Glasgow welcomed 7th placed Cardiff to Scotstoun on what seemed like a lovely night for some flowing PRO12 rugby, until the rain came down in buckets.
Gregor Townsend rang the changes, with Stuart Hogg given the night off under SRU player management protocols. Finn Russell returned to anchor the side from standoff fresh from his own rest, and Jonny Gray and Tim Swinson renewed their profitable partnership in the second row. Cardiff featured ‘almost’ Scot Steven Shingler, Welsh captain Sam Warburton and Samoan centre Rey Lee-lo.
The home side had the first swathe of possession, testing the Cardiff defence with plenty of hard carries before a poor Russell kick was comfortably marked by Welsh international Alex Cuthbert. Glasgow continued to press with Russell visibly directing the forwards on every play. Another big carry from Josh Strauss got the home side within five metres but solid Cardiff defence saw them hold up Ryan Wilson. The resulting scrum was solid, but inaccuracy of the final pass from Russell saw the chance lost.
It was clear, though, that the Warriors had come to play.
Glasgow continued to camp inside the Welsh 22, and the pressure was mounting on the defence. Carry after carry was met with solid hits from the Welsh, with Ali Price, Swinson and Strauss all going close but it was Pat MacArthur who finally broke the deadlock, powering over from a metre out. Russell added the extras to give the home side a deserved 7 point lead after 13 minutes.
Clearly Glasgow had identified the maul as a potential weapon in this game and in the early exchanges Cardiff had no answer to the power of the home pack with a penalty giving Glasgow more field position. Small errors in handling kept the scoreboard stationary but Glasgow were clearly dominant; 20 minutes in and Cardiff had barely touched the ball.
They finally got a shot with a penalty to the Glasgow 22m line. The resulting lineout was easily stolen by Glasgow but Cardiff continued to press and some weak tackling saw Alex Cuthbert get to the line in the corner. The big wing knocked on it the tackle though so Glasgow were spared. Cuthbert’s poor season continues.
The resulting scrum was well cleared and another big hit in midfield saw Glasgow given the scrum for a Cardiff knock on.
Glasgow had clearly got the better of the referee, with the penalty count starting to stack up against Cardiff. Another lovely kick to touch from Russell saw the Glasgow maul go very close from a fifteen metre drive. The ball was recycled well but another handling error spared Cardiff. Really by this point it should have been 21-0, which would have really disappointed the home coaching team.
Not to worry though, the Glasgow pack had other ideas and a massive scrum gave Russell an easy penalty which he dispatched, extending the lead to 10 with 6 minutes of the first half remaining. Cardiff had the last play of the half and some thunderous defence from Glasgow seemed to have secured the ball.
Russell wanted to clear, but tried a silly chip which was charged down and Cardiff waltzed in for the score. Really poor work from Finn, who had a mixed first 40. The extras went over from way out wide and suddenly Cardiff were in the game, despite not really being in the game.
Half-time: Glasgow 10 – 7 Cardiff
The same fifteen Warriors returned to the field, no doubt after a rocket from Townsend and his team in the changing room but the first penalty of the second half went Cardiff’s way. Shingler lined up a shot at the posts, and nailed it to draw the Welshmen level. Not the start the home fans wanted at 10-10.
Things were just not sticking for the home side, with niggly knock-ons, silly passes and missed tackles costing them but finally some quality came from Russell and Seymour. A lovely inside ball and some slick dummy runs saw the wing break the defence, and a pop to Dunbar seemed to have done the trick. The Cardiff defence scrambled well and Dunbar ignored two men free outside him, but Peter Murchie joined the ruck instead and was able to power through and dot the ball down. Russell nailed the extras to open up a good lead.
Russell in particular seemed to have got the message, kicking much more sensibly and keeping Cardiff pinned in awkward positions on the park. Glasgow continued to pressurise the Cardiff set piece, with the Blues resorting to smashing the ball high into the Glasgow skyline. Murchie was very assured under this air bombardment but it was Tommy Seymour who was causing all the issues for Cardiff, with another searing break giving the aforementioned Murchie the opportunity for his second try. No mistake made, and the extras gave Glasgow a 14 point lead 24-10. Bonus point time, the crowd sensed.
Glasgow came straight back up the park, with Seymour again punching massive holes in the Cardiff rear-guard. The ball was carried up well in the forwards but some excellent breakdown work saw Cardiff secure the penalty to clear. The away side were swaying, however.
Rob Harley joined the second row for his 151st Warriors cap, and the back row secured another penalty for the home side. Russell battered the ball to touch on the Cardiff 22, and another secure lineout saw the maul formed once more. This time Cardiff illegally stopped it, with the only sensible option to put the ball out once more. Another penalty, and a warning for Sam Warburton’s men but the end result seemed inevitable. The maul formed for the third time and James Malcolm was the man to smash over for the bonus point try. This time Russell couldn’t add the conversion, leaving the score 29-10 with 15 minutes remaining.
Cardiff were not disheartened by the deficit they faced, and a poor defensive lineout from Glasgow cost them big, with the ball moved wide for the Cardiff backs allowing Rhun Williams to dot down. They missed the conversion and with only 2 minutes to play the only option was to attempt to get a losing bonus of their own. Another penalty put the Welsh in a useful position with the clock red, but some massive defence saw the Blues knock on one last time.
A deserved win for Glasgow who in reality made a harder job of the bonus point than they should have. Every point is a prisoner at this stage of the season, so denying the Blues their losing point may be a big plus.
FT Glasgow 29 – 15 Cardiff Blues
Man of the Match: The pack played a big part in this win, but it was Tommy Seymour who provided all the magic to ensure the bonus point was clinched. Sensationally rounded performance from the winger.
Glasgow: Peter Murchie, Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Lee Jones, Finn Russell, Ali Price, Gordon Reid, Pat MacArthur, D’arcy Rae, Tim Swinson, Jonny Gray (capt), Josh Strauss, Simone Favaro, Ryan Wilson.
Replacements: James Malcolm, Alex Allan, Zander Fagerson, Rob Harley, Adam Ashe, Grayson Hart, Rory Clegg, Sean Lamont.
Cardiff Blues: Matthew Morgan; Alex Cuthbert, Rey Lee-Lo, Willis Halaholo, Blaine Scully; Steven Shingler, Lloyd Williams; Rhys Gill, Kristian Dacey, Anton Peikrishvili, Macauley Cook, James Down, Ellis Jenkins, Sam Warburton (capt), Josh Navidi
Replacements: Matthew Rees, Brad Thyer, Scott Andrews, Jarrad Hoeata, BJ Edwards, Tomos Williams, Nicky Robinson, Rhun Williams
Referee: Andrew Brace