This key game at Firhill started with what the BBC would call great drama, elsewhere known as crap rugby. There was plenty of aerial ping pong, the ubiquitous fluffed kick off, an injury to Graeme Morrison after only 3 minutes and a bit of monkey business around Ryan Wilson’s eye from a Cardiff player; it was a slow start in terms of entertainment.
However once Wilson was back on his feet Glasgow surged forward, and he made the visiting Blues pay by barging over following a good set piece move. Weir converted and Glasgow settled in to dominate the first half.
As the pace increased Glasgow’s forwards went on the rampage, perhaps forcing the offload a bit too much but generally getting the bounce of the ball. They looked eager when they had possession, and off the ball their defence was an incredible irritant to Cardiff who struggled to get any rhythm going. Harley and Fusaro in particular were everywhere. Federico Aramburu got in on the act too with an immense hit on Jamie Roberts that set the Warrior Nation buzzing.
Even more surprising than the anonymity of Roberts, Cuthbert and Halfpenny for Cardiff was the amount of decisions Clancy gave Glasgow’s way, and also the miserly amount of kickable penalties that Glasgow conceded.
Late starting replacement Colin Shaw (in for Tommy Seymour) and fullback Stuart Hogg were keen to get involved in the attack, but often let down by sloppy offloads or passes. Hogg was not blameless in this respect himself; after gliding through a gap via one silky offload, he caused a move to break down with a forced offload attempt of his own that could easily have been kept in hand.
The most guilty though was Chris Fusaro who butchered a clear cut 2 on 1 overlap. All he had to do was execute a basic draw and pass and his winger was in. Basic stuff for a former Sevens player and it meant the lead before half time was not as great as it perhaps should have been, especially after a missed penalty and drop goal from Weir.
HT Glasgow 10-0 Cardiff
Soon after half time Wilson grabbed a second try which knocked all the breath from Cardiff. The Blues came out fired up, but Glasgow withstood that brief period of pressure and patiently worked their way back down to the end of the small Firhill pitch at which they wanted to play. Cusiter found a mismatch between Wilson and Halfpenny and the big forward duly barged over the try line from short range.
It wasn’t till 51 mins that Cardiff got on the board with a Leigh Halfpenny penalty – only his second attempt, which illustrates how good Glasgow’s discipline had been. By that point, Lineen’s selection was looking clever as having built a solid lead with his tried and tested he started bringing the international firepower off the bench with the likes of Richie Gray and Moray Low.
Weir was replaced by Jackson on 55mins, having had a good game but missing a few kicks. Wilson was in the wars again when his knee was trapped awkwardly in a ruck, bringing on further heavy artillery in the shape of John Barclay. The top quality bench helped Glasgow keep the pressure on when perhaps in the past they might have lost concentration, and showed the benefit of the squad depth that they look to be building.
Cardiff were a lot more canny with the territory and possession in the second half, but every time Glasgow got near the Cardiff 22 they looked dangerous. And so it was that after a great line of running from the very impressive Dunbar, Fusaro cut back inside with a neat step and flopped over the line to make amends for his earlier error. With 15 minutes to play and 24-3 up, the bonus point was clearly a target for the home team.
Tanned legend Gavin Henson came on for Cardiff to the delight of the Warrior faithful who by this point were having a good night and they found a new target for their jeers, Clancy having for the most part played it fair.
Not long after there was a third big stoppage for injury as John Barclay was knocked cold with what looked like a bad head/neck injury. The game was in the bag from Wilson’s second try but Glasgow were determined not to lose momentum in the last ten minutes of the game after Barclay’s injury, and challenge for the bonus point to keep them ahead of Ulster. Cusiter went down clutching his foot but luckily it wasn’t a serious problem and seconds later he broke off a Dunbar run to put Shaw in under the posts for the bonus point: mission very much accomplished.
The danger now is that those injuries hamper the strong league momentum they are building as the end of the season looms large, with Wilson, Barclay and Morrison key figures in a very switched-on Glasgow team hoping to challenge for RaboDirect Pro12 playoff places.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Wilson probably, had he stayed on, but Alex Dunbar was very impressive in the centre and showed why Hogg may remain at fullback for a while…