Glasgow Warriors 43-25 Leinster
Glasgow Warriors opened the 2023/24 BKT United Rugby Championship in resounding fashion this afternoon, as Franco Smith’s team earned a 43-25 victory over Leinster on Family Day at Scotstoun.
Tries from Josh McKay, Sebastian Cancelliere, Huw Jones, Angus Fraser, George Horne and Johnny Matthews, allied to a penalty try, ensured that it would be the Warrior Nation heading home with the widest of smiles on their faces after the opening weekend of competition.
With the autumn sunshine providing perfect conditions for running rugby, it was the home side who made the brighter start. A first try was coming, and it would arrive with 13 minutes on the clock to the delight of the Warrior Nation. Rory Darge would be the man to make the crucial incision, breaking through the line 30 metres out before finding McKay on his shoulder. The full back’s grin was evident as he raced under the posts for a try on his first Scotstoun appearance since March, Tom Jordan adding the extras for a 7-0 lead.
Harry Byrne would reply immediately for Leinster with a penalty from 35 metres out, before repeating the trick on 18 minutes to cut Glasgow’s lead to a single point. Yet the Warriors were undeterred and struck for a second try just two minutes later, in true Glasgow fashion. Jordan’s wide ball was tipped on by Fagerson, setting Cancelliere and Gregor Brown free in the wide channel. The latter’s charge into space and offload from the floor sent the Argentinian flying towards the corner, the diving finish rewarded with the score by the Television Match Official. Jordan couldn’t quite bring the kick around enough, but Glasgow led 12-6.
Back would come Leinster once more, this time crossing the whitewash for the first time in the afternoon. Leinster loose-head Jack Boyle eventually found a way through after a sustained period of pressure in the Glasgow 22, Byrne’s conversion giving the visitors the lead for the first time in the match on the half-hour mark.
It was a lead that would last all of three minutes. There may have been an element of fortune in the bounce favouring Glasgow from Stafford McDowall’s clipped kick through, but Jones was in no mood to hang around, scooping the ball into his grasp, stepping the last defender and sprinting over in front of the West Stand. The conversion from Jordan made it 19-13, and the Warrior Nation was in full voice.
That noise would increase even further with just two minutes left in the half, as the Warriors wrapped up a four-try bonus-point in style. Whilst Oli Kebble was unable to convert his own line break into points, the prop and his fellow forwards efforts at the scrum saw Jordan dispatch the ball to the corner from the resulting penalty. From there, it was Fraser who steered the maul over the line for his first try in Glasgow colours, giving his side a 24-13 lead that – after an epic period of defence on their own five-metre line that would end in a Darge turnover – would remain the score at the break.
Leinster wouldn’t be denied for long, though, as the Irish side opened the second-half scoring four minutes after the restart. A penalty kicked to the corner saw Lee Barron rumble over for the score, Byrne’s conversion narrowing the gap to 24-20 in Glasgow’s favour.
The visitors were now pressing, and with Cancelliere sent to the sin-bin after having been adjudged to have deliberately knocked on while tackling Barron, Glasgow’s backs were to the wall in defence. Yet the best form of defence would prove to be attack, as the home side’s fifth try brought Scotstoun to its feet. Rising brilliantly to claim a high ball, Jordan showed plenty of speed of both thought and foot to race clear, before linking up with Greg Peterson. The big second-rower timed his pass to perfection, sending Horne – with his first touch as a centurion – sprinting over in the corner for a score roared to the rafters. The conversion would fall just short, but the Warrior Nation were in no mood to complain.
Leinster, however, were in no mood to go quietly. Only a sublime try-saving tackle from McDowall would prevent Liam Turner from crossing in the corner, a lengthy TMO decision greeted with a roar of approval from the Scotstoun faithful.
Back would come the Irishmen once again, attacking with ever-increasing urgency as the clock ticked towards the final 10 minutes. This time it would be Johnny Matthews who would provide the crucial intervention, the replacement hooker latching onto the ball in the shadow of his own posts to win the turnover penalty.
Eventually, Leinster would find their way through – or more accurately, around. Advantage in hand, Sam Prendergast’s floated ball wide would find the hands of Tommy O’Brien, whose acrobatic finish saw him touch down with the narrowest of margins to spare. Byrne’s kick drifted wide, however, leaving Glasgow defending a 29-25 lead with nine minutes to play.
Yet once more, Smith’s men defended by going on the front foot. Cue the bedlam at Scotstoun. It began with Johnny Matthews putting the game beyond doubt, the replacement hooker bundling himself over the line for Glasgow’s sixth try to a cacophony of noise from the Warrior Nation, Horne adding the conversion for good measure.
The noise from Matthews’ score had barely subsided when the Warrior Nation was on its feet once more; a penalty kicked to the corner and a powerful maul setup was too much for a weary Leinster defence, as referee Craig Evans raced under the posts to award a penalty try. The final whistle sounded soon after, the scoreboard reading 43-25 in favour of the home side against a backdrop of delight from the Scotstoun faithful.
Seven tries, five points and a first win over Leinster since 2021 – Glasgow Warriors are well and truly back in action.
Join us back at Scotstoun on Friday 3 November (kick-off 7.35pm) as we take on South African side DHL Stormers in Round Three of the BKT United Rugby Championship. Click HERE for full event details and ticketing information.