After their second half destruction of last year’s champions Connacht, this week Glasgow returned to Scotstoun to face beaten finalists Leinster on their new artificial surface in front of an increased capacity crowd and, er, taller goalposts.
“Toonies Tombola” was rather quiet, with only Puafisi coming into the starting 15 for Zander Fagerson. Lee Jones took the 23 shirt on the bench, displacing Sean Lamont who was on a 2 in 2 try scoring streak after last week’s 100th Warriors outing.
Both teams evidently wanted to play some entertaining rugby, with the fast, consistent surface playing a factor. The first chance of points came to the home side, with co-captain Henry Pyrgos hooking his effort wide in deceptively windy conditions.
The Warriors were not to be denied though, and after some lovely carrying from the forward pack, a total peach of a pass from Sam Johnson sent Tommy Seymour over the whitewash for a carbon copy of last week’s opening try. The conversion was missed but the ease with which Glasgow carved open the Leinster defence was promising.
Leinster are the bookies favourites to win the league this year, and it was not surprising to see them crash their way back into the fixture. Poor discipline from the Glasgow back row gave the Irish a platform, and Rob Kearney raced over to dot down. Young standoff Joey Carbery nailed the conversion to give his team the lead 7-5 with 25 minutes played.
Almost everyone at Scotstoun was sad to see Leone Nakarawa depart this summer, but Tim Swinson could be forgiven for being grateful to see the back of the Fijian lock as it will mean regular starts. Superb at the breakdown through this (and last) week, everyone’s favourite dodgy moustache got Glasgow back in front with another try on the half hour to add to last week’s effort. Pyrgos had an easy conversion from right in front and this time made no mistake to make it 12-7 to Glasgow.
Things never seem to be straightforward against Leinster and it was more indiscipline from Glasgow that turned the half on its head. Leonardo Sarto, who was having another strong game with ball in hand, was instead yellow carded for persistent breakdown offences. Unfortunately for the Italian he was just the latest of a number of Warriors misbehaving in John Lacey’s eyes, but Leinster took full advantage of the numerical deficit, scoring two tries in the 4 minutes before halftime (including a belter of a cross kick for Zane Kirchner to dot down). 1 out of 2 conversions left the visitors with a decided edge with another six minutes against 14 men to come.
HT Glasgow 12 – 19 Leinster
The second 40 kicked off with Glasgow really up against it. Defensively the team should take great credit for limiting the Irish to only 3 more points in the sin bin period, which took the Leinster lead to 10 points. These are the “championship minutes” so beloved of Joe Schmidt, where the top teams exert the right amount of pressure to secure a result when it matters most.
At times like this you need your big players to really step up: enter Tommy Seymour.
On the 50 minute mark, a terrible looped pass was snatched on the full by the Scotland wing for an easy run in from about 40 metres out for his second try of the game. How many times does he need to score interceptions before people realise it’s not luck? A simple conversion, and Glasgow were back in the game at 19-22.
Tommy was not quite done yet however. 2 minutes later, a bone crunching hit from Simone Favaro (who else?) caused a turnover in the Irish half. Seymour scooped up the ball, darted about a bit, then proceeded to smoke past Mike McCarthy and the rest of the defence. An unbelievable individual effort securing the bonus point for the Scotstoun men. The conversion was good and Glasgow were 4 points to the good inside 2 minutes.
Leinster reverted to a more dogged style after this, with plenty of mauls and tight ‘one up’ rugby. Glasgow dealt well with this, particularly the maul defence which has always been a big issue for them. 3 points were conceded on 63 minutes to bring the gap back to 1 point, but Hogg had an immediate chance to respond from all of 55m. In the difficult conditions it would have been an amazing penalty from the in-form full back but it drifted wide, leaving the score at 26-25 to Glasgow.
Things were looking a bit tight for comfort, so over to Tommy for the last major action of the game. With 74 minutes gone, and a massive call from the co-captains to take a penalty scrum on the Leinster 10 metre line. A beautiful set-move line from 1st phase ball, and Seymour crashed over for his 4th and Glasgow’s 5th try of the day. A successful conversion denied Leinster even a losing bonus, making the 33-25 result all the sweeter as we know how vital those things become at the tail end of the season.
Another 5 points bagged against a potential title rival and the new look Scotstoun christened with a win.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Really the easiest MotM I will probably ever give out! Tommy Seymour was at his predatory best, and has put his hand firmly up for the 14 shirt for the Lions. Now we just need to find some Welsh links in his varied background… Honourable mentions also to Stuart Hogg who continues to look electric with ball in hand, Tim Swinson who was a total menace at the breakdown, and Jonny Gray, who performed as Jonny always does, tackling and carrying over and over. He struggles to get the plaudits that his work rate and efficiency deserve.
Glasgow Warriors: Hogg, Sarto, Dunbar, Johnson, Seymour, Horne, Pyrgos, Reid, Brown, Puafisi, Swinson, Gray, Harley, Favaro, Wilson. Replacements: Flynn, Allan, Fagerson, Uanivi, Wynne, Price, Clegg, Jones.
Leinster: R. Kearney, McFadden, G. Ringrose, Reid, D. Kearney, Carbery, L. McGrath, Healy, Tracy, Bent, McCarthy, Molony, Leavy, van der Flier, Murphy. Replacements: B. Byrne, Dooley, Furlong, M. Kearney, D. Ryan, Gibson-Park, Marsh, Kirchner.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)