USA Perpignan 26-40 Glasgow Warriors
Glasgow Warriors booked their place in the knockout stages of the EPCR Challenge Cup in confident fashion in France this evening, running in six tries to claim a 40-26 win over USA Perpignan.
Player of the Match Johnny Matthews was one of six different scorers, with skipper for the evening Stafford McDowall, Sam Johnson, Ollie Smith, Richie Gray and Cole Forbes also crossing the whitewash.
Yet Glasgow’s pursuit of a place in the last 16 could hardly have got off to a less ideal start, as they found themselves immediately on the back foot in the face of a passionate home support at the Stade Aime Giral. With Smith in the sin bin for a high tackle after just two minutes, the hosts made their advantage count. Sustained pressure in the Glasgow 22 eventually saw Edward Sawailau find a way over in the corner, and whilst the conversion drifted wide Perpignan had a 5-0 lead after just four minutes.
Glasgow’s response, however, was swift. With their first period of possession in the match, the Warriors went to work. A penalty kicked to the corner allowed Matthews to find Gray, before Jamie Dobie’s inside ball to Cole Forbes saw the winger send Johnson over unopposed. Domingo Miotti added the extras, and Glasgow had the lead.
It was a lead that they didn’t hold for long though, as Perpignan hit back themselves on 12 minutes. A well-worked overlap gave Nino Seguela the space he needed to chip over the top of Josh McKay, a lengthy TMO review adjudging the winger had got there a fingertip ahead of the Glasgow full-back. Matteo Rodor’s conversion gave the hosts a 12-7 lead, but momentum was about to swing once more.
Indeed, just two minutes later it would be the Warriors who would be celebrating again, with another well-worked score restoring their advantage. Collecting a good offload from McDowall in midfield, Matthews would bounce off two defenders to take play in behind the Perpignan defence. When the ball was swung wide, Smith – freshly restored to proceedings – would race for the line, only to be brought down a metre short. Calm heads would prevail, though, Dobie finding the onrushing Richie Gray on the perfect line for the second-rower to crash over. Duncan Weir, on for the injured Miotti, would add the extras, edging his side in front.
This time Glasgow would retain the element of control, by now enjoying the lion’s share of possession and territory. They would make that share count on 22 minutes, in similar fashion to their first score of the night. Another penalty kicked to the corner saw the forwards maul for the line, with Cameron Neild and Lucio Sordoni firing forward in the carry when progress was halted. Dobie’s eye for a gap then saw the scrum-half fire a perfect ball into the arms of McDowall, the captain stepping the last man and touching down. Weir added the extras, and the Warriors had some breathing space.
The Warriors wanted a bonus-point, and it would arrive in highlight-reel fashion on 32 minutes courtesy of the dynamism of Matthews. An overthrown lineout on the Perpignan 22 would see the ball land in the arms of the Glasgow hooker, who produced a sidestep that wrong-footed half of Perpignan. Not content with that cameo, he would then bounce off the cover defence to crash over for the score, Weir converting to take the score to 28-12.
That would remain the scoreline at the interval, yet Glasgow weren’t prepared to sit back on their lead. Some flowing handling in midfield showed what the Warriors were all about, with Neild, Sordoni and McDowall all involved.
Yet neither were the hosts prepared to roll over, as they went looking for a way back into the match. A yellow card for Thomas Gordon just moments after the flanker’s introduction on 49 minutes saw Perpignan set up camp inside the Glasgow 22, and from there the Catalan outfit would strike. When a maul broke up 10 metres from the line, Rodor would be sharp enough to collect the ball and dive over in the corner, despite the best efforts of Dobie. The fly-half would convert his own try, narrowing the gap to 28-19 as the game approached the hour mark.
The Warriors would not panic, however, continuing to explore every inch of the Stade Aime Giral turf. Their endeavour was rewarded on 61 minutes, as the backs clicked into life. A flowing set move would see Forbes get his arms free in the tackle to offload to McKay, who in turn would send Smith over in the corner untouched for the score. Weir would err from the tee for the first time, leaving the scoreline at 33-19.
Three minutes later, Franco Smith’s men would be celebrating again with a scintillating team score silencing the home faithful. A trademark burst from the ever-willing Jack Dempsey saw the number eight rampage into Perpignan territory, linking up with Dobie and Johnson before replacement Angus Fraser went in search of the try-line. Whilst the hooker was brought down just short, Johnson’s floated ball over the top gave McKay the easiest of runs into the corner, Weir converting for a 40-19 lead that put the result beyond any doubt.
The final word would belong to the hosts, as Posolo Tuilagi did just enough to ground the ball for Perpignan’s fourth try with three minutes remaining and Forbes in the sin-bin. Yet there would be no doubt about the destination of the five points; a bonus-point victory and a place in the knockout stages secured – now the focus turns to the pursuit of a home tie in the last 16.