Glasgow welcomed last seasons semi finalists the Ospreys to the sunny west for Dave Rennie’s first hit out in front of a packed Scotstoun. The fans were excited to see the return of Finn Russell, fresh from his summer break with the Lions, as well as new boy Callum Gibbons, sporting the single best hairstyle you are likely to find in the Pro 14 this year.
Glasgow started us off with Russell immediately putting the Ospreys under pressure, his long kick resulting in Rory Hughes thumping his opposite number into touch. Glasgow set up camp in the Ospreys half but the Welsh defence was strong, conceding nothing. The signs however looked promising for the home side.
After a strong defensive set for 15 minutes, it was the Welsh side’s turn to get some ball, with Sam Davies looking particularly dangerous at fly half. The Glasgow defensive line proved the equal of their opponents however, with a number of huge hits smashing the attacking runners backwards. It was this defensive line speed that resulted in the first score, with a forced pass from Davies bobbling up into Alex Dunbar’s arms. The centre still had all of 50m to go, as well as 4 defenders to beat, but he jinked round them and cruised home to break the deadlock. Russell had the easiest of conversions, and 7-0 seemed like a fair reward for their effort.
Glasgow looked most likely to turn their possession into points, but their set piece was of concern with a number of scrums going against them. The lineout wasn’t much better, and this continued to compound small handling errors which relieved any pressure on the Ospreys.
Russell was given an easy opportunity for 3 points, which he duly slotted, but it was the Ospreys who struck next, perhaps against the run of play. Some loose defence allowed Davies to put Evans through untouched under the posts, bringing the scores to 10-7. This buoyed the Welsh side and they dominated the final 10 minutes of the half, Glasgow defending with an increasing level of panic. At one point they managed to repeal 27 phases within their own 22, before forcing the error from the otherwise impressive Jeff Hassler. A further three points were conceded on the halftime whistle, but Glasgow would have been pleased with the improvement in defence.
Half-time: Glasgow 10-10 Ospreys
The second period began much like the first, with Glasgow dominating possession and territory. Rory Hughes had been busy in both defence and attack, and one huge break got Glasgow into the Ospreys’ 22 before he departed, replaced by Leonardo Sarto. Dave Rennie’s Chiefs side were known for their quick pace and tempo, and Finn Russell is an obvious candidate for someone who would thrive in that style of play.
It was, therefore, no surprise to anyone – except perhaps the Welsh defence – when a shot at goal was turned down in favour of a quick tap. Fullback Ruaridh Jackson was supporting well, and a lovely offload saw Sarto score with his first touch. Having played well in limited appearances when he first arrived last season, the Italian wing is starting to look prolific. He is fast playing himself into the 1st choice XV, which won’t have resting Tommy Seymour sleeping easily. Russell made no error with the extras, and Scotstoun was rocking.
The Ospreys came back at Glasgow, but openside Gibbons lead the home defence with a reckless abandon reminiscent of a certain departed Italian back row. The Welsh attack progressively became more predictable, and a wild pass in midfield was easily intercepted by Adam Ashe. The big No.8 had another brilliant game, and had enough gas to make the line, via a thumping hand off on the desperate cover tackle of Davies. Russell again slotted the extras, and the 14 point lead looked far too much for the Ospreys to come back from.
From Glasgow’s perspective, 15 minutes remained to achieve the full five point win by notching up another try. Last year’s iteration of the Warriors would have failed in this task, but the 2017/18 vintage looks to be made of something a bit stronger.
It was of course Alex Dunbar – who played with his usual combination of frankly ridiculous defensive strength, excellent breakdown work, and thumping ball carrying – who got the 4th, capping a brilliant second half for the home side. He then backed this up by turning another ball over just before the final whistle, ensuring that it was Glasgow who had the final play.
Russell almost scored a 50m drop goal from inside his own half as the final play of the game, which was suitably tongue in cheek from a Glasgow side who look like their old selves again.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)
SRBlog Man of the Match: Alex Dunbar stamped himself all over this game with a try to start and a try to finish, plus a turnover to finish the game off. Looks sharper and more importantly faster than he has in years.