Having struggled to put Cardiff away earlier in the season, Glasgow hosted the Welsh region at Scotstoun looking for a perfect 10 from 10 in the Pro 14 this season. Glasgow welcomed back Peter Horne and Alex Dunbar from Scotland duty, as well as Ryan Wilson who on this occasion was not given the captaincy of the side. This honour fell to Calumn Gibbins, emphasising the trust that Dave Rennie now has in the latest Scotstoun fans favourite.
It was Cardiff who had the early running, with a penalty right from kick off giving them a 3-point lead. The opening try was not far behind, with Glasgow looking like they had left their senses deep in the Scotstoun sheds. Five minutes in saw a ten point lead for Cardiff and Glasgow looking very shaken.
Any suggestion of this being an easy fixture had been promptly dispatched, so it was a relief when the ever-impressive Sam Johnson grabbed the Warriors first points on the 20-minute mark, with the leadership team having turned down a number of kickable penalties. His try, which came from a pinpoint cross kick from Horne was easily converted to bring the gap back to 3 points.
Nigel Owens was the man in charge for this one, and a number of ‘interesting’ decisions seemed initially to go the way of the Welsh side (Assistants and TMO were Scottish to be fair) but the game was to turn on its head on the 30-minute mark.
Cardiff had extended their lead with another Jarrod Evans penalty, and had won another penalty in their own half from the restart when Nigel and the team went to work, looking at a dangerous hit from the prop Taufa’ao Filise on George Turner. The Scot departed for an HIA, and did not return, leaving James Malcolm possibly the only fit hooker for Glasgow this weekend. Filise also permanently departed, with a red card shown by Nigel. By the letter of the law he had no choice, and to be fair it was a serious hit.
I am glad that Owens and Pascal Gauzere last week are leading by example on the ‘it doesn’t matter what the other player is doing i.e. falling/slipping, if you smash someone in the face with your shoulder you are off’ front.
Glasgow immediately capitalised, with Alex Dunbar getting the touchdown after great work from Gibbins to chase another cross kick. Horne converted to give a 14-13 lead to Glasgow which they took in at half time.
Half-time: Glasgow 14 – 13 Cardiff
Cardiff started the second 40 as they had the first with an Evans penalty taking them back into the lead but Glasgow came roaring back.
A repeat infringement yellow for Olly Robinson made it 15 against 13 in the player count, and Glasgow got their third try with Ruaridh Jackson at the end of a queue of Warriors to score in the far corner. Horne again made easy work of an otherwise ridiculously hard conversion, making it 21 – 16 to the home side. At this point the East Stand, chanting for the bonus point, welcomed the arrival of George Horne and Niko Matalawu.
The bonus point was secured on 62 minutes, when more pressure from the Warriors forwards saw them camped out on the Cardiff line. Scott Cummings came up agonisingly short and it was left to new boy Sam Vunisa, who is definitely in the ‘physical’ category of back row, to crash over.
Game over, job done. Horne again converted to make the score 28-16 with 15 minutes to play.
Glasgow had been efficient, if not spectacular in this one, but they finished up with a late flourish to send the crowd home with a smile.
First Leo Sarto got his standard issue try, which was well deserved given the hard yards that the giant Italian wing had put in. Horne finally missed a kick, but not to worry as thanks to the mercurial Matalawu, he would have another shot a minute later. Niko fielded a kick in his own half, looked left, right and then promptly decided that he could of course score himself.
A perfect chip over the top of the tiring Cardiff defence and his usual lucky bounce and the Fiji Weegie was under the posts, celebrating with the adoring Scotstoun fans. No other side can give Niko the freedom to play like he does, and yet again as a Warriors fan we are so lucky to have him in our ranks. One final kick from Horne, and a job well done. The fact that we can say that it was the ‘worst of our bonus point wins’ this year is an indication of the confidence and swagger that Glasgow are playing with.
Next up Montpellier x 2 with Big Vern at the helm and then our pals from across the M8 for the 1872 festivities. Can Edinburgh stop the unbeaten run?
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
SRBlog Man of the Match: The sponsors award went to the suitably moustached Ruaridh Jackson, who was solid in defence, dangerous in attack and directed play as a 2nd 10 when needed. Whilst Jackson was great, I am going to plump for Siua Halanukonuka, who in his 60 minutes was absolutely everywhere, including a solid set piece (when up against 8). He looked to shift the ball when required as well, which is a great sign for a prop within Rennie’s brand of ‘E-Numbers Rugby’. Other mentions go to Alex Dunbar who was solid, and both Hornes.