMO review, giving Glasgow the perfect platform.
As the East Stand roared their team closer, Leinster’s defence was creaking. A yellow card to Jack Conan handed Glasgow another penalty, and this time the home side were not to be denied. It would be Dempsey who would crash over for the score, with Thompson converting to end the half on a high.
There was to be no let-up in the physicality levels from either side at the start of the second period, with Dempsey and Zander Fagerson to the fore for the hosts with ball in hand. George Turner introduced himself early after coming on at the interval, too, the hooker chopping man after man to deck in a frantic opening exchange,
As was the case in the opening stanza, however, it would be Leinster who would strike first in the second half. With advantage in hand, the ball was swung wide to Adam Byrne, who produced an impressive finish under pressure to score in the corner. Namesake Ross converted, giving Leinster a 24-10 lead after 53 minutes.
Leinster were looking to take full control of proceedings, as they set up camp inside the Glasgow 22. Their fourth try arrived on the stroke of the hour mark, with replacement hooker Dan Sheehan riding the challenge of a Glasgow defender from close-range to ground the ball over the whitewash. The conversion from Byrne made it 31-10, and the Warriors had a mountain to climb.
In the face of an imposing Leinster defence, the Warriors were finding spaces here and there; McLean and Kyle Steyn each broke the line with a combination of pace and footwork, whilst a burst from Matt Fagerson got the home side in behind. Yet every time, the visitors scrambled back into position, snuffing out attack after attack in their own half.
There would be one final salvo from the home side, though, as they earned the final word under the Friday night lights. With Jamison Gibson-Park in the sin-bin for a punch on George Horne, a slickly-worked backs move saw Steyn race to within inches of the try-line. Whilst the winger was stopped short, Bean was on hand to add the final yard for his second try in as many weeks. The conversion went astray, leaving the final score reading 31-15 in Leinster’s favour as the sides now break for the Autumn Nations Series window.
Kick-off 8:00 pm