Glasgow claimed their first win in this season’s Heineken Cup as they beat English Premiership side Exeter Chiefs at Scotstoun on Sunday afternoon.
As the rain poured down over Scotstoun, Exeter were the more dominant side in the first half, before Glasgow, in their inimitable style, came back stronger in the second half with tries from Tim Swinson and Tyrone Holmes.
Glasgow were behind after a mere minute, as captain Al Kellock was penalised for not releasing right in front of the posts. It was an easy kick for fly half Exeter Gareth Steenson to claim the points.
The Warriors attempted to respond to this early score with an attack on the Exeter line, but despite clever play from the ‘Weegie from Fiji’ at scrum half, full back Sean Maitland, and Byron McGuigan, Glasgow came up against solid Chiefs defence time and time again, gaining inches rather than yards.
Ruaridh Jackson was able to equalise the score soon after though, as the visitors were pinged for being offside, he confidently booted the ball through the uprights. It was a short lived respite however as Glasgow gave away another penalty within range of Steenson’s boot minutes later, and the Chiefs were in the lead once again.
The conditions being what they were, we did not see the fast flowing rugby that has been present in both teams’ games recently. It was down to the packs to put in powerhouse performances scrapping for the ball. Josh Strauss, in particular, was relentless in both attack and defence; Rob Harley harassed his Exeter counterpart in the lineouts.
Jackson was able to level the scores again fifteen minutes into the match, as Niko was tackled late. Again, though, the scores did not remain equal for long as moments later Steenson kicked Exeter three points clear once again.
The best chance of a try came for the home side towards the end of the first quarter, as birthday boy Gabriel Ascarate found space down the wing but his attempt was halted by the Exeter defence, during which Steenson was penalised and sent to the sin bin for a side entry. To the delight of the crowd, Jackson sent the ball straight into touch, signalling Glasgow’s intention to go for the try. It looked to be on track, despite a slightly messy lineout, and Exeter’s resistance to the driving maul. A knock-on from McGuigan, agonisingly close to the try line ended this phase, as Exeter won the resulting scrum and cleared the ball to touch on halfway.
Despite the one-man advantage Glasgow were unable to take anything from this period, or indeed the rest of the half. Exeter took the game to the home side, but found nothing lacking in Glasgow’s defence. At half time the Chiefs had the lead 6-9.
Minutes into the second half Glasgow had a chance to draw the scores level, winning the penalty from the scrum, but Jackson missed with his attempt to the relief of the visitors.
The Warriors dominated the first passage of play in the second, and their persistence paid off fifty minutes in as a break from Tommy Seymour took them deep into the Chiefs twenty-two, a few more phases were built through before Matawalu, wriggling his way around several Chiefs players was able to set up for Tim Swinson to go crashing over the line. After a quick confirmation from the TMO referee Poite gave the score. Jackson added the extras and the Warriors were ahead for the first time in the game.
Getting the try appeared to boost Glasgow’s confidence, and they continued to dominate, repelling Exeter’s attack more easily then they had in the first half. The visitors did not help themselves though with a couple of errors here and there, including overthrowing at the lineout.
There were a couple more potential opportunities for the Warriors that they did not quite capitalise on, several chip and chase moves where the chase was not forthcoming or lacked the normal pace, and it was another twenty minutes before Glasgow crossed the line again. This time it was Tommy Seymour, unmarked on the wing, with the perfect finish on Jackson’s long floating pass. As Scotstoun celebrated though, Romain Poite had gone to the TMO and they disallowed the try for a forward pass from Maitland to Jackson.
Glasgow made sure that there was no room for doubt five minutes later when Tyrone Holmes, who was another stand out player in the pack, scored. With the extras added on Glasgow were eleven points clear of Exeter with just over five minutes to go.
The visitors did not come away from Scotstoun empty handed, as they were able to claim a losing bonus point minutes from full time, as Dave Ewers scored. There were tense moments for the Chiefs too, as the TMO decision took a bit of time in coming, but this score, and Henry Slade’s conversion brought them back to within four points.
Warriors fans watched the clock wind down and were jubilant when Matawalu collected the ball from the base of a scrum, which had to be reset 3 times, and kicked it into touch sealing the win.
Glasgow now have a short turnaround before they face Munster in the RaboDirect Pro12 on Friday night, and no doubt this win will keep the confidence up as the league leaders look to continue their one hundred percent record in the league.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Tyrone Holmes