Glasgow kept up their winning run as round five of the RaboDirect Pro12 continued this weekend, with a hard fought victory over Welsh rivals the Llanelli Scarlets.
From the off Glasgow were looking to assert themselves on the match and with the first penalty going their way, winger Niko Matawalu gave the home side little chance to gather their thoughts, as he took it quickly edging deep into the Scarlets’ half before he was brought down. After building through a few more phases Ryan Grant was able to reach out and ground the ball over the line for the first score of the night. Duncan Weir marked his return from injury by booting over the extra two points. Three minutes in and Glasgow were seven points ahead.
The Scarlets looked to respond immediately driving deep into the Warriors’ half, and thought that they had the advantage when Sean Lamont knocked the ball on whilst defending, however Glasgow demonstrated their forward prowess by winning the resulting scrum against the head, and launching their own attack from deep.
Showing some of the spark that Glasgow have perhaps been missing in recent weeks, Matawalu with his usual quick thinking Fijian flair, looked to run in the second try of the night as he wove his way through four Scarlets players unchallenged. He later tried to break the line with a cheeky chip and chase that unfortunately found Scarlets full back Liam Williams first.
Perhaps the only thing overshadowing the dominance of Glasgow in this half were the increasingly messy scrums, with both sides guilty of infringements, and Ryan Grant being exceptionally lucky to escape sanctions (again), as the touch judge did not spot his hand swiping at the ball mid scrum.
Glasgow crossed the line for a second time as the game approached the half hour, with the score coming from lock Tim Swinson. Glasgow showing the speed that the Scarlets lacked, as they built through the phases quickly, and Swinson bundled himself over Rhys Priestland and the line for the score. Weir was accurate with the conversion and the Warriors extended their lead.
The home side were not without scores in the first half, as the Warriors were penalised within range of Priestland’s boot, and the score as the teams went in at half time was 6 – 14.
Whatever Scarlets’ coach Simon Easterby said to his team at half time seemed to have worked as the home side came out full of attack and purpose. They were able to capitalise straight away as Swinson was pinged for holding on, and Priestland wasted no time in adding three points to the Scarlets’ tally, closing the deficit to an unconverted try.
This seemed to have rattled the Warriors, who fumbled their way around the field in this third quarter. They were spared a Scarlets try in this period not through any defensive genius but rather from a mistake by Jordan Williams, passing the ball to full back Liam Williams, despite being unmarked, in space inches from the line.
With the majority of the second half being played inside the Warriors own half, frustrations started to seep into the play, and Sean Lamont soon found himself being shown a yellow card for repeated infringement in slowing the ball down. Despite vociferous protestations from Alastair Kellock and Lamont himself, the ref’s decision stood and Glasgow were a man down.
The Welsh team stepped up their efforts to take advantage of the extra man, and again came within inches of the line, their attempts this time being denied by what would have been, had it worked, a brilliant interception by Matawalu, instead it was a knock on, but the penalty that came Glasgow’s way from the scrum allowed them a bit of breathing space. And in the end by the time that the Warriors were back to full strength they had conceded only three points.
In the end it was the positional switch, brought about by DTH Van Der Merwe replacing Chris Cusiter, which saw Matawalu move to scrum half that injected a bit of life back into Glasgow’s game and they went hunting for another try. The closest they came was a break by Lamont through the centre, it took Rhodri Williams and Josh Turnbull to bring him down and when they did he was unsupported and so had no-one to get the offload to.
Warriors were able to increase their lead by three points with another successful penalty kick from Weir, but it was not a comfortable enough cushion for them to take their foot off of the gas.
As the clock wound down, five points separated the teams, and the final quarter was tit for tat rugby as each side sought to gain an advantage over the other. Again Glasgow found themselves on the wrong side of the laws, as Matawalu was sin binned with only five minutes to go for stamping on the ankle of former Warriors team-mate John Barclay.
When the clock went red, Glasgow were handed possession thanks to an attempt by the Scarlets to clear their lines, and Weir was able to boot the ball into touch for the victory. An ugly win in perfect rugby conditions to keep themselves at the top of the table and five victories from five.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Niko Matawalu