After a weekend filled with Scottish triumphs, could Glasgow Warriors do the almost unthinkable and end Leinster’s 22-match winning run in the Pro14?
No. It was a decent effort though, particularly in the loose, but set-piece deficiencies and the clinical nature of Leinster’s attacking play eventually put paid to any ideas of a home victory against the undisputed Pro14 kings.
Peter Horne – paired at half-back with little brother George – so you can guess what he’s being referred to for the rest of this piece – got proceedings under way with a kick which landed in line with my usual seat, acting as a cruel reminder of what I was missing. The opening salvos didn’t disappoint.
Glasgow had the upper-hand, particularly in terms of territory, but although making two incursions into Leinster’s 22, the formidable Irish outfit managed to win turnover penalties.
Once they had gotten into Glasgow’s half, a poor exit kick from Horneito gave Leinster the attacking platform, and with their usual effectiveness, they sucked players in to the breakdown until full-back Jimmy O’Brien was fed an inside ball on the angle, and he strongly fended off Huw Jones before crossing.
Recent complaints from the Warriors’ faithful has been around Glasgow’s seemingly more pragmatic gameplay, but when they levelled the scores it was a throwback to old.
The off-loads went to hand, rucks were cleared out with ferocity and the buzzing Horneito kept the ball quick.
Leinster were pinged for offside with the Warriors in their 22, but they kept playing and after captain Ryan Wilson carry made two Leinster players bump into each other as they went to tackle, Horneito was there to pick up from the breakdown and saunter over the line.
That Leinster though, they’re not too bad.
Harry Byrne stroked them into the lead after Glasgow’s scrum took a tanking, and soon afterwards Tommy O’Brien’s jinking run had taken Leinster into the Glasgow 22.
There were penalties and pressure aplenty, Glasgow held firm for a while, but when they were penalised from 5m out, Luke McGrath took a quick tap while Glasgow had their backs turned and snuck over.
Around the half-hour mark, Leinster started to threaten again through Cian Kelleher down the right-wing, but some cracking defensive work from little Nico Matawalu and an effective counter-ruck turned the ball over.
Huw Jones – a rare shining light so far in Glasgow’s drab start to the season – went for a cheeky chip and chase, but Rhys Ruddock managed to field the ball, and once they had control of the ball, Leinster do what Leinster do and clinically finished with a pushover maul try for openside Scott Penny.
Glasgow managed to halt another Leinster drive with time in the red, but it left a mountain to climb in the second half against the indomitable champions.
Half-time: Glasgow Warriors 7 – 22 Leinster
At the start of the second half, Warriors reduced the deficit with a helluva pick n go try from Darcy Rae, who was able to drive through Rhys Ruddock’s tackle with a shove from his friends, just to give us Glasgow fans a little hope.
With Leinster almost destined to extend the lead after an infringement by Harley, the big man redeemed himself by holding up the Leinster maul and winning possession back for Glasgow.
Warriors then ground their way towards Leinster’s 22, only for a miscommunication lead to a knock-on, and just to maintain the status quo, once Leinster got on the ball, they got on the scoreboard.
Seymour slipped as Rory O’Loughlin went to breach the Glasgow defensive line, full panic-mode ensued which saw Huw Jones yellow-carded as he infringed at the breakdown. Leinster tapped, went, and burrowed over for the bonus-point try.
Despite conditions being nowhere near as manky as at the Parc Y Scarlets this weekend, Glasgow’s line-out was shocking, regardless of who was throwing in.
George Turner throw a shocker with Warriors only 10m from the Leinster line, and when Rob Harley was extremely harshly judged by Ben Whitehouse to have taken his man out beyond the ruck, Glasgow’s territorial advantage was ended.
A lengthy stoppage for an injury to captain Ryan Wilson held proceedings up as Glasgow waited to hit a penalty to the corner, and although it looked like he was going off, the premier wind-up merchant of the Pro14 stayed on.
And then he saw George Turner miss his jumper again, and Leinster nicked the ball back. They cleared to just inside their 22, and the Glasgow line-out was piss-poor again, so Leinster cleared to half-way this time. George Turner was 0 for 3 since coming on.
A high-tackle on TJ Ioane forced him off for Lokotui, and from the resultant penalty Glasgow actually managed to retain possession from their set-piece.
Huw Jones’ grubber for a haring Matawalu to chase was cleared to the 22, and Glasgow were offered a penalty just a few phases later in the Leinster 22 for offside.
Horneito went for a rapid tap and go, but his pass to Tom Gordon was too rapid and he knocked on just 15m from the Leinster line. 15m from reducing the 15-point deficit with 15mins to go.
More manky line-out work from Glasgow allowed saw Alex Allan shoved into touch, but again the Glasgow defence held firm and they played some very good stuff to eventually score through Tom Gordon. Leinster wing Cian Kelleher was also sent to the bin for a high tackle on the rampaging Huw Jones, but with so little time left on the clock it was merely a consolation.
SRBlog Player of the Match: Huw Jones again looked threatening with all that open space in front of him, and he can actually vary his kicking game, plus Ryan Wilson showed some real carrying grunt which we don’t often see from the big man.
In terms of effort, confusing the opposition with his off-the-cuff ways, and sporadic moments of quality, Nico Matawalu takes the award.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)