After last week’s disappointment at the hands of Munster, it truly was last chance saloon for delivering the Champions Cup quarter final place that has eluded Glasgow until this point in their relatively short history. Leicester on the other hand had not lost to Scottish opposition since the early 1900s.
With this in mind Gregor Townsend’s patented ‘Toony tombola’ was placed firmly aside, and the same 15 who started last week given the nod once more. Henry Pyrgos returned from injury to add some experience to the bench alongside Chris Fusaro and Peter Murchie.
Many Warriors fans had made the sizeable journey to support their side, with blue flags prominently displayed in all areas of the stadium, but any nerves that they or the players had were banished within 5 minutes of kick off. Glasgow controlled the ball right from the off, and went through a frankly ridiculous 27 phases of power, pace and control before Tommy Seymour found some soft shoulders in defence to bump 2 defenders and score with a contortionist’s move under the posts. With an easy extra 2 points added by Finn Russell, the Warriors could not have dreamt up such a perfect start.
Glasgow continued to dominate possession, with 79% in the first 20 minutes and Russell added 3 more points from a penalty, before missing a long distance effort bang on the 20 minute mark. This was not going to be a miss that would be punished. From the resulting clearance, Glasgow came at the Leicester defence once more. A clever chip through saw Lee Jones impeded very cynically by Matthew Tait, and so off went the full back for 10 minutes on the naughty step.
Glasgow put the ball into the corner, set up the maul and rumbled through their opposition, resulting in Mathieu Raynal awarding a penalty try. Domination by a Scottish pack in the heartland of English forward play really did taste sweet, although possibly not to the Welford Road faithful who were becoming less faithful by the minute. Russell added the extras.
Leicester finally got some ball, and with it came 2 penalty attempts of their own. Freddie Burns reminded everyone why he isn’t currently near the England international setup with a poor miss, quickly followed by an absolute howler from right in front of the sticks. The crowd could not believe what they had just seen, and the error was further compounded when Glasgow came right back up the park, with superb hands in particular from Swinson and Fagerson, to create an overlap on the far left. Lee Jones masterfully drew in the defence before putting it to Ryan Wilson who popped it to Mark Bennett who dived over to finish the move, capping an all action phase of play. Glasgow were just sublime to watch for this first half hour, arguably better than even the Munster Pro 12 final. Russell added 2 more to make it 24-0 and 3 tries.
Jonny Gray had not needed to be as busy as usual in defence, with the big lock only making 4 tackles all game (of the 62 in total made by the team) but he was outstanding in attack, carrying well and performing that ‘pivot’ role that is vital to creating space for the Warriors flyers out wide. Therefore it was no surprise that it was the captain who brought up the try bonus, with the benefit of another thunderous maul from the Glasgow pack. Another successful conversion and Warriors headed in to half time with a 31 point lead.
It was almost unreal.
Half-time: Leicester 0-31 Glasgow
Any chance of a Tigers fightback was well and truly quashed after just 8 minutes of the second half.
His second penalty miss of the night on 42 minutes did not stop Scotland 10 Russell playing a starring role in the next try, with a lovely set play from the scrum sending Ryan Wilson over for a try that capped an excellent performance.
Russell found his shooting boots for this one and sent the ball cleanly through the uprights.
The substitutes started arriving for both sides, with Pyrgos, Fusaro and Pat MacArthur making an appearance before possibly the try of the night arrived. Like Wilson, Tim Swinson has been in the form of his life recently, and was at his best again here with a superb game. He was helped over the line by two of his forward colleagues, showing no mercy to the Tigers who looked like they would have called the game there and then if they could have.
Indeed, a large swathe of their support did exactly that, deciding to miss the traffic rather than put up with any more from their side. Sad times for a famous old club.
Russell missed the conversions but at 43-0 with 20 minutes to play it was forgivable.
This marked the point where Glasgow finally took their foot off the throat of their opponent, with both teams happy to close out and get to the dressing room with no further damage.
There was time for Ellis Genge to get sin binned for a third penalty conceded in the red zone, but the cries of ‘We Want 50’ from the Warriors support were not to be met.
On the full time whistle the management team, replacements and squad rushed onto the field to celebrate. First time quarter finalists, and done in some style from the first Scottish side to win at Welford Road in 119 years. The stats told the story, with 467 metres made to Leicester’s 130, 15 defenders beaten and a solid 150 gain line carries.
Saracens will not take Glasgow lightly in March at the Allianz when the Warrior Nation go travelling.
FT Leicester 0 – 43 Glasgow
SRBlog Man of the Match: Tim Swinson made it consecutive man of the match awards from the sponsors, and there will be no complaints from me regarding this. The lock was incredible, and has perhaps even played himself into the reckoning for a start against Ireland. Other mentions go to Tommy Seymour, who was busy all night, Jonny Gray who led from the front on every carry, and Josh Strauss, who skittled Leicester tacklers at will. To be honest though any Warrior could have got the award. An incredible finish to the group and a timely reminder to all of Scotland’s opponents in the 6 Nations – there is some ‘real deal’ talent in Scotland now.
Leicester Tigers: M Tait; A Thompstone, P Betham, J Roberts, T Brady, F Burns, B Youngs; G Bateman, T Youngs (capt), D Cole, E Slater, M Fitzgerald, M Williams, L McCaffrey, L Hamilton.
Replacements: H Thacker (for T Youngs, 63), E Genge (for Bateman, 50), P Cilliers (for Cole, 67), D Barrow (for Fitzgerald, 62), W Evans (for McCaffrey, 75), S Harrison (for B Youngs, 50), G Worth, M Smith (for Betham, 65).
Yellow cards: Mathew Tait (21), Ellis Genge (79)
Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour, M Bennett, A Dunbar, L Jones, F Russell, A Price; G Reid, F Brown, Z Fagerson, T Swinson, J Gray (capt), R Harley, R Wilson, J Strauss.
Replacements: P MacArthur (for Brown, 59), A Allan (for Reid, 64), D Rae (for Fagerson, 64), B Alainu’uese (for Swinson, 70), C Fusaro (for Strauss, 56), H Pyrgos (for Price, 56), N Grigg (for Dunbar, 64), P Murchie (for Hogg, 70).
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)