A few late wing changes at a packed-out Scotstoun saw Tommy Seymour came in for DTH Van Der Merwe and Leinster fielded their unlikely signing Lote Tuquiri “fresh” in from Rugby League – although he only lasted half an hour.
Glasgow showed enterprise – perhaps too much – in the early exchanges with captain Chris Cusiter getting his forwards (and Sean Lamont) moving forward quickly. Glasgow took the opening scrum exchanges too with what looks to be their top front-row combination of Ryan Grant, Pat MacArthur and converted tighthead Jon Welsh putting the Leinster pack under pressure on both sides’ ball. Grant sometimes attracts the ire of referees with his binding (sometimes it looks like the front of the jersey) but when he gets it right, there are few who can contend with him.
Townsend has depth available to him now and he had clearly figured on a mobile gameplan with Richie Vernon and Chris Fusaro picked ahead of the bigger South Africans. This was reflected in the first half: gone was the cagey kicking of last weekend and both sides got well stuck in. The multitude of scrums aside, discipline was good too and it wasn’t until 23 minutes that Leinster’ Jimmy Gopperth broke the deadlock with a penalty.
Welsh and Grant (who had a warning the previous scrum) demolished the Leinster scrum at the next time of asking but Hogg was unable to take the points from out wide. He had an easier chance a few moments later but missed that one too. This spurred Glasgow into life with a series of big carries from Jonny Gray – who looks right at home at this level already – bringing Glasgow close to the line before a knock-on by a teammate spoiled things.
Leinster were forced to go to the bench a little earlier than they would have hoped with Rob Kearney on for Tuquiri and Dominic Ryan on for skipper Shane Jennings showing there was plenty class lurking there waiting to punish Glasgow. The next penalty went into the corner as Glasgow sensed a momentum shift, and the two Chrises Cusiter and Fusaro combined to cap what had been an excellent first half from them both: Cusiter popped it out from the back of the ruck and Fusaro powered through Kearney from close range to dot down. The try was converted and Hogg missed another opportunistic penalty to close the half 7-3.
Classic Leinster can be like the All Blacks, willing to coast in tight games, soaking up attacks and then picking a twenty minute spell – usually just after half time – to up the ante considerably and put the game to bed. This was Glasgow’s worry, but given the way they have closed games so far, they could be confident of holding out if they survived any blitz.
Needless to say, cussed Glasgow decided to do the blitzing themselves to take that possibility off the table, building the phases nicely with some offloading from the pack. Mark Bennett had been very quiet in the first half – I didn’t even realise he was playing – but stepped up to take over the kicking from Hogg with a long range effort that hit the crossbar. Great chasing from Ruaridh Jackson kept Leinster pinned, under pressure.
Glasgow’s set piece had been generally solid, but even when a throw went askew Dunbar pounced on it and only a knock on by Swinson stopped the try. The home side kept going, Cusiter throwing his body over the gain line again and again, joined in his efforts by Harley and Strauss. Tommy Seymour was held up over the line and Jackson missed an easy kick but the pressure continued.
Momentum was with the home side, but as Leinster clawed back a penalty and the score sat at 7-6, would these small failures take the gloss off a positive performance?
More replacements came on with ten minutes to go, and the gap remained a point. Leinster gained brief respite as Glasgow knocked on again, but the home side were soon back in the Leinster half. These guys do not give up, and so it was that Jerry Yanuyanutawa barrelled over from the back of a maul. It was no surprise that Jackson – Glasgow’s third kicker of the night – missed the conversion, and also no surprise that Glasgow came back and almost scored again even as the final whistle blew.
On a weekend when the Italian teams beat Cardiff and Munster, the only surprising thing about this game was that the result, in the end, wasn’t that surprising.
This is a sign of good things to come from this Glasgow club.
SRBlog Man of the Match: The trouble with this Glasgow team is they play like a team! Lamont, Gray, Swinson and Fusar were all excellent but this was a match moulded in Chris Cusiter’s image and he was responsible completely for the tempo and direction of Glasgow’s game. Don’t think he threw a bad pass all night either. A hugely welcome return to form.