Glasgow travelled south to Newport Gwent Dragons looking to get their season back on track, having lost their last two games to Cardiff Blues and Ulster.
Tactical use of the rest protocols for Scottish players meant that Peter Murchie started at 15 for Stuart Hogg, but in the pack it was a different story with injuries forcing Gregor Townsend to deploy Fraser Brown at 7 and Rob Harley in the second row.
Glasgow started the game well, with possession and territory coming easily but some solid Newport defence ensured that the Warriors were kept at bay.
A poor early miss by Nicky MacLeod from the tee for the Welsh was soon punished, with Finn Russell nailing two penalties on the back of some pretty blatant breakdown indiscipline from the Dragons pack. Truth be told there was some fairly desperate play on display from both sides, with the half hour mark coming and going without a hint of try scoring action.
Russell was looking sharp, and his tactical kicking from hand (one silly miss aside) had the Warriors playing the first half in all the right areas. From this territory Corey Flynn got the Warriors rolling maul ticking nicely, and the forwards claimed a huge victory by crashing over for the first try of the game. Russell converted, giving the Scots a 13 point lead having barely got out of second gear.
Refereeing standards in the Pro 12 have always been a hot topic, but this year so far I would argue has been the worst yet.
Andrew Brace on many occasions let the crowd decide for him, particularly at scrum time. But it was his yellow card for Fraser Brown on 33 minutes that really took the biscuit. Brown was deemed to have not used his arms in the tackle, with Brace citing persistent no arm tackling from the Warriors as his justification for yellow. Brown did use his arms, and the previous “no arms” call was a high tackle. I would expect better decisions down at Bishopton Rugby on a Saturday afternoon from a volunteer referee. Clueless, amateur and embarrassing for the Pro12 as it tries to grow its fan base globally.
With Brown in the bin for 10 minutes, Newport finally got moving. MacLeod got them on the board with a short range penalty, and the Welsh pack made great inroads into the Warriors half, coming very close to a try on 2 occasions. The Warriors showed great resolve to repeal these attacks, and Russell even managed to get another 3 points to cancel out MacLeod before halftime.
Half-time: Dragons 3-16 Glasgow
One can only imagine the shellacking the Dragons must have got at half time (I can imagine it was a bit more exciting than the recent Scotland 360 team talk) and the Welsh, a man up with Brown still in the bin, looked a much improved side as they came out.
They were spreading the ball wide with ease and snapped up two quick-fire converted tries, the first from Sam Hobbs from close range, then another through Jack Dixon. They gave the Dragons a 1 point lead with half an hour to go. The Warriors were really up against it, but you still had the suspicion that they would pull this out of the bag.
When the end of season awards come round next May, try of the season may well go to a 110kg loose head prop: Alex Allan.
From slow ball in midfield, about 30m out, the Scottish international produced a right left sidestep that Hogg or Bennett (Phil or Mark) would have been proud of. The big lad then showed a clean pair of heels to the chasing defence, splashing down with a smile as wide as the Clyde!
No doubt Alex will be unbearable in training after that effort, but in reality it was a crucial score that all but settled the game in the Warriors favour.
Russell converted to give Glasgow a 23-17 lead, and the Warriors held on to the death, extending the advantage out to 9 points at the very end with another Russell penalty.
It was a tough, ugly win in the end, but 4 points on the road is never a bad result especially if the team never really gets their game going.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Frankly I am ignoring the yellow as I think it was a total farce – Fraser Brown had his best game I have ever seen in a Warriors jersey. Amazing performance both in defence and appearing often in attack with big carries. I can’t help but feel bit aggrieved that he converted to hooker as he can be a belter of a 7. Finn Russell was also excellent despite the bandage around his head, and his kicking from the tee was the difference in the end. Other worthy mentions to Corey Flynn and Alex Allan.