Glasgow returned to Pro 14 action at Scotstoun for the first time in nearly two months, but proved again there’s no place like home with a dominant victory over the Blues. The Blues, playing in white, the colour which Gareth Anscombe said Glasgow should have been playing in during the now infamous Champions Cup “Game of the Kit Clash”.
Even though Glasgow don’t have a white kit.
Jarrod Evans kicked Cardiff in front after five minutes, but ultimately this night belonged to the original “Fiji-weegie” Niko Matawalu, celebrating his 100th appearance for the Warriors, and sporting some golden-bleached dreads to mark the occasion.
Glasgow put themselves in front in the 10th minute. Ali Price was denied just short of the line after Nick Grigg had found a gap and blasted deep into Cardiff territory. Blues full-back Tomos Williams did well to knock the ball from Price’s hand as he attempted the fend, but Price should maybe have just dived for the line. It wasn’t exactly a full-“Freddie Burns” moment though. Glasgow kept the pressure on and soon crossed when Adam Ashe exchanged passes with Jackson down the right.
“Golden Boy” Matawalu extended the lead with a 17th minute try as he raced onto Price’s pop pass and jinked past the last few defenders in his own inimitable style, finishing in the opposite corner from which he started.
Price had another head in hands moments in the 27th minute. Peter Horne, the only Horne in town this evening with his wee brother, “Hornito” (I will persist with this nickname) on international duty, weaved inside and out to get free and fed the faster man Price. Possibly with the previous error still in mind, he looked to play in George Turner, only to find his path again blocked by Williams.
But just as before, his blushes were soon spared following a wonderful team effort. The preposterously proportioned Stafford McDowell swatted his defender off and burst clear, Jackson’s pornographic off-load to Grigg allowed the bustling Kiwi to draw the last defender, and he found compatriot and captain Gibbins to pass to. Cully still had a bit to do, but powered toward the line and stretched over using every last sinew.
As the half drew to a close, Horne rattled the post with a penalty, his first tee-miss of the night, but the bonus point-try was soon secured before the break. Tommy Seymour was the scorer after more defender-dodging dancing feet from Grigg.
With time up, Cardiff did exert some pressure, and had repeated penalty advantages deep in Glasgow territory, but Matawalu, then aided by Fagerson, did superbly to prevent Olly Robinson from scoring after a lengthy TMO review. It was incredible work from Matawalu, which has to be seen to be believed. Kiran McDonald stole the next line-out, and it was the centurion who kicked the ball out to bring a superb first-half from Glasgow to a close.
Half-time: Glasgow Warriors 28 – 3 Cardiff Blues
Cardiff were again denied by the TMO two minutes into the second-half, but were awarded a penalty which they took to the line, and eventually Kristian Dacey crossed from the rolling maul to get the visitors moving on the scoreboard.
It was merely a bump in the road for the Warriors though.
They camped themselves in Cardiff’s 22, and with advantage for a dangerous no-arms tackle by Nick Williams on Ashe’s knees, Price grubbered to the corner. Cardiff full-back Williams slipped, allowing Rory Hughes, a half-time swap for Seymour, a simple finish. Hughes only managed to last 20mins though, before he himself was replaced by Thomson, forcing a major back-line reshuffle. I was really hoping to see Grigg moved to the wing, I think he’d go well there, but Jackson went instead, with Thomson at full-back.
Before Hughes went off, Cardiff’s star-man of the night, Jarrod Evans, reduced the deficit with a try and converted his own score, but a mere 7 minutes later, the man – and I use this word sparingly – the legend that is Niko Matawalu intercepted and raced clear from inside his own 22m. The cry of “NNNNIIII-KKKKOOOO!!!” echoed around Scotstoun.
With five minutes left Niko nearly completed his hat-trick after gathering his own chip-and-chase, and even with time up on the clock, when he collected the ball inside his own 22, the crowd expected him to have a go which would have capped a glorious individual night for him.
It was more comfortable for Glasgow than I had imagined. My pal Andy had seen on my tablet I’d written a draft opening paragraph for this about Glasgow returning to winning ways, and admired my confidence. Such is the strength in depth in Glasgow’s squad, it felt like a foregone conclusion. Fagerson and Ashe were once again ferocious and fast off the line in defence, and whisper it, but Horne had a blinder at stand-off, switching angles of attack and kicking well from hand. He’s such an intelligent reader of the game, I just think that he needs that extra fraction of a second to make his choice that you don’t get at international level as a 10 when being blitzed.
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)
Attendance: 7,351 (officially, but no it wasn’t)
SRBlog MOTM: Grigg had a stormer, making yards for fun with his bullish running, but it can only be Niko Matawalu, and not only for sentimental reasons. Constantly dangerous, two tries, and that incredible piece of defending.