There was an air of expectation last night at Scotstoun. Warriors fans were excited about the return of Heineken Cup rugby, and the flair of the French visitors, and all were hoping to see Glasgow put last weekend’s dismal showing against Munster in the RaboDirect Pro 12 to bed.
Sad then that it was something of an anti-climax on the field. French side Castres dominated in the set piece but failed to convert that into tries, and the Warriors found their game stifled and shut down. Lacking in the highlights that many were expecting, and it was not a good advertisement for Scottish or French rugby.
If the opening ten minutes were to be any indication then this was going to be a real fight, Castres with the edge of possession over the home team, but Glasgow had ingenuity when they did have the ball.
Castres scrum half Rory Kockott had the first chance to get points on the board, after five minutes, as the Warriors were pinged in the ruck. However his kick went wide, leaving the scoreboard blank. It was Scott Wight who took the first points of the match, with a comfortable penalty kick, giving the Warriors a 3-point lead.
Following this the game became more of an attritional war, with both sides really testing the defence of the other, but finding it solid every time.
Castres had clearly done their homework on the Warriors, and piled the pressure on them during the lineout. However both teams struggled in the scrum, with several being reset more than once, and referee Wayne Barnes was hot on any infringement in this area.
The visitors had a chance to level the score with another penalty that Kockott fancied his chances on, however he was cruelly denied as the ball hit the far post and bounced away. The sighs of relief for the Warriors fans were cut short a few minutes later as Kockott found his stride and slotted his first penalty of the night over, keeping the score level pegging.
The rest of the first half passed in an unremarkable fashion, with both kickers slotting over another penalty each, to take the score to 6 all at half time.
With the second half getting under way it seemed as though the Warriors had had a sharp talking to in the dressing room: Scott Wight quickly found Tommy Seymour in space and chipped the ball forward, Seymour in a move that would not have looked out of place had Max Evans been doing it, wriggled his way through the tacklers and began his race for the try line, but Castres soon turned the ball over and were charging back down the other end of the pitch.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first half, with neither side gaining much ground or an upper hand over the other.
Castres came within inches of scoring a try, after Peter Murchie knocked the ball on metres from the Warriors line, giving Castres a fantastic attacking platform. And there was a pile of bodies on the line as the forwards battled it out, before Barnes decided on a 5m scrum.
Tim Swinson gave everyone cause for concern though, emerging from the bottom of the ruck somewhat stunned, and Tom Ryder found himself coming on as a blood sub whilst Swinson received treatment.
Winning the penalty from the scrum, replacement fly half Duncan Weir booted the ball for touch, but failed to find it, and Castres came at the Warriors again.
Rory Kockott took the French team ahead for the first time in the match 57 minutes in, with another penalty, and moments later missed a penalty that would have put the visitors 6 points in the clear.
Given the injury worries that Glasgow have had this season, it was not comforting to see Alastair Kellock coming off of the pitch with what looked to be an injury to his arm, and with all of the Warriors forward subs having been used, it was time for new boy Sean Maitland to make his debut replacing Kellock. Luckily for the debutant, DTH Van Der Merwe stepped up and became a forward!
Full time at Scotstoun saw the score Glasgow 6 – 9 Castres.
An all around disappointing match, in which neither side really created any chances for themselves, and highlighted several areas of issue that will need to be addressed by both sides, going into the return leg next week.
SR Blog Man of the Match: Castres Olympiq’s scrum half Rory Kockott