The first stop on Glasgow’s mini-tour to South Africa got off to a breath-taking start, followed by an excellent second-half performance from the Warriors that secured all five league points in the Guinness PRO14.
From Adam Hastings’ kick-off they retained possession deep in Cheetahs territory, and after several strong carries and a bit of patience Hastings found enough space to dummy and weave through two challenges and get the scoreboard ticking barely minutes in.
With Stuart Hogg missing out through an ankle injury, and Peter Horne’s kicking radar malfunctioning, it was Hastings who converted to round off the first passage of play.
That sort of pace was hardly to stop.
With both teams favoured style to be of the “fast and loose” variety, action swept from one end to the other, and it was from quick turnover possession that the home side reduced their arrears. DTH van der Merwe couldn’t handle Horne the Elder’s off-load, Nico Lee gathered and kicked on. With nobody at home for Glasgow, winger William Small-Smith was able to dive on the ball just before it dribbled over the side-line.
The Cheetahs capitalised on loose ball again just moments later, with a sensational pitch-length, and width, try finished off by full-back Malcom Jaer from scrum-half Meyer’s nicely weighted cross-kick.
Alex Dunbar was then sent to the bin for a high-tackle, and from the subsequent short Cheetahs line-out, Meyer again saw space in behind and chipped ahead, narrowly losing out in a foot-race with Seymour to ground the ball. Plenty of drama for a game less than fifteen minutes old.
The turbo-charged Cheetahs were denied a try following more scintillating rugby, Maxwane and Jaer this time tearing Glasgow apart down the right-wing, only for the final pass to go forward.
Glasgow retaliated. First Jackson and then Seymour went close while advantages were being played for collapsing mauls, and at the third attempt Glasgow eventually got their reward. Harley was hauled down just short of the try-line, but had the awareness to pop the ball off for Price to score on his return to the starting line-up.
Price, as he is sometimes prone to, was then penalised almost straight away for offside which the hosts put to the sidelines. Their initial attack was halted and seemingly out of momentum, only for replacement Tian Schoeman to accelerate through the tackle of Harley into the heart of the Glasgow 22, hold off Gray and pass out of the tackle to set Lee away under the sticks.
Despite Glasgow having the lion’s share of possession in the first half, it was the speedy Cheetahs who had been the more ruthless predators on the paddock.
Half time: Toyota Cheetahs 19-14 Glasgow Warriors
The second-half started with an unfortunate bang for Tommy Seymour. He collided with earlier try-scorer Malcolm Jaer whilst performing one of his trademark aerial-takes, and it was decreed that the Cheetahs’ man had acted recklessly when initiating the contact, so he was off for ten minutes.
It took Seymour about one minute to gain revenge and edge the Warriors back in front. It was another of his trademark plays, coming into midfield for the set-piece and slaloming his way past all in front of him.
A fired-up Seymour was dragging tacklers with him, the ball was quickly shifted to opposite winger Van der Merwe who made inroads towards the Cheetahs line. Replacement loose-head prop Allan was last to carry on the charge and Price was on his shoulder to claim his second try of the night from front-row range. Unfortunately for Glasgow, whilst celebrating the try, they were forced to replace starting tighthead Zander Fagerson, losing him to what looked like a pretty serious injury.
Glasgow gained excellent field position when Alex Allan went blasting up the pitch and fed Harley who made a few metres of his own before feeding Price. Although Horne spilled Price’s subsequent pass forward, Glasgow dominated at the scrum to win another set-piece penalty. Hastings’ ambitiously went for touch rather than the easy three-points on offer and luckily it proved to be the right decision. With the man advantage Glasgow were able to find DTH with a bit of space on his left-wing, and he did what he does best, for Glasgow’s third try of the sin-bin period.
As soon as he had returned to the field, fleet-footed full-back Jaer started to make amends, finishing off another rocket-paced Cheetahs attack. It reduced the deficit to 24-35 with just over twenty minutes on the clock which at the rate either side was scoring was hardly insurmountable for the hosts.
Rennie had decided that was still enough on the clock to also make some back-field changes. Price wasn’t going to get his hat-trick as he was replaced by George Horne, and Alex Dunbar made way for Huw Jones first appearance of the season. Those two replacements combined to set another Glasgow attack darting down the left, but the Warriors would eventually have to settle for three points rather than five on this occasion from Hastings boot.
The 5-pointer did come soon enough though, a belated birthday present for the once again brilliant Callum Gibbins. Schoeman’s pass was loose, George Turner did brilliantly to scoop the ball up from his ankles and set his captain cantering away to make it a three-try lead for Glasgow.
The Cheetahs had finally run out of gas, and Glasgow, now baring their own sizeable teeth, were to hit the half-century late on. Another mistake from the home-side deep in their own half, led to George Horne, shifted to the wing to accommodate Nick Frisby at scrum-half, crossing in the corner. Hastings nailed the tricky conversion to finish the scoring, and finish with a 100% success rate from the tee.
Rennie and his coaching staff will be delighted with the application and precision shown by his side in the second half. The front-row of Kebble, Brown and Fagerson continued to impress, whilst Cummings and Gray ensured Glasgow had the upper hand in the line-out. These solid platforms allowed the Warriors to keep the pressure on in the second-half, and unlike in the first, they finished those chances off.
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)
SRBlog Man of the Match: Becoming a bit of a habit this, going to have to give it to Adam Hastings again. Perfect place kicking, scored a try himself and led Glasgow’s second-half charge with his intelligent play and decision-making.