On a bitterly cold night in Glasgow, a makeshift Warriors team failed to warm the cockles of their fans as they slipped to a disappointing 14-26 defeat at the hands of Llannelli Scarlets, who moved above Glasgow into fourth spot in the Pro12 table.
Both teams were shorn of a number of their international players due to involvement in the RBS 6 Nations, however Glasgow were able to call upon Rob Harley and Henry Pyrgos released from Scotland duty, and in a timely boost, Rory Hughes and Scott Cummings were available to start, with centre/no:8/goalkeeper/point-guard Richie Vernon taking a spot on the bench after lengthy injury lay-offs for that trio.
The match started positively enough for the Warriors. Rory Clegg and opposite number Dan Jones traded early penalties, before Jones saw a yellow card for what at first seemed like the kind of slide-tackle a Uruguayan centre-half would be proud of. His victim was newly re-signed Sam Johnson who had cleverly chipped and chased through.
From the resultant penalty the Warriors went for a line-out, and mauled their way over the whitewash with Pat MacArthur touching down. Clegg missed the conversion, but with 16mins gone and Scarlets down to 14 men, the lead was 8-3 and things were looking good.
Then it all went downhill for the men in black.
After a period of sustained pressure, wing Tom Williams dotted down in the right-hand corner and converted it himself with Dan Jones still in the sin-bin.
Clegg and Jones, back from his imposed breather, again traded penalties. With the end of the first half looming, Scarlets scored another try, with the impressive openside flanker James Davies scoring in the 39th minute. The conversion was good and the half time score was Warriors 11-20 Scarlets.
Half-time: Glasgow 11-20 Scarlets
Glasgow made three changes before the second half was ten minutes old, MacArthur being replaced by James Malcolm after failing a HIA, Lee Jones went off for Sean Lamont, and Sam Johnson’s place was taken by Richie Vernon, who received a rapturous welcome from the Scotstoun faithful.
Despite his and Adam Ashe’s best efforts (the number 8 had been largely anonymous in the first 40mins), a series of butchered attempts to cross the Scarlets line followed, albeit with some sterling defence and brutal breakdown work by the men in red.
Dan Jones and Clegg had once again knocked over penalties, but the only other main talking point occurred in the 61st minute when Scarlets’ lock Tom Price was penalised for a shoulder charge at the break-down around the Scarlets’ 22m line.
Referee George Clancy, who’s probably moved down a spot in the Munstermen you wouldn’t buy a pint for rankings after Ronan O’Gara’s outburst on Saturday, decided against the yellow card, which seemed fair. Glasgow went for the close range line-out, but again miss-fired and another chance went begging.
Little of note followed, except for an Aled Thomas penalty in the 75th minute which put the Scarlets 12 points clear at 14-26, and with that an exodus of Warriors’ fans followed.
This may have been an under-strength team, but the Warriors will rightly view this as points lost to their close rivals. In truth, I thought this was the worst performance from them I’ve seen since the defeat to Newport back in November 2013. Those who were returning from injury may be allowed a pass due to a lack of match sharpness, but for the rest, given a chance to shine in the absence of their more established team-mates, this was an opportunity missed.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Scarlets Dan Jones – it was that bad.
Referee: George Clancy