Glasgow Warriors endured a tough evening in Wales as their unbeaten United Rugby Championship run came to an end at five matches, with the Scarlets running in five tries to claim a 35-10 win at Parc y Scarlets.
Johnny Matthews’ early effort proved in vain for the visitors, as the Warriors came away empty-handed to slip to fourth in the overall standings.
Glasgow’s intent to compete was on show right from the opening kick-off, as Kiran McDonald’s half-chargedown of Gareth Davies’ clearing kick allowed the Warriors to establish themselves in Scarlets territory with ball in hand.
That early intervention began the passage of play that culminated in the game’s opening score; relentless pressure from those in white and blue forced the home side into conceding back to back penalties, which Duncan Weir duly dispatched to touch. From the second of those lineouts, there would be no stopping the Glasgow maul, as a 10-man shove saw Matthews roll over for the simplest of scores. Weir added the extras, and the visitors led 7-0 after just five minutes.
Stung into life, the Scarlets set about asking questions of their own with possession, a booming Rhys Patchell penalty taking them into the Glasgow 22. Yet the Warriors defence was up to the task, meeting their hosts with physical hit after physical hit to repel all attacks from the home side.
Despite losing Oli Kebble to an early injury, Glasgow were getting into their rhythm on a perfect evening for rugby in Llanelli. Sam Johnson and Ollie Smith in particular were carrying with intent in the back-line, whilst the returning Josh McKay was popping up across the park in search of work.
It was from a typically direct Johnson burst that the Warriors would add to their lead, as the centre’s charge took play into the Scarlets 22. With the Glasgow pack, led by Ryan Wilson, setting about their business, an offside defender provided Weir with the chance to extend his team’s lead from the tee. It was an opportunity he duly accepted, giving the Warriors a 10-point cushion after 21 minutes.
The second quarter proved a more scrappy affair than the first, with both sides looking for the crucial gap in the defence. Weir and Jamie Dobie were dictating proceedings from the half-backs, whilst Murphy Walker – on Kebble – was showing up well on the less familiar loose-head side of the scrum.
Almost out of nothing, however, the Scarlets would strike on the stroke of half-time. A well-worked set-piece play saw Davies break the line and offload to Steff Evans just as the tackle came in, allowing the winger to go under the posts. Patchell converted, leaving it as a three-point game at the break.
The home side would continue from where they left off as the second half got underway, making it a quickfire double just 90 seconds after the restart. Once more Evans would be at the centre of proceedings, his line break and pass sending captain Scott Williams over untouched. Patchell’s conversion gave the Scarlets the lead for the first time in the match, to the delight of the home crowd.
Then came the game’s big momentum shift; looking to re-establish their momentum, the Warriors were celebrating on 56 minutes after an outstanding break from Smith saw the full-back send Dobie over for a superb score. Yet the officials had other ideas, Ryan Wilson harshly penalised for an obstruction in midfield and the try consequently scrubbed off by the TMO.
As if to rub salt into the wound, the Scarlets would cross for a try of their own straight from the resulting penalty. Whilst the Glasgow defence held the maul at bay, Davies’ eye for the try-line saw the scrum-half step inside the cover defence and reach out for the score. The conversion from Patchell made it a two score game, and the home side had their tails up.
Just six minutes later, the home side were in once more. Turnover ball in midfield saw Ryan Conbeer freed on the outside, before flinging an offload infield for Sione Kalamafoni. The Tongan number eight did just enough to ground the ball despite a valiant effort from Smith, the conversion making it 28-10 with 10 minutes to play.
Try as they might, the Warriors just could not find a way back into the match. Instead, the final word would belong to the Scarlets, Conbeer racing over as a disjointed Glasgow back-line chased the game. Sam Costelow added the extras, bringing the final score to 35-10 in favour of the home side.
The onus will now fully be on Glasgow as they look to bounce back in a fortnight’s time; a clash with cross-country rivals Edinburgh now holds centre stage, with crucial URC points on the line at Scotstoun.
Kick-off 8:00 pm