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Glasgow 30-38 Stade Rochelais

European Rugby Champions Cup
European Rugby Champions Cup - pic © EPCR/Inpho used with permission

The opening ten minutes of this Heineken Champions Cup fixture were pretty eventful as you’d expect from a game where Glasgow Warriors were in front of their home fans, still in the hunt for further European action and looking to recover from a bruising capitulation last weekend.

Sadly for the Warrior fans, the main event was a Fraser Brown yellow card, the skipper brainlessly pulling down the maul as it rumbled ominously towards the Glasgow line. It was a professional foul of the kind that perhaps there have been too many of for Scotland coach Gregor Townsend’s liking?

In saying that, it should probably have been served with a side order of Penalty Try so Karl Dickson’s refusal to award that perhaps vindicated the Glasgow hooker’s indiscretion when there was no immediate try-scoring revenge for the French.

The second ten minute spell saw Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle side start to make the most of their dominance to that point. It began with a penalty kick to even the scores and was capped with a Raymond Rhule try, a super touchline conversion by Poppelin opening up the lead that La Rochelle arguably deserved.

Well marshalled by Ali Price and under the watchful eye of new defence coach Peter Murchie, Glasgow were doing a lot of defending – probably too much – but on a rare incursion into the opposition half there was another chance for Ross Thompson to snaffle back another penalty to keep the scores close.

With teams increasingly backing their ability to go to the corner and profit from it (except for viewers in Scotland), Thompson illustrated the usefulness of having a kicker who can keep the scoreboard moving. It was something the opposition coach knew all about.

This was a bitty game and it took almost half an hour for Glasgow’s mostly international pack to put the squeeze on the massive French props in the first scrum (both Brown and Oli Kebble were left out of the Scotland squad earlier in the week).

Otherwise though, the Warriors were often riding their luck as passes went to ground and the back three were once again underused. But Thompson took the points on every visit into the 22 and by 33mins they were only a point adrift to last years Top 14 and Heineken Cup finalists.

Josh Mckay made a meal of more ball-fumbling, this time from the French side, that saw him and Kyle Steyn free and clear but after a bullocking run from Jack Dempsey went within feet of the line, the net result was possession in their own half after their very own pass to no one (McKay again) was hoofed up the pitch by Pierre Boudehent.

Thus Glasgow spent the remaining minutes defending their line, and were unable to stop openside (and brother of Pierre) Paul Boudehent from dotting down off the back of a lineout drive.

Half-time: Glasgow 9-15 Stade Rochelais

Josh McKay made amends for that poor end to the first half with a winger’s finish to Ross Thompson’s pass that gave him plenty of work to do in terms of distance, but he had the pace for the run in to the corner. The young standoff converted McKay’s try to inch the Warriors into the lead.

It didn’t last too long though, as French hooker Pierre Bougarit barreled through lacklustre tackling from Scotstoun golden boys Matt Fagerson and Rory Darge for a very soft try that put the visitors right back in charge.

The ever fired up George Turner and Jamie Bhatti came off the bench at 47mins and Glasgow saw an immediate benefit, or so it seemed. Earning a reward from the whistle well into La Rochelle’s half, this time though they kicked the penalty for the corner and almost immediately everyone around Scotstoun regretted it. Again.

Slack handling in a promising attack let Brice Dulin hoof the ball clear and after a bit of football, Pierre Boudehent gathered once it made Glasgow’s 22 to scamper in unopposed.

Were Glasgow going to be guilty of a final half hour collapse like we saw against Exeter?

At 16-32 it looked like they might; La Rochelle had the bonus point in the bag and Poppelin was content to kick penalties to keep his side firmly in control. It was very O’Gara, although the one he missed was perhaps not.

As Gregory Alldritt was sent to the bin on 67 minutes, George Turner continued to give Glasgow some badly-needed direction but they couldn’t get the scoreboard moving in their favour.

Glasgow scored twice late in the game (once La Rochelle were down to 13 men as Dillyn Leyds joined Alldritt on the sidelines), with two tries for debutant back Ollie Smith. One came off a simple pass from George Horne and the other a neat grubber and dive after Turner lost the ball in contact, but by then it was too little too late as the desire for any sort of point forced them to chase. Despite that late rally, they ultimately fell short.

Against quality opposition, that’s two weekends in a row that the Warriors have looked ineffectual with an all international pack, inept across the backline and dropped off badly late in the game.

What is going on at Scotstoun?

SRBlog Player of the Match: Ross Thompson kicked very well and put McKay away for his try well but too often received the ball going backwards; not entirely his fault. Aside from failing to defend the soft try, Rory Darge continued to impress (Zander Fagerson was also good) but George Turner was probably the most effective Glasgow player despite only playing for half an hour. Yup, it was like that.

Apologies: initial version of this post had the incorrect final score listed, thanks for pointing this out.

13 Responses

  1. re this weekends results – think I am than more worried about Glasgow loss than Edinburgh win

  2. I missed the first 30 minutes, but I certainly don’t agree with Ross Thompson as man of the match. I thought he was more to blame for the 14 point turnaround at the end of the first half. He threw an unnecessary long pass to McLean on the wing when they only had one defender to cover the overlap. He then threw a hospital ball to McKay that was the real cause of the turnover.

    He had a good assist for McKay’s try but other than that I thought he struggled to get the backs going. I’d have had Duncy on earlier.

    Turning point in the game for me was when they chose to go to the corner rather than take 3 points to keep the game within a score. Scottish teams don’t score tries from possession in the red zone enough for that decision to make good sense.

      1. I second this, as I thought I gave it to George Turner. Take your point on the score though, thanks, I typed that in almost on the whistle so I’ll need to see why I got that impression, maybe the on screen graphic was late in updating with the final conversion!

  3. Thought it was 30?
    Glasgow look a bit transitional. There’s a bit of talent there but quite a bit of it is raw and young and they don’t seem to have a fulcrum. The best Glasgow team had Hogg, Finn and then players like Nakawara and Matawalu that could singlehandedly lift the team.
    We’ll see how they go over the next couple of seasons.

      1. Chuckles was fairly critical of the teams attitude whilst on duty for the beeb during his injury lay off. Whilst it’s refreshing to get some candid punditry, he really needed to back that up, hit the ground running and lead by example. He was one of those senior players that I expected to come off the bench and steady the ship against Exeter, but he’s making too many individual errors and has become a bit of a penalty machine. Got hooked on 47 minutes on Saturday which probably tells you where Wilson’s head is at. I reckon the decision to start Brown was more down to managing Turners game time than anything else.

  4. Tackle technique seemed to be a huge contrast from the Exeter game at Scotstoun. We seemed much more focused on hitting them high and trying to wrestle them to the ground. Maybe we were worried about offloads or something but it seemed daft when up against huge men and directly led to a number of line breaks and a try – it also meant that they were dominant in many of the tackles so very hard for us to compete without getting pinged (which we did a lot). Contrast that with La Rochelle who were pressing hard and chopping low putting our midfield under a huge amount of pressure.

    Also a bit worried that captaincy is impacting Price – his game went badly off the boil in the second half and watching his interaction (or lack of) under the posts with the players after La Rochelle pulled ahead again in the second half was troubling.

    1. The difference in tackling and how effective it was was hugely evident at the game. La Rochelle seemed to stop the majority of our attacks quite easily and not give away too many penalties in the process.
      More worrying is the apparent lack of an overall game plan, especially in relation to the backs attacking play. Thompson’s excellent break finished by MacKay aside, we seemed to always want to pass to the player behind the first up runner. No one was being fooled and the defence drifted wide and covered McLean or Steyn giving them no space to operate.
      This continued ad nauseam, as it has most of the season. Worryingly again if I can see this isn’t working from 60m away after an afternoon in the pub why can’t the Warriors coaches?

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