World Cup Hero Denied Day To Remember

Sunday, Muggy Sunday. Scotland was catching its breath. An unfancied Edinburgh side had nipped into London and nicked a result over Irish, the day before, winning it after trading blows for 80 minutes. Few would have expected an unprecedented double over English sides, even if something similar happened in Italy the week before.

Glasgow keep on stringing wins together, though, and their 26-21 guerrilla victory here was an emotional one.

Rememberance Sunday started auspiciously enough as Bath kicked off. Glasgow drew themselves in at the 22m line and opted to box-kick, but the first incident of the game was a blocked kick.

The resulting turnover led to a number of lateral runs from Bath and a penalty, which young fly-half Tom Heathcote duly knocked over. Immediately afterwards Glasgow replied with a kick from their own junior 10, Duncan Weir.

In truth the first half was no classic and was summed up by the tit-for-tat penalty race between Weir and Heathcote. The only stand out factors in the opening forty were the scrum, which was just about equal (if only because both front-rows were losing out to gravity), and the hard running of Francois Louw and Dan Hipkiss from 6 and 13 respectively. As scrum after scrum went to deck referee Berdos gambled and one could never tell which side would be awarded a straight-arm restart. The rest of the time it seemed like Hipkiss was punching holes in Glasgow’s defence.

Yet the Warriors’ scramble defence was more than a match for those breaks and it looked impossible that Bath would cross the whitewash. At the other end Glasgow couldn’t even cross Bath’s 22. The first time they did so it was Morrison who was burrowing in.

The half ended 9-6 as Weir slotted a penalty kick which was awarded for hands in the ruck, something Bath were guilty of for most of the game. Just before the whistle there was a bit of a fracas between packs, but nothing came of it. It was the kind of confrontation that epitomised a neutral half of rugby.

After the break, when 19-year-old Heathcote kicked an additional penalty after another scrum lottery, it seemed the game would be the same midfield melee. Gray, Harley, Morrison, Hipkiss, Biggs and Abendanon where more than happy to run shuttles between the 22s, but no-one showed the penetrative guile to score a try.

This was until Glasgow brought on their subs.

Rob Dewey had defended manfully and Al Kellock marched around looking busy, but when Troy Nathan and Tom Ryder came on they added a bit of zip to proceedings: they looked like they could link.

With the game poised at 9-12 in Bath’s favour the Warriors worked their way into the final third. In the bottom right of the pitch there were blasts into waiting men and as Nathan hit and spun everyone froze. Everyone except Stuart Hogg. The young full-back had fizzed onto the ball all game and on this occasion he did so between monuments, running a simple line between static players on his way to the try line. Weir obliged from the touchline to make it 16-12.

Shortly afterwards Mr.  Berdos misinterpreted a knock-on as a hands-in penalty and again Heathcote kicked. And then again.

As Louw put in big hits in the midfield and Simon Taylor powered through work it looked like Bath would still labour their way to the lead, and when they nosed in front once more to go 16-18 up the stage was set. Someone could step up and win this game.

On the 68th minute the man used to market this game; the man who kicked the World Cup winner in Eden Park; saviour of New Zealand Stephen Donald took the field. His first bit of business? He kicked a munter of a ball dead, gifting Glasgow field position.

Glasgow used that position well and as Troy Nathan was hammered backwards in a tackle and then followed to ground by several bath hands Duncan Weir calmly did what he had done all game and chipped over for 3points. The lead changed hands again. The seesaw swing of this game continued. The consistency of penalties awarded also flitted between sides. It would go down to the wire.

So when Berdos concluded that the next scrum penalty was one for the English side, with the clock showing only a few minutes left, Donald walked up to another significant kick. It was almost inevitable that he would score. As the board at Donald’s back showed 19-21 and the seconds sprayed away it was looking likely that Bath would edge this one with kicks.

But something happened…

Now, all of the above may read like a list. It is a deliberate attempt to show how sterile and penalty driven the game was for large parts. It felt more like a taking of minutes than a flowing spectacle. Both sides were scheduled to collide on the half way.

Yet in the last five minutes the contest became a game.

In the last minute the game became something worth remembering.

Afterwards people joked about the incident. Lineen said it was a “planned move”. MOTM Duncan Weir said it was borne out of a team taking risks but being assured they could “grind it out”.  Richie Gray said it was one of the best things he had experienced in a Glasgow jersey and that although “we had the rub of the green, we deserved to win”.

With just over a minute to play Rob Harley raced up and slammed into opposition, regathering the restart. Glasgow charged in with wave after wave of runners, but were evidently sacrificing yards in favour of security. They reset. They tromped. They fought. The ball was fired back. Weir, near the halfway, lent back into an audacious drop-goal attempt. It hit hands. An onrushing Abendanon misjudged the flight and as it bounced up under the ghost of the posts a figure caught the ball.

Fittingly the game ended, as it started, with a blocked kick. More fittingly still the game also ended with a Richie Gray try. The second-row chased up from an onside position and pounced like a dog on a burst ball, sliding in for the try. The TMO made everyone wait but there was no doubting that the massive Glaswegian had given himself, and all of the 4,208 in the stadium, something to remember.

Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour, R Dewey, G Morrison, C Shaw; D Weir, C Cusiter; R Grant, P MacArthur, M Cusack, R Gray, A Kellock (c), R Harley, J Barclay, R Wilson

Substitutes: D Hall, G Reid, E Kalman, T Ryder, C Fusaro, H Pyrgos, T Nathan, F Aramburu

Bath Rugby: N Abendanon; O Woodburn, D Hipkiss, S Vesty, T Biggs; T Heathcote, M Claasens; D Flatman, R Batty, D Wilson, S Hooper (c), R Caldwell, F Louw, G Mercer, S Taylor

Substitutes: K Palma-Newport, C Beech, A Perenise, D Attwood, W Spencer, M McMillan, S Vesty, J Cuthbert

Referee: C Berdos

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.

2 comments on “World Cup Hero Denied Day To Remember

  1. bmg99 on

    My nerves have just about recovered, but my voice has not. This was a game that in the past we would have lost, and lost it long before Mr Donald’s penalty.

    The Glasgow defence was outstanding, and we took our chances when they presented themselves. Bath were one dimensional , good at keeping the ball, good and coming back in from the touch line, good between the 22’s, but they never really looked like they would score a try. Why they did not kick some high garry owen’s in the second half when the low sun had come out and was in the Glasgow players eyes is indicative of so much of modern rugby – an inability to change game plan and play the conditions.

    That said they played to the ref’s interpretation of the laws better than we did, and and someone of Cusiter’s experience should have responded smarter. It was clear from early on that the ref would allow a defending player to step over the middle of the ruck and disrupt ball. We seemed surprised every time Bath did it, they just got on with it. This is not intended as a criticism of the ref, it’s a criticism of the Glasgow players not responding to how the ref was interpreting the break down.

    On the subject of the ref, while he seemed to be awarding penalties at the scrum on the basis of “whose turn it was to get the penalty,” I thought he showed some common sense when both front rows went down on engagement, signalling that both sides had lost their footing on the soft ground. Too often you see this happen and one side get’s penalised. However on the scrum that let to the Donald penalty the touch judge adjudged that Kalman did not bind on their loose head. However, having watched the scrum on the internet from the same side as the touch judge you see that as they engage the clenched fist of Kalman and their prop collide meaning that neither prop actually gets a bind. So in my opinion the scrum should have been reset.

    Some of the Glasgow substitutions seemed to be a little scripted. Why was Cussak, who has played well all season taken off when he was? Mind you it’s a brave coach who takes off their captain, and Ryder brought a bit of needed zip and linked well with Nathan.

    I’ll end with a positive note. It was good to see Mark McMillan back on the Firhill grass. He took a bad knock to the back of his neck in their LV Cup game against NG Dragons and it was feared to be a serious injury. So it was nice to know that he’s recovered from his.

  2. Old Whistler on

    The reason Gray was onside for that winning try was because he was put onside (while in front of the kicker) by an opponent intentionally touching the ball (attempting a charge down), Law 11.3 (c).

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