The Warriors scraped to a 1-point victory, courtesy of some Finn magic, Callum “Billy Ray” Gibbins acting like a mulleted superhero, and a last-gasp penalty miss from could-have-been Scottish-if the WRU hadn’t whined about it Cardiff fly-half Steven Shingler (who I reckon looks a wee bit like Andy Murray.)
Glasgow started the game on the front-foot, dominating territory and possession until one George Turner overthrow gave Cardiff a chance to clear their lines. Once the lines had been cleared and field position gained from a hoof into touch around 30m from the Glasgow try-line, another overthrow from Turner gave Cardiff midfield ball, which Tom James took full advantage of, stepping round a lacklustre tackle from Alex Dunbar to score with Cardiff’s first real attack of note.
Referee Frank Murphy had an interesting game. The commentary team at S4C certainly found his policing of the breakdown debatable, but seemed blinded to Cardiff’s repeated failure to get onside and out of the road, and when he blew his whistle at the scrum, his arm went up in Cardiff’s favour and Shingler put Cardiff into double figures.
Finn Russell reduced the deficit with a penalty, after a great steal from Gibbins and a kick from Seymour had once again put Glasgow deep into Cardiff’s half, but Glasgow were far from their fluent best and struggling at the set-piece.
After Cardiff Number 8 Nick Williams was controversially penalised at the break-down, Finn kicked to within 10m of the line, but Turner, who performed well enough in the loose, once again chucked his arrow too high and far, into the gratefully waiting arms of Josh Navidi.
Cardiff took another 3 points from the boot of Shingler, after Henry Pyrgos was penalised for being offside when more ambitious play from Glasgow starting deep within their own 22 went awry. In all, it was not Pyrgos’ finest hour and a bit in a Warriors shirt. With Price seemingly established as the first choice scrum-half, and with Niko and George Horne waiting in the wings, the former co-captain will have to improve on this showing.
For all the Warriors’ slackness, they finally showed a bit of the good stuff to pull themselves back into contention. Gibbins made an initial break through the middle, and although Cardiff managed to push Glasgow into touch, their clearing kick was returned by Jackson, who found Lee Jones. The winger wriggled through the challenges, and with men over on the blind-side, some nice soft hands from the big lads allowed Pyrgos the chance to redeem himself slightly with a try.
Half-time: Cardiff Blues 13 -10 Glasgow Warriors
The return of the players after half-time also saw the return of the sideways rain which had made the Connacht contest such an attritional affair, and it also saw the return of one Niko Matawalu, brought on to replace Tommy Seymour out on the wing.
Within a minute, the mistakes returned too. Crossing by a combination of Scott Cummings and more blatantly Finn Russell gave Shingler an easy 3 points.
Finn was having a typically Finn-esque game, sometimes intelligent, inventive and glorious, some of it a bit “sheesh, what you doing?”, but would we really want it any other way?
Luckily there was more of the former to come. Cardiff claimed the restart, Lloyd Williams box-kicked down the left touchline and Russell rose way above the much larger Alex Cuthbert to pluck the ball from the sky, evade the tackle of Damian Welch and wait for Lee Jones to appear off his shoulder. Try Glasgow, and into the lead for the first time at 17-16.
Shingler’s fourth penalty put the Blues back in front, then we had the unfortunate sight of Alex Dunbar having to leave the field injured once again.
Both sides continued to have some individually impressive bits of play, but there was a real lack of cohesion, and ultimately skill all round. Niko had a charge or two, but then he’d knock-on. Cardiff full-back Rhun Williams would try to respond in kind, then within a phase or five, the ball would be dropped.
Glasgow’s first victory in the scrum happened with only 15mins left to play, Russell knocked over the penalty and Glasgow had the lead, albeit by a single point. But the real headline was to be left for his opposite number.
As Cardiff pressurised, the Glasgow scrum again fell foul to the whistle of Murphy, this time penalised for wheeling. Shingler stepped up, fairly central position, approximately 35m from goal with less than two minutes remaining. He’d been flawless off the tee all evening, but this time his timing was off. He hooked it wide, the ball almost perfectly horizontal as it slipped agonisingly by the post.
Dave’s Rennie-gades maintain their perfect record, but next up is Munster, and far more will be required at Scotsoun to see off the team that have become the Warriors’ fiercest rivals. Missing 20 tackles and conceding 23 turnovers would not go unpunished by the marauding red machine.
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)
SRBlog Man of the Match: As earlier mentioned, Finn was very “Finn-y”, and was perfect off the tee which in the end made all the difference, but MOTM goes to the Kiwi crusher, Callum Gibbins. He was effective at the breakdown, made some decent carries and topped the tackle count for Glasgow. After only 2 competitive games for his new side, he already looks like a shrewd bit of business.