Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Connacht 16 – 11 Glasgow

Leone Nakarawa - pic © Al Ross
Leone Nakarawa - pic © Al Ross

Glasgow travelled to the Sportsground determined to be the first team in Pro 12 history to win away in a Semi-final. Gregor Townsend and others had spent the week coming up with a master plan to beat the odds.

This plan was shattered after just 59 seconds.

From a Connacht line out, Finn Russell flew out of the line to make a tackle. Zander Fagerson also barrelled into the challenge. The clash of heads was brutal, with Fagerson heading off for assessment (he didn’t return) and Russell being stretchered off on oxygen.

The rumours coming out of Galway hospital would suggest that Duncan Weir may have to cancel his summer beach holiday to replace Finn in Japan, as this won’t be one he’s back from next week (we wish Finn all the best in recovery).

From this point on there was a sense of inevitability of the outcome, aided by the wonderful play of the home side. Time and again Bundee Aki, Matt Healy and AJ McGinty broke the Glasgow line, and it was a miracle that the away side were only 3 points down after 25 minutes, with the wind meaning both sides decided for the most part to ignore the chance of 3 points from kickable penalties.

Glasgow hit straight back after McGinty’s successful penalty, Weir slotting his own from right of the posts but the attacking play was all Irish. After seeing a nice effort chalked off for a knock-on in midfield by Aki, the home fans finally got their reward when the Nigerian wing Niyi Adeolokun latched on to a clever grubber kick from Aki. The flyer showed great strength and electric pace to burst through 3 Glasgow tackles to score. From a defensive perspective this will have Matt Taylor screaming murder, and I fear the Glasgow lads might be in for a pasting in pre-season. McGinty added the extras and a 7 point lead seemed about right.

Glasgow had chances to reduce the gap before half time, with a 5 metre lineout, but our old friend discipline cost us dear, with Ryan Wilson guilty. The half ended with the Warriors held up under the posts, after some cracking defiant defence from Connacht.

Half-time: Connacht 10-3 Glasgow

Glasgow returned for the 2nd half, and like most games this season the rocket from Gregor had an immediate impact.

Some clever play from Stuart Hogg gave the Warriors field position, and some nice lines from Leone Nakarawa and Mark Bennett took the play up to close to the try line. Finally, some composure from Nakarawa, as well as that telescopic right arm, allowed the Scotstoun men the try they needed. Weir missed the extras but it was finally game on.

This year’s vintage of Warrior does seem to make a habit of making silly decisions straight after scoring, so some kamikaze play in their own 22 allowed Connacht another chance to attack them, and they were again lucky to only concede 3 points. Al Kellock would not have stood for play like that last season, and this indicates an area where Jonny Gray will have to do some learning.

On 57 minutes the Warriors got another shot at goal, with Weir knocking over to make it a 2 point game with 20 minutes to play but the penalty count was starting to resemble a cricket score. Marius Mitrea had a bee in his bonnet for most of the game regarding the Warriors rush defence, and after a final, final, final warning for Gray and the team, the yellow card seemed all but inevitable with Connacht camped on the Glasgow 5 metre line. The card didn’t arrive, as a poor underthrow in the Connacht lineout allowed Glasgow off the hook.

The green waves kept pounding the Glasgow defence and a strange penalty decision in the scrum, where Ryan Grant seemed to have his opposite number on toast but was pinged for boring in, resulted in McGinty extending the lead back to 5 points: 16-11 with 10 minutes to play.

Mitrea finally got his yellow card out on 73 minutes – but the home side were on the receiving end, much to the disgust of the local fans who by this point probably felt it was a refereeing conspiracy. A poor high tackle on Hogg sent Rodney Ah You off to the bin, but even with a man extra the Connacht line could not be breached.

There were tears from the Scots at the end, but in truth the result went as it should have. Too many things that were key to victory did not happen for Glasgow – in this game and the season – and the home side were miles ahead on the day.

We will never know how key those first 59 seconds would have been but congratulations to Connacht who are sure to have the hearts of the neutrals at BT Murrayfield next weekend.

SRBlog Man of the Match: Many of the Glasgow players came off second best to their Connacht counterparts, and the sponsor’s award for Bundee Aki was very predictable by half time. On the Glasgow side D’arcy Rae had a very decent 79 minutes and was the pick of the bunch. Mention too for Leone Nakarawa who was excellent in his last half of Warriors rugby.

FINN RUSSELL UPDATE: Finn Russell remains under observation in hospital following his head injury. However, his condition has improved significantly over the last couple of days and it’s been confirmed that he does not require surgery. Russell was transferred from University Hospital in Galway to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, and is expected to be discharged later this week.

His return to training date will be determined when he is back in Glasgow.

“Glasgow Warriors would like to thank the Connacht medical team, players and staff for their support. The club would also like to thank the University Hospital in Galway and Beaumont Hospital in Dublin for all their help. Finn and his family really appreciate all the messages of support, with which they have been inundated.”

20 Responses

    1. I agree DJB, that was a poor Glasgow performance heavily influenced by the two early subs. It was a shock to the system and they never recovered psychologically. Massively disappointing.

      What the hell was Mitrea doing with that scrum penalty to Connacht?

    2. I guess we’ll never know if the incident in the first minute made all the difference, but it was certainly a huge moment, both psychologically and practically. That scrum penalty was a strange one, but we were really lucky not to be out of the game by that point. So many mistakes and penalties conceded, and a ridiculous number of line breaks against us in the first half. As you say, CJ, massively disappointing. We just couldn’t put it together.

      All credit to Connacht. It’s a fairytale season and they were clear winners twice in a row against us. Can’t argue with that. That home advantage really does seem to be huge, doesn’t it. Ulster thrashed Leinster a few weeks ago…

      I’m not in Scotland next week, but if I were, I’d be off to Murrayfield and wearing green.

      1. Awful glasgow performance, who seem to have lost the hard edge in the forwards of two years ago. Threw some stupid lineouts (keep it simple when it is tight), and awful decision making under pressure (in tight matches take the kicks, worst case and you miss they have to kick back to you)..

        So disappointed. Will be making sure i boo every conacht move next week. They wont be in galway then.

    3. Glasgow never settled into a game this week and no doubt losing Finn Russell in particular was a blow however I did notice Duncan Weir putting in a load of tackles.

      He also missing that lineout touch kick early on and just handed the momentum back.

      It was that kind of day, frustration leading to schoolboy howlers, Glasgow just needed to get off and regroup at half time however for one reason or another , could not dominate either half.

      I feel the yellow should have been red, Connacht should not have the benefit of Ah You playing next week. I noted that smirk on his face when he left the pitch. At first I thought it was just wreckless, however that smirk says it all. Would Glasgow have scored from there without the neck jerk – Yes I think they would have.

      Once again , I feel Glasgow allowed theseleves to be bullied.

      Some highlights for me , Pyrgos and Ryan Grant look to be fit and hungry. The weegie from Fiji will be missed, it has been just fantastic to have him at Glasgow, a present from, to quote Nakarawa himself, ‘ almighty god’.

  1. In any tight game kick your goals. In a semi final definitely kick your goals!

    Poor decision making in that regard which should never have happened. Johnny Gray is inexperienced but Strauss is on the pitch and should’ve been inputting into the decision making. Not sure if he was.

    Poor stuff from Glasgow today, defence and lineouts especially along with numerous errors. Credit to Connacht, the better team won. Glasgow have lost their mojo at the worst time.

  2. Glasgow have gone backward this year and the pack looked soft yesterday. One team looked up for the match and that team wasn’t Glasgow. Leadership on the pitch is lacking – Gray is not currently captain material.

    Townsend will have his work cut out next season to re-invigorate the squad but one could question whether this team, having reached the summit once, is capable of doing so again. Yesterday was an opportunity for them to prove themselves a band of brothers, and they came up short by some way. An aura of near invincibility has been burst, and with it the fear factor that wins games before kick off.

    Gregor needs to seriously consider whether he has taken this team as far as he can and, given the SRU budgetary restrictions, move on to a new challenge.

    1. Gregor’s new challenge: can’t believe that the Quins coaching setup has been settled. Looks like a short term fix. How about Bath?

      As heir apparent National coach, the more varied his experience, the better.

  3. I think some of the harsh comments are only a reaction to the disappointment we are feeling.
    Yes, the best team won on the night, and I’m as disappointed as anyone, but it isn’t a disaster. Glasgow are still a good side who have been unlucky this year.
    Does anyone really think that Connacht would have beaten Glasgow in a Scotstoun semi final? I for one certainly don’t.
    After a difficult start to the season, Glasgow were a long way behind and had to win their last games to qualify. Unfortunately, they had an away game against the team of the year, who have been playing ‘out of their skin’ for a semi spot. The atmosphere and conditions created played into Connacht hands. (reminded me a little of how S Africa beat the NZ team with Lomu in it. All blood, guts and bloody minded intensity.)
    I always felt that ‘the force’ was with Connacht this year and I’ll be annoyed if they don’t win the final. They deserve it, although Leinster will stop at nothing to make sure it doesn’t happen.
    When I say ‘the force’ was with them, I don’t mean they were lucky. It wasn’t luck.
    They deserved to win, but it will be interesting to see if they can maintain the same intensity at Murrayfield this week. I hope so, but doubt it somehow.
    Glasgow v Leinster would have been a bumper crowd and a better game for we Scots, but too late.
    Glasgow will be back next year in a stronger league. Llanelli will be strong next year, as will Leinster, Ulster, Ospreys and hopefully Edinburgh, if they can play a 15 man game rather than a 10 man game .

  4. Definitely agree we shouldn’t feel it’s the end of the world. After a seriously tough season we ended up right back in it. Think we’d have been v different team if not for the double injury.
    What I did find frustrating was that we clearly weren’t being shackled like we were a fortnight ago, yet still couldn’t impose ourselves. Nakarawa still looked a bit hungover from last week’s 7s final, and Hogg’s failure to read bennett’s run was possibly one of those critical moments when you really need your stars to shine.
    Basically though, we lost that semi in the third quarter, a fortnight ago.

  5. On the subject of line outs, I do wonder where Glasgow are going wrong.
    Their line out was poor in both games against Connacht.
    The Connacht forwards are taller and rangier (aka Toner of Leinster).
    Johnnie Gray reminds me of Scott Quinnel who used to play for Wales. A powerhouse in the boiler room, but too heavy for anyone to lift.
    Hopefully Scott Cummins will be a ‘liftable’ lock next season, as long as he doesn’t bulk up too much in the summer.
    Against teams with taller rangier players we need more movement and some trickery and deceptive moves.
    The hookers shouldn’t escape criticism either.

  6. Undoubtedly the best team won but Glasgow weren’t helped by Mitrea, and also bizarrely Nigel Owens constantly wittering on and trying to referee the match from the touch judge role. I’ve never understood this title of “world’s best ref” I find him incredibly vain and always wanting to be the centre of attention with a pre-planned “joke”.

    The second disallowed try was a crystal clear offside – I threw a plastic bottle at the tv when I thought it was going to be awarded. What was Mitrea looking at if not the player kicking the ball?!

    Also thought it a bit strange that contentious moments that might have favoured Glasgow weren’t replayed? For example no replay of their held up try attempt at end of first half?

    But anyway fair play Connacht and good luck in the final!

  7. This is more of a question really: Connacht were really good at was blitz defence – screaming out the line and smashing the mid field, leading to turnovers, rushed passes, general dis-organisation. Why not line the backs up steeper (I know it’s old school) and look for dog legs to exploit as defence rushes out? (we had lighter and potentially jinkier centres) It would also be more obvious to the ref when the defence was offside as well as giving our guys a chance to play “heads up” rugby, wee chips etc, rather than just doing what the opposition wants – caught and smashed on the gain line. In guys like Hogg and Seymour, we have pace to burn – lets see them given the ball with a bit of space in front of them to get up to full tilt. We (Glasgow) just seemed to fall into the pattern of play that Connacht wanted. Why is current rugby all about “the collision” – would it not be better in terms of having to fight to re-cycle the ball, less tiring and not mention fewer injuries(!) to try and go around and avoid rather than just try to dominate the collision (PS I was a no.8 so don’t mind collisions per se)

  8. Sorry I didn’t catch the game (too disappointed to watch it on catch up)..what happened with Russell and Fagerson? I read it as though they collided with each other with Finn coming off much worse (understandable considering Fagerson is pushing 20st). But a Bundee Aki carry did the damage?

    1. Exactly what I was thinking Bulldog. I find the lack of update strange. I wish him a quick and full recovery. Anybody got any info on him?

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion