URC Round 3: Glasgow 13-9 Emirates Lions

Glasgow’s attack flattered to deceive against a determined Emirates Lions side who stuck doggedly to the basics and almost undid the hosts by the final whistle.

Glasgow’s attack continued their decent run of form since hiring new coach Nigel Carolan. Although as that article over on The Offside Line highlights, he was brought in perhaps to curb a bit of the previous generation’s all court style (see Matawalu, N et al) in favour of something that had a similar skill level but didn’t constantly fire up the thrusters deep in their own 22.

Not that you’d know it by looking at the first half of this game; which frequently resembled a game of hot potato following Jamie Bhatti’s decisive early try. Glasgow obviously felt they were in control and could strike from anywhere. They almost did – but “almost” was the key word.

Rufus Maclean, Kyle Steyn and Cole Forbes showed “attack from anywhere” intent at a rainy Scotstoun and there were flashes from Sam Johnson as well as replacement centre Sione Tuipuluto.

Lock Scott Cummings sat this one out following hand surgery required by an injury sustained last weekend, but Glasgow’s remaining Gray brother and Lewis Bean filled in pretty well. Gray in particular could see a resurgence in his international prospects in a few weeks.

Writing of the internationals, probably the best openside in Scotland at the moment, Rory Darge continued an excellent run of form this season and if Scotland coach Gregor Townsend can figure out a way to fit him into a unit that already contains Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie – or if either of that pair pick up an injury – he could well be in line for international honours sooner rather than later. Especially if Watson doesn’t get any game time for Edinburgh.

Also in the back row (and sadly already capped by Australia), Jack Dempsey showed the go forward he was brought in to deliver before making way for Matt Fagerson.

Fraser Brown going off rubbing his knee won’t have filled the watching Scotland coaches with delight with hooker being one of the few positions that last season didn’t get settled as both he and Stuary McInally sat chunks of it out.

As to the Lions – like some of the other South African teams shorn of Sprinboks until after the autumn, they provided spirited opposition. It seemed like Glasgow were all over them until you realised that Glasgow weren’t finishing any of the moves once they got through the defence, which meant the gap on the scoreboard was manageably close even going into the closing moments.

Glasgow definitely benefitted from the lively and precociously young half-back pairing of Ross Thompson (who kicked his conversion and 2 penalties) and Jamie Dobie – at least until the “aging” George Horne came on to “steady” the ship alongside the returning Duncan Weir. Things were less hectic after that.

The second half was a lot less adventurous as the visitors found their feet and Glasgow had to set about winning in a more focused way once the rain came on. The ball still hit the deck a lot but for different reasons, namely the conditions.

Therre was a late charge by the visiting Lions who still looked a little off the pace which may be an inevitable side effect of the way this tournament is currently structured but if the format catches on down there, expect the challenges to get a lot tougher.

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