After a busy summer of recruitment, it was a relief to finally get back to league action with Glasgow making the familiar trip across the sea to Galway, hoping to avenge the crushing defeats at the tail end of the previous campaign.
The Glasgow line up saw a debut for Italian international wing Leonardo Sarto, with Corey Flynn and Tjiuee Uanivi waiting in reserve to make their full Warriors debuts from the bench.
Galway was predictably windy, and Glasgow ended up playing with the breeze for the first half so the pressure was on to set a decent target for Connacht to chase in the second 40.
Connacht have lost a couple of key players over the summer, but in Bundee Aki they still retain a human wrecking ball of a 12. Glasgow did well in the opening moments to marshal him but he was ably assisted by other members of his side, with the champions’ free flowing rugby of last season continuing.
It was the Scots who drew first blood, perhaps against the run of play. The Glasgow pack carried very well and created the chance to go wide. Lovely passing from Pete Horne at 10 and Stuart Hogg gave Tommy Seymour his first try of the season, a simple stroll into the corner. A touchline conversion for Henry Pyrgos in the swirling conditions was a massive ask, so it was no surprise it sailed wide. 10 minutes gone, 0-5 Glasgow.
Reigning Champions Connacht don’t lose often at home, and they came roaring back at the Scotstoun men, with searing breaks from Matt Healy and Niyi Adeolokun causing the scramble defence issues. Big breakdown work from Alex Dunbar was key to surviving, with two key turnovers allowing the Warriors a chance to clear their lines, via the cannon like boot of Hogg. Connacht then conceded a blatant penalty 30m out. If it wasn’t first half of the first game of the season then the odds are it would have been a yellow card, but Pyrgos slotted confidently to stretch the Glasgow lead to 8.
Speaking of yellow, you could have probably had very short odds on who would earn Glasgow’s first 10 minute ‘naughty step’ of the season. Yes – Ryan Wilson! A moronic late hit on the Connacht 10 was lucky to not be further punished, with the playmaker’s knee crumpling under the tackle leading to referee Davies checking whether he had targeted a limb. Wilson had a decent game but ill-discipline continues to be a huge issue for the Warriors.
With 14 on the park for the last ten minutes of the first half, it was almost inevitable Connacht would score. It was a decent try well taken by Adeolokun but you have to say that with a full team the Warriors did not look like they would concede. Jack Carty missed the conversion with 7 minutes of the sin bin period remaining.
Glasgow were in no mood to repeat last year’s mistakes and came right back at Connacht, with Tommy Seymour wriggling over for his and Glasgow’s second try of the day, finishing his try through three Connacht defenders (and Wilson still sitting off). The conversion was missed again, but Glasgow took a 13-5 lead into the dressing room.
HT Connacht 5 – 13 Glasgow
And then came the second half… Glasgow turned up to the party in a big way, with the next 40 minutes of rugby being some of the best I have EVER seen from a Glasgow side. First on 47 minutes Hogg dotted down from a decent set piece move cutting a nice line through the midfield with two more attackers outside him forcing the defence to swither. Henry Pyrgos converted, finally finding his rhythm in the wind.
Then Tim Swinson claimed the bonus point try with a short range dart, again converted. All the swagger and skill of the Glasgow offloading game was evident, and to be honest the breakdown was a massacre with Glasgow turning over so much ball.
On the hour mark Sila Puafasi added try number 5, barrelling over from short range after a brilliant break by Sarto was supported well by Hogg. Pyrgos again added the extra 2 points brining the score to 34-5 with 20 minutes to play.
Sean Lamont had time to come on to become a Warriors centurion, and capped this landmark with the sixth Glasgow try on 71 minutes. The extras were added bringing the score to 41-5 and marking a very successful return to Galway.
The bookies had this one as being anyone’s game, but Glasgow were extremely clinical in the second half and blew Connacht off the park.
An amazing result away to last years’ champions, and a warning to everyone in the league – Glasgow are back.
SRBlog Man of the Match: on Sky’s TV coverage Stuart Barnes predictably went for Stuart Hogg, and it’s fair to say the Hawick man has continued his sterling form of last season. Personally I have gone for Alex Dunbar. The defensive side of the Glasgow game went up several notches with Dunbar in action and it is a must that we keep him fit. In the pack Zander Fagerson, Tim Swinson and Simone Favaro all went well.
Connacht: Kelleher, Adeolokun, Griffin, Aki, Healy, Carty, Blade, Buckley, McCartney, Bealham, Dillane, Qualter, McKeon, Fox-Matamua, Muldoon.
Glasgow: Hogg, Sarto, Dunbar, Johnson, Seymour, Horne, Pyrgos, Reid, MacArthur, Fagerson, Swinson, Gray, Harley, Favaro, Wilson.,