The 1872 Cup may be out of the equation, but the final Scottish derby match of the season should see a motivated Warriors side take to the pitch, as their win over Leinster assured that they go into the last match of the regular season knowing any win over Edinburgh will guarantee a home semi-final.
Leinster began on the attack until a poor, or wind-affected pass, allowed Tommy Seymour to boot ahead and chase. After his second touch had taken Seymour just inside the 22, Ross Byrne tackled the flying winger before he had reached the ball, so Byrne took a 10min seat on the naughty step, and Adam Hastings took 3 points.
A Fraser Brown high tackle gave Leinster a penalty 15m out, and with no recognised place-kicker on the field, they opted for a kick to the corner. Frankenstein’s lock, Devin Toner, plucked the line-out from the clouds, and with Glasgow’s defence stretched and conceding penalty advantages all over the shop, Dave Kearney eventually stepped inside Stuart Hogg and scored in the left-hand corner.
Hastings put Glasgow back in front with another penalty soon after, his initial dummy and carry from inside his own half had put Glasgow into dangerous territory, and the Warriors then extended their lead with a wonderful score from inside their own 22.
Ali Price spotted a gap at the side of a breakdown and belted downfield, he off-loaded out the back of the hand to the onrushing Sam Johnson, and in comparison to the finish he produced at Twickenham, this was an easy run-in as he saw off Ross Byrne and Jordan Larmour on his race to the line.
The frequently unfortunate Johnson was again forced from the field of play within 5mins of that try by Peter Horne, a second injury replacement for Glasgow after captain Chris Fusaro had made way for Adam Ashe.
These two sides usually seem to play out close-fought crackerjacks at this ground, and although this wasn’t a star-studded Leinster side it was still a strong one. Glasgow had done brilliantly to hold Leinster out for a possession set of over 30 phases, but Leinster eventually turned pressure into points when Rob Kearney made it a family double.
Hogg’s restart from the try was fantastically gathered by Cummings, and there was another brilliant Warriors’ score to enjoy before the half ended.
They drove and recycled quickly from the next phase, switched from forward picks to a backs move, resulting in Hastings throwing a floated pass – that would make Finn Russell purr like a cat at a rave – to Seymour.
Half-time: Leinster 12 – 18 Glasgow Warriors
Leinster had opted to kick with the wind at their backs in the first half, and when they had replaced their entire front-row at the break to include Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadgh Furlong, you could sense that they were thinking of playing it a bit tighter and hoping they could dominate the set-piece and territory.
But Glasgow won a penalty at the first scrum. Hogg, with the wind at his back, kicked deep, only for Brown’s line-out to go askew. Leinster went wide and forced a penalty, so now the game was back up in the Glasgow 22. Matt Fagerson stripped it, but Hogg could only just clear his 22.
Again Leinster came, phase after phase, and again it went over 30 phases. The Warriors defended resolutely, but Leinster kept possession parsimoniously until Rob Kearney found some space to score his second try of the game. Byrne’s conversion put Leinster a point ahead.
With an hour gone on the clock, Leinster scored their bonus-point try; Dave Kearney on the scoresheet on this occasion, to make it a Kearney double-double.
The score was now 24-18 with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Hastings was having one of his “start of the season” games, his slight frame belying his strong running and fend, and it was one such break which frightened Leinster into conceding a penalty. Glasgow took the line-out, which Matt Fagerson had possession of when the maul rumbled over for the try. Hastings converted brilliantly to now give Glasgow the slenderest of leads. Which also saw the coming of Horne-
The 71stmin was notable for Sean Cronin throwing a line-out from more than a foot inside the pitch, but Gibson-Park’s resulting box-kick didn’t go too far.
The brotherly try-scoring narrative was continued when Zander Fagerson was the next beneficiary of an effective Glasgow maul. That brought their own bonus point try, and more importantly, an 8-point lead with the clock running down.
As Leinster pushed back for the win, Glasgow, whose defence showed aggression, defiance and a work-rate that was so sorely missing against Saracens, won the ball back and attacked from deep. Hogg went flying away but tried to draw Larmour onto him too far rather than release the flying Horne-
The prolific scrum-half was not to be denied his touchdown though. With the clock in the red and Leinster looking for a moment of magic to see of their season, Horne-
There’s been a significant difference in pack aggression levels since the Sarries defeat. Clear-outs have been harder, carriers have been running onto the ball rather than from a static start, and even though there were some of the usual handling errors, there was a notable shift in getting over the gain-line. In defence, you just have to take a look at the stats to see what an effort was put in. Six players with over twenty tackles, Matt Fagerson over thirty, and see below for what may be a record-breaking example that we’ll need to ask Kevin Millar to look at.
Glasgow Warriors should be pretty happy with Saturday’s efforts.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)