This game was a comedy of errors from Glasgow’s point of view – and often from Montpellier’s – yet it is still a mark of Dave Rennie’s Glasgow that they are competitive even when far from their best.
Thus it was in a game characterised by knock ons and turnovers, that Fraser Brown had a try inside two minutes from a charged down kick. Montpellier’s response was swift, a nicely worked lineout giving the influential Nemani Nadolo a chance for a low stab through Glasgow’s try line defence.
After receiving a warning from JP Doyle for backchat, Pete Horne set about making amends with a second try for Glasgow inside the first ten minutes.
Montpellier were caught napping inside the massive in-goal areas at the Altrad stadium and a smart turnover by Matt Smith when they failed to break out from a five-metre scrum gave Horne an easy run in.
It was typical of the opening quarter of this game; when Romain Ruffenach scored for the hosts, Glasgow went up to the other end of the pitch with quick gains from a Horne cross field kick and strong running from Lee Jones, before Nick Grigg cut one of those nice angles that he does so well to put Glasgow’s third try on the board.
It seemed like things were going reasonably but that was to be Glasgow’s last score for almost 50 minutes, as Vern Cotter’s Montpellier exerted a slightly less haphazard – only slightly – dominance on the game. There was a bit more niggle, a few more tackles made, plenty of unforced errors and the sort of physicality you would expect from a team where a guy the size of Nadolo plays on the wing.
The Montpellier dump trucks couldn’t get over the line the next couple of times that they broached Glasgow’s 22 and the visitors clung on to take what was at that point a deserved lead into half time.
Half-time: Montpellier 14-19 Glasgow
It wasn’t necessarily that it all went wrong for Glasgow after that, but more that it started to go a little more right for Montpellier. Zander Fagerson was replaced at half time but otherwise it seemed like more of the same. Glasgow made line breaks but decision making right after them was poor. None more so than when Ruaridh Jackson got behind Nadolo – who doesn’t turn all that quickly – and when the defenders drew near, instead of passing back out to Tommy Seymour who would have had an easy run in, he cut back inside, the moment gone. The ball eventually bumbled into touch off a pass to no-one.
It was a 14 point reversal, as the hosts (well, Nadolo) charged back up the same channel from the ensuing lineout, defenders flapping at him until the mighty Ali Price hauled the big Fijian down short of the line. It was short work to recycle it right and put Immelman over under the posts.
Scrum-half Benoit Paillague converted the try then scored another of his own two minutes later, to give Montpellier a 7 point lead and their 4-try bonus point.
Glasgow still had hope, but as we know, it is the hope that kills you; the Warriors were wobbling.
They were playing altogether too much rugby, altogether too poorly. Or as Dave Rennie might say, they weren’t protecting the pill.
Finn Russell’s arrival didn’t settle things – with a bench of Russell, Niko and George Horne it was always going to be more of the same in terms of attitude – but Glasgow were still making poor decisions as to when the offload was on. Oddly for a side coached by Jason O’Halloran the default answer to the question “Should I offload here?” was always “yes” and they couldn’t get the continuity to really threaten.
Lee Jones and Nick Grigg played well, and Ali Price kept the tempo consistent and was always where he needed to be. Alex Dunbar seemed a little unsure of what to do with the ball but then he sees so little of it in decent positions normally, it’s hardly surprising.
Tommy Seymour continues to look off the pace, even if that pace was marked “Nadolo” today. More pleasing for the Glasgow coaches would have been Kiran McDonald who didn’t look out of place and carried well. Matt Smith had some impressive moments but he lacked composure in others. You could say that about most of the team though.
Immelman scored again and it looked like Montpellier were safe but then George Horne combined neatly with Grigg and Jackson (who was then nearly decapitated by Picamoles) for a welcome try that brought the margin back to a converted try. When they do execute to the best of their abilities, Glasgow are never less than watchable.
There were some handbags right in the dying minutes that saw Ruaridh Jackson and Bismarck du Plessis sent to the bin by Doyle but the penalty kick moments earlier that denied Glasgow a second losing bonus point had put the result beyond doubt.
Their talent is undeniable but as with Scotland (outwith these borders more so) doubts still remain about their ability to execute a high tariff brand of rugby under pressure.
Edinburgh, who scored 78 unanswered points against Krasny Yar last night, will be looking to put them under just that sort of pressure next weekend and the 1872 Cup is by no means a foregone conclusion.
SRBlog Man of the Match: always tricky in these games to pick out a star performance where every magic moment was countered by a lunatic offload. It was good to see Fraser Brown back to some good form though. It will be some tussle with Stuart McInally if they both make it into the festive derbies.