Newport Gwent Dragons 14 – 14 Glasgow Warriors
If you are rugby inclined and were down in Wales at the weekend you would be forgiven for thinking that the only rugby being played was the Shane Williams testimonial test against Australia at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. For Glasgow Warriors, though, they are more than aware that they have lost a weekend in drawing a game.
At 14-14 against Newport Gwent Dragons the west coast outfit could perhaps comfort themselves with the notion that they are still unbeaten in six games this season and head home for their Heineken Cup clash with Montpellier this coming Sunday having conceded only one try in their last two games. However this would all serve to distract from the fact that Glasgow never really got going in this game.
The opportunity was there. With dynamic young back-rowers Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau playing in the aforementioned test in Cardiff and the likes of Aled Brew and Luke Charteris out injured it was a chance for Glasgow to claim another RaboDirect victory. It did not even matter that they were resting star performer Duncan Weir, prop Mike Cusick and internationals Gray, Kellock and Barclay. They could have won this game.
If they had won it, though, it would have been by the grace of one of their now trademark late flourishes.
The first half of this game had the incendiary quality and aesthetic value of a bucket of milk. Pass after pass was either dropped or thrown behind as the rain tore down. Scrum-half Henry Pyrgos could be forgiven for box-kicking more than he passed because few players wanted to catch the ball and the Warriors scrum enjoyed some dominance at the set restart.
Johnnie Beattie ran with purpose and Forrester tried to make as many individual tackles as possible but the half was more noteworthy for its lack of incidents. Jackson kicked a penalty and his opposite man Steffan Jones missed his own chances but for the rest of the half no one made a telling error or a crucially correct decision.
Resuming the game at 0-3 the away team again scored a penalty as Jackson kicked over after Dragons’ hands guddled in a ruck. The two 10s exchanged penalties after that and with 15minutes left to go it was 6-9 in the visitors favour. By this point Beattie had left the field for Wilson and dangerous looking Dragons winger Tonderai Chavhanga had long since departed, leaving the hardy fans wondering where a try would come from.
No team in the RaboDirect Pro12 has scored fewer tries than these two outfits so it was no surprise that when hands failed there would be no tries in the opening 65 minutes. However everyone in the crowd was left bewildered and unsure when shortly after those Glasgow substitutions Dragons centre Tom Riley looked to have squeezed over in the corner. It happened quickly. Rob Harley tried to kill the ball and was whistled but home 9 Wayne Evans was switched on enough to spin the ball right and Riley twisted in to touch as he looked to score the try.
An age passed as poor replay after poor replay was watched but eventually the TMO gave the try, much to the chagrin of Glasgow fans convinced that a knee brushed the touchline. Rob Harley was sent off for his cynical play. Jason Tovey missed the conversion. 11-9.
Surprisingly enough the controversy wasn’t over yet. The TMO was called upon twice more as Dragons attempted to score in the opposite corner with a double movement and Warriors raced in behind cover to dot down. The Dragons’ potential try was turned down but Glasgow were awarded after their persistent play.
On for Ruaridh Jackson, Scott Wight was running things at fly-half. At the 73 minute the ball fell to him wide out amongst broken play and all he could do was heave a left boot at it. The ball hugged the touchline but stayed in, looking like it would roll right out of the dead ball area. Covering Welshman Lewis Evans stood with his back to the field, watching the ball in hope it would continue its course off of the pitch, and Wight –who chased like his life depended on it – dived in behind the flanker in a moment reminiscent of Rob Howley’s Heineken Cup winning score in 2004.
The TMO gave it and as the conversion crashed against the posts to render it 11-14 in Glasgow’s favour you felt it would be another smash and grab victory for the Scottish side.
Alas it was not to be. As they had done all game Glasgow conceded one last silly penalty for a ruck infringement and Jason Tovey knocked over a penalty with the last kick of the game to make it 14-all and to hand both sides two points. In truth neither team looked deserving of a win and although some of the ‘Warrior Nation’ may grumble about TMOs and non-tries it was a game where both teams struggled to build phases and score more than one scrutinised try.
Dragons: M. Thomas; Chavhanga, Riley, A. Smith, Hughes; Steffan Jones, W. Evans; N. Williams, Steve Jones, Buck, A. Jones, Morgan, L. Evans, G. Thomas, Brown.
Replacements: Tovey, Burns, Groves, Price, Tuilagi, Waters, Jenkins, Bedford.
Glasgow: Murchie; Lemi, Dewey, Nathan, Shaw; Jackson, Pyrgos; Welsh, Hall, Kalman, Ryder, Verbakel, Forrester, Fusaro, Beattie.
Replacements: Harley, Gillies , Wilson, Reid, Wight for Jackson, Low, Dunbar, McConnell.
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)