The return fixture to the fog-bound Glasgow win last month saw both sites jostling for position in the following rounds of the Heineken Champions Cup
Despite nary a Gray brother in sight on either side, there was plenty of Scottish interest with Stuart Hogg and Sam Skinner in harness for the hosts and Danny Wilson’s men looking to back up their good win over the Ospreys in the URC.
Glasgow came out at Sandy Park fired up with Zander Fagerson making his presence felt in both the scrum, lineout and loose during a first half in which he was excellent.
Glasgow took the first points early on through a Ross Thompson penalty after a spell where they assaulted Exeter’s line in faux-emulation of their hosts, to the strains of the risible Tomahawk Chop being chanted in the background. They didn’t get the try after an awful forward pass on advantage but coming away with any points still felt like a strong start like they had in the previous encounter – Glasgow of last year might have left with nothing.
Exeter took better advantage of their own incursions into Glasgow’s 22 on the first and second times of asking, with tries for Tom O’Flaherty (Hogg or Jack Nowell could easily have scored it) and a second for Sam Simmonds that was more typically Exeter in nature, bundling over from short range off a lineout drive.
The breakdown was often something of a crap shoot – croupier: R Poite(FFR) – but the early exchanges were probably in Glasgow’s favour; even so they found themselves 14-3 down after 25 minutes.
The much admired Rory Darge and Jack Dempsey were carrying well along with George Turner, and Ali Price was marshalling the troops carefully but it was lock Kiran McDonald who scored his first European try, darting through an acre of space off a lineout drive. It was very “Exeter” in execution, but the large gap left by the hosts was uncharacteristic so close to the line. Well worked by Glasgow to force their way back into it.
Darge and thorough nuisance Zander Fagerson capped a great first half with a double jackal over the ball to launch Glasgow right back down into Exeter’s 22 almost immediately, but the lineout went away from them. Glasgow were unlucky not to get another penalty for Nowell gathering the ball off the ground in an offside position after Sam Skinner knocked it on, but it left the home side in charge as half-time approached.
Half-time: Exeter Chiefs 14-10 Glasgow Warriors
Fraser Brown swapped with Turner at half-time and got stuck straight into the defensive work, but it was the impressive Darge who generated the penalty for his team after the hooker’s tackle. Once again good attacking lineout position (even after a cheeky combo between Matt Fagerson and Brown down the blindside gained more metres) was squandered, which would continue to be a theme for the visiting side.
The Glasgow backs decided to get involved at that point, with Kyle Steyn – getting probably his first touch coming in to look for work – and Sione Tuipulotu combining well, but it was Matt Fagerson (clearly tired of Zander hogging the plaudits in the changing room) who scampered over for the try from the following phases.
A Thompson conversion put Glasgow back in the lead; that was to be the high water mark.
A pinpoint touchfinder from Henry Slade (Cole Forbes tripped over the corner flag trying to keep it out) soon put Exeter in their preferred attacking position. Dave Ewers failed to ground it the first time, but Sam Simmonds took his second try when Exeter came calling seconds later; Glasgow this time had no answer to the power.
Both back three units had little to do in the first hour as it wasn’t that sort of game (aside from semi-regular bouts of kick tennis), but after Josh McKay failed to gather a high ball, a kick chase by Jack Nowell put Sebastian Cancilliere – on for Forbes – under all sorts of pressure and gave Exeter a 5 metre scrum. Simmonds attacked from the base and was denied but his brother hoofed it wide to O’Flaherty who took his second try unopposed.
When even the usually excellent Ali Price was making box-kick errors, you sensed that Exeter had grasped the momentum in a big way with the bonus point in the bag. Another lineout drive was converted into a try, this time for Luke Cowan-Dickie, only cementing that fact.
Price left the pitch soon afterwards, with George Horne, Oli Kebble, Ryan Wilson and then Duncan Weir and Enrique Pieretto emptying the bench to try and arrest Glasgow’s decline for the last 17 minutes.
Sadly they were unable to do so as O’Flaherty steamed through three defenders off a great pass from Hogg to get his own hat-trick and open up Exeter’s lead further. Glasgow’s backline were by that point well shuffled, with Steyn in the centre getting a little more to do, but Thompson left to cover fullback.
Exeter kept coming in the final ten minutes with Hoggy (needlessly) celebrating another try – the officials took it off for a very forward pass – but Jack Nowell took his own streaking run through the heart of Glasgow’s midfield with no doubt, and Dave Ewers made it the half century minutes later to make the scoreline pretty dismal in the end.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Danny Wilson and Glasgow will largely want to forget that last half hour but Rory Darge was superb for most of this game. He is so quick in defence and at the breakdown for one so young. Can we find a way to fit him and Hamish Watson (and Jamie Ritchie) in the Scotland team? He needs to start building that experience now.