Glasgow Warriors 29-27 Connacht
Glasgow Warriors secured a fully unbeaten home campaign in the 2022/23 regular season this evening, edging out Connacht to claim a 29-27 victory in front of the Warrior Nation.
Huw Jones, Tom Jordan, Ali Price and Johnny Matthews would each cross the whitewash for Franco Smith’s men, as the Warriors booked a quarter-final showdown with Munster in a fortnight’s time.
With the late evening sun splitting the Scotstoun skies, the Warriors were in the mood to entertain straight from the start. With just 70 seconds on the clock, the home side hit the front. Stafford McDowall’s break took his side to within 10 metres, before Rory Darge’s offload sent the charging Jones over the whitewash for the score. Tom Jordan added the extras, and the hosts led 7-0.
Connacht were in no mood to roll over, though, and struck back just five minutes later. Jack Carty’s clever kick forced Jones to carry over his own line, allowing the Connacht pack the put-in to the scrum. Two scrum penalties later and referee Gianluca Gnecchi was going under the Glasgow posts, a penalty try for the visitors bringing the scores level again.
Back came the Warriors once more, as the Glasgow forwards upped the ante with ball in hand. Thundering carries from Scott Cummings and Sione Vailanu gave the hosts the platform, before Jordan provided the incisive touch, riding two tackles to race over between the posts. George Horne – on as a replacement for Jamie Dobie on the wing – made no mistake with the conversion, giving Glasgow a 14-7 lead after 18 minutes.
Neither side was giving an inch to their opponents, with Connacht bringing themselves back within a score on 24 minutes. With Scott Cummings sent to the sin-bin for a tackle off the ball, Carty would send a penalty through the uprights from 15 metres to narrow the gap to 14-10.
That deficit would be erased entirely on 29 minutes, as the visitors hit the lead for the first time in the match. Whilst Denis Buckley’s initial tap penalty drive was repelled, the Glasgow defence was powerless to stop Cian Prendergast from crashing over in the next phase. Carty converted, and Connacht led 17-14.
It was a lead that would last all of two minutes, however. Back came the Warriors in trademark fashion, with offloads from McDowall and Darge setting Cole Forbes free on the left wing. The winger’s ball to Price was perfectly timed, the scrum-half rounding the covering Byron Ralston to go over in front of the East Stand. Horne’s conversion would drift just wide, but the hosts were back in front.
The Warriors almost finished the half in the same fashion in which they started it, Jordan slicing through the Connacht defence to link up with the supporting Jones. Tiernan O’Halloran’s despairing tackle would deny the Glasgow full-back, however, forcing a knock-on and saving the Irish outfit to leave the scoreline at 19-17 to the hosts at the interval.
A cagier start to the second half saw both sides seek to earn an early upper hand, with Zander Fagerson and Jamie Bhatti making an impact at the set-piece. The two teams were also feeling the impact of a highly physical affair, as both squads fielded players out of their natural position as a result of injuries and head injury assessments.
The next score was shaping up to have even greater significance to the momentum of the match, and it would go the way of the Warriors. Jordan’s dispatching of a penalty to within five metres gave the home side the platform to go about their business in efficient fashion, with Johnny Matthews finishing superbly at the back of the maul to touch down for the bonus-point score. Horne’s excellent conversion from the touchline made it 26-17 after 61 minutes, and the Warrior Nation was in full voice.
Carty would bring Connacht back to a four-point margin on 67 minutes by converting a penalty from 40 metres out, only for Horne to respond with a penalty of his own six minutes later to restore Glasgow’s nine-point buffer. The visitors would ensure that the Scotstoun faithful would be in for a nervous finale to proceedings, however, as Shamus Hurley-Langton found a way over from close-range for his side’s third try of the night, Carty’s conversion narrowing the gap to 29-27 with three minutes to play.
With a sixteen-match, 18-month unbeaten streak at Scotstoun to defend, though, the Glasgow defence held firm. One final immense defensive lineout shift from Cummings would see the Warriors earn a turnover, referee Gnecchi’s whistle following suit to the delight of all those of a Glasgow persuasion.
An unbeaten season at home secured and the Scottish-Italian Shield lifted, as knockout rugby now takes centre stage; a date with Munster at Scotstoun in the BKT URC quarter-finals awaits in a fortnight, after next weekend’s seismic EPCR Challenge Cup visit to the Scarlets.