Glasgow travelled south to the Parc Y Scarlets for a crucial game in terms of the play-offs. Gregor Townsend picked 19 Scottish internationals out of the 23, with Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg amongst those returning. The Welsh had been struck down with a sickness bug, with 20 player suffering but their team had a strong look, with DTH Van der Merwe and Liam Williams looking to put the Glasgow defence under pressure.
The first points went to the home side, with a simple penalty from ‘almost Scottish’ Steve Shingler. Glasgow replied in some style, with Russell regaining his own lovely chip from 10m out to score at full stretch. It was a sublime bit of skill from the always confident 10, and he added the extras to give Glasgow a 7-3 lead.
Glasgow were looking in the mood, with the conditions playing into their free, offloading game. Russell added another penalty on 18 minutes, and then showed a fabulous finishers instinct to touchdown in the far corner, under heavy Scarlets pressure. This time the conversion went wide, but after 25 minutes it was Finn Russell 15 – 3 Scarlets.
Liam Williams is a player I absolutely loathe! I can see how good he is, but he just winds me up no end with his niggly, ‘football’ style antics.. He was on the end of some heavy hits from the Glasgow back row to my obvious delight, but weaved his magic to beat Puafisi with some nice feet and score under the posts. The Scarlets hadn’t been in the game at this point and it was against the run of play but the conversion made it 15-10, and suddenly Glasgow looked nervous.
Lee Jones had been handed the 11 shirt for this one, and the sevens specialist showed good awareness to get on the end of a fabulous Henry Pyrgos break. Jones looked like he had the legs to get to the line but Hadleigh Parks had good gas to cover for the Scarlets. Not to worry though – Jones just smashed through the big No.12, making the line with ease. I admit that I sat up at this point, wondering when Jones had added this development to his game. It was more Naiyaravoro than I expected from the former Scottish International. Russell missed again, leaving the half time score at 20-10.
HT Scarlets 10 – 20 Glasgow
3 tries in the first half for the Scotstoun men, and we had to wait all of 53 seconds before the bonus point was secured, Glasgow taking clinical advantage of their former charge John Barclay receiving treatment. Russell delayed his pass beautifully, Seymour did the hard work and passed inside for Pyrgos, who cantered over for a well worked try. Russell couldn’t miss (even at 67% accuracy for the season) and the 27-10 scoreline looked about right.
The Scarlets now looked out on their feet, perhaps an indication that the sickness in camp was having a big impact. Glasgow had an easy time of it, adding 3 more tries through Bennett, Seymour and Jones by the end. The gulf in quality from the bench was evident and Glasgow were good value for the huge win. Even George Clancy couldn’t do his best to ruin it.
A word of mention though for the defence. The line speed from Glasgow was the best I have seen all season with a number of turnovers caused by sheer physicality on or behind the gain line. Alex Dunbar was at his devious best in this facet of the game and is fast finding his ‘A’ game, at the perfect time of the season.
8 in a row, 2 games left and the Connacht game on the last day of the regular season is looking like a cracker – as well as the decider for a home semi-final.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Lots of great performances from the Warriors, but only one candidate in my head. Finn Russell was absolutely outstanding. The young 10 controlled the game, added individual brilliance, and defensively was hitting as hard as the big men up front. Remembering his average form earlier in the season, this performance showed myself (and everyone watching) just how much potential he has. I would also like to add that I think his passing is as good as Peter Horne… controversial I know, but the way it snaps out of his hand is a thing of beauty. Glasgow are very blessed to have such quality in the ranks. Honourable mentions for Alex Dunbar, who was excellent, and Lee Jones who was a man possessed. The ‘Beast Mode’ moment aside, the winger was a delight to watch, always busy and elusive. No wonder Taqele can’t get a game….
Scarlets: Liam Williams; Steff Evans, Gareth Owen, Hadleigh Parkes, DTH van der Merwe; Steven Shingler, Gareth Davies; Ron Evans, Ken Owens (capt), Samson Lee; Jake Ball, David Bulbring; Maselino Paulino, James Davies, John Barclay.
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Phil John, Peter Edwards, George Earle, Morgan Allen, Aled Davies, Aled Thomas, Steffan Hughes.
Glasgow Warriors: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Lee Jones; Finn Russell, Henry Pyrgos; Gordon Reid, Fraser Brown, Sila Puafisi; Tim Swinson, Jonny Gray (capt); Rob Harley, Ryan Wilson, Josh Strauss.
Replacements: Pat MacArthur, Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Zander Fagerson, Leone Nakawara, Tyrone Holmes, Grayson Hart, Duncan Weir, Taqele Naiyaravoro
Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)