BATH poured just enough cold water to extinguish Glasgow’s European hopes on Burns Night as the English club’s forward roundheads triumphed over the cavaliers from Scotland.
Bath - 20
Glasgow - 15
Referee: J Lacey (Ire)
Glasgow’s chances were not over until the final seconds. Centre Mark Bennett was stopped by a brilliant last-ditch tackle under the post, stand-off Finn Russell had the ball knocked from his hand going to the line, and full-back Sean Maitland was held up inches short in the corner as the Warriors came close to grabbing what could have been a match-winning try at the death.
With dashing attacks, the backs cavalry of Glasgow were always a threat – though ultimately Bath’s forward tank proved decisive with two penalty tries, first from a driving lineout maul and then from a five-metre scrum.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS
But with Montpellier beating Toulouse to make this a winner-takes-all match to top the group, the drama grew ever more nailbiting in the final minutes after Glasgow went behind with less than a quarter of an hour to go having led for almost the entire match.
They stayed true to their principles right to the end, stretching the home team, but could not quite find a breaking point in the Bath defence when it mattered most. A defeat that was more than brave, but ultimate disappointment nonetheless.
Having come so close, a breakdown turnover allowed Bath to see out the final minute in comfort.
Glasgow got off to the perfect start as the match settled into an early pattern – Bath getting an early scrum penalty while Glasgow showed their attacking potential with ball in hand.
A break from deep with Maitland bursting through out wide led to a lineout on the Bath 22 with a neat move bringing blindside wing DTH van der Merwe in at pace to create space for Alex Dunbar. The Scotland centre had no problem rounding full-back Anthony Watson to score the opening try before going off shortly afterwards with a head injury.
Russell added the conversion and the template for the first half was set. Bath were happy to offload in the tackle and certainly had plenty of power across the pitch, but their greatest weapon was definitely the scrum with Wales prop Paul James giving Glasgow tighthead Mike Cusack a hard time to avoid twisting in.
While Cusack did get the benefit when the touch judge got involved on the referee’s blindside, whenever Ireland’s John Lacey made the decision on who had caused the front row problems he favoured Bath.
That led the home side to look for scrums whenever they could and then to hold the ball in as long as possible. Their power up front even led to a take against the head from the surging drive.
Bath did threaten out wide, looking to use the height of left wing Matt Banahan from kicks as well as passing behind the tackler, however Glasgow were able to contain that threat – just.
With Russell pulling the strings in the style of an old-fashioned outside half with the ball in both hands, Glasgow had the threats of Dunbar, Bennett and Maitland who were able to break the gain line.
However, once space got confined and it became a power game near the Bath line, the visitors struggled to come up with the answer to finding the final few yards.
Bath stand-off George Ford landed two of his three first-half penalties, his team also went for the corner lineout without being able to get over from there, so it was Glasgow who led at the break – albeit by just one point.
Warriors coach Gregor Townsend responded to the scrum problems by changing both props at half-time, with Jerry Yanuyanutawa and Jon Welsh coming on, though the penalties continued from that area of the game. They did come to terms with affairs though and one solid scrum led to one of the tries of the season as Glasgow attacked from deep.
Russell realised he had the chance to run against forwards and was able to get the ball wide to Tommy Seymour on half way.
Inter-passing at pace saw Glasgow go the rest of the way with Bennett, Pyrgos and Russell again among those handling as No 8 Richie Vernon showed the pace which has seen him play at centre as he went over in the corner.
Russell missed the conversion and Bath hit back in more prosaic style as a driving lineout from the Glasgow 22 was pulled down on the try line only for Lacey to head to the posts and award a penalty try. Ford converted and suddenly Bath were ahead.
From the kick-off there was a scrum and the Scots earned only their second scrum penalty of the day, with Russell striking the kick beautifully from 40 yards to put his team back into the lead.
Ford missed a penalty from 40 metres and then last-ditch defence by Russell and Maitland held Watson up over the visitors try line.
It was just a stay of execution, though, as Bath turned on the scrum power and even though it seemed they had driven over the line and scored, Lacey still went to the posts and awarded a second penalty try. Ollie Devoto added the simple conversion. Ultimately that proved to be enough.
SCORERS: Bath: Penalty Tries (2). Pens - Ford (2). Cons - Ford, Devoto. Glasgow: Tries - Dunbar, Vernon. Pen - Russell. Con - Russell.
Bath: A Watson; H Agulla, J Joseph, K Eastmond, M Banahan; G Ford, C Cook; P James, R Webber, D Wilson, S Hooper (Capt), D Day, M Garvey, F Louw, L Houston. Subs: R Batty for Webber 50, N Auterac for James 50, H Thomas for Wilson 50, D Attwood for Day 56, C Fearns for Houston 62, P Stringer for Cook 62, O Devoto for Eastmond 5, S Burgess for Ford 65-71 and for Devoto 71.
Glasgow: S Maitland; T Seymour, M Bennett, A Dunbar, DTH van der Merwe; F Russell, H Pyrgos; G Reid, P MacArthur, M Cusack, J Gray, A Kellock (Capt), L Nakarawa, F Brown, R Vernon. Subs: K Bryce, J Yanuyanutawa for Reid 40, J Welsh for Cusack 40, J Eddie for Kellock 62, S Lamont for van der Merwe 62 , N Matawalu for Pyrgos 69, P Horne for Dunbar 45, P Murchie.