Glasgow Warriors 29-5 Toulon
Glasgow Warriors booked their place in the last 16 of the Investec Champions Cup, running in five tries to claim a bonus-point 29-5 victory over Toulon at Scotstoun.
A brace apiece for Huw Jones – in an Investec Player of the Match-winning performance – and Kyle Rowe, alongside a score from Josh McKay, secured the knockout berth for Franco Smith’s men in front of a sold-out Scotstoun.
With qualification on the line for both sides, the opening exchanges were a cagey affair, as the two teams looked to figure each other out under the Friday night lights. The visitors were the first to have a chance to open the scoring, only for Mathieu Smaili to fall short with a penalty attempt from halfway after nine minutes.
McKay then thought he had lit the blue touch paper for the evening just five minutes later, as the full-back brought Scotstoun to its feet with a sensational solo effort, racing clear from halfway and swerving past the last defender to touch down in the corner. The officials had other ideas, to the chagrin of the Scotstoun faithful, chalking off the score for a block in midfield.
There was to be no denying the home side on 21 minutes, however, as Franco Smith’s squad took a deserved lead in front of the Warrior Nation. Excellent work with ball in hand from Kyle Steyn saw the Warriors race up to the Toulon 22 on the front foot, before George Horne and Jones exploited the overlap to free the onrushing Rowe. The winger was unstoppable from the 22, and while Horne’s conversion would drop just short the hosts had a 5-0 lead.
In defence, too, the hosts were on top; Matt Fagerson’s work at the breakdown saw the flanker earn three turnovers inside the opening half an hour, whilst Sione Tuipulotu led the charge in the midfield to repel all attackers in white.
Glasgow’s search for a second try yielded the desired outcome on the half-hour mark, as a familiar combination came to the fore. Jamie Bhatti’s pass out the back to Tuipulotu allowed the centre to slip the ball to Jones, who cut a sublime angle to sprint clear of the covering defence and touch down next to the posts. Horne added the extras, and the home side took a 12-0 lead into the interval.
With their own qualification hopes hanging by a thread, Toulon came out of the changing rooms with renewed intent at the start of the second period and were rewarded with a try of their own on 47 minutes. Sustained pressure inside the Glasgow 22 eventually saw Vasil Lobzhanidze fling the ball wide to Gael Drean for the score, Enzo Herve pulling the conversion wide to leave the score at 12-5 in Glasgow’s favour.
Undeterred, the Warriors went back on the attack, probing around the fringes of the Toulon defence with a canny kicking game to earn the territorial advantage. A third try was coming, and it arrived on the hour mark. Strong carrying from Jack Dempsey and Matt Fagerson took Glasgow into the 22, with McKay and Rowe combining to continue the charge to within five metres. With Johnny Matthews and Zander Fagerson going close in successive carries, the shortened Toulon defence eventually cracked, Matthews floating the ball wide for McKay to touch down in front of the East Stand. Horne made no mistake with the conversion, extending his side’s advantage to 19-5.
Glasgow were now motoring, and the bonus-point securing score came just four minutes later. Taking advantage of a Toulon overthrow, Matthews shipped the ball on to Jordan, and straight through the hands the ball went. Jones was a willing recipient in the wide channel, the centre blasting through the gap to dive over in the corner. This time the conversion attempt would miss the target, but the scoreline now read 24-5 in Glasgow’s favour.
Toulon were in no mood to go down without a fight however, with Cornell du Preez thinking he had crossed for a score of his own as the game entered the final 10 minutes. This time, though, the visitors were the ones to fall foul of the officials, the try being ruled out for obstruction on the Glasgow five-metre line.
Instead, the final word went to the home side. Once more the back-line would do the damage, Ben Afshar’s wide pass and Tuipulotu’s deft handling allowing Jordan to throw the wide ball over the top to Rowe. Over went the winger to kick-start the celebrations in the East Stand, the final score reading 29-5 in Glasgow’s favour and a place in the knockout stages secured.