Glasgow’s Heineken Cup hopes were hit hard, broken by the breakdown as a greater awareness of space and the referee’s interpretation meant Cardiff Blues deserved this win.
Glasgow were one dimensional, with the Blues able to stop scrum half Niko Matawalu who took on too much. However, it was a stream of penalties and turnovers from the rucks which cost them most, coupled with an inability to stay on their feet on the plastic pitch.
While Glasgow provided a solid platform up front and plenty of ball behind in perfect conditions, they did not really deserve the consolation of a losing bonus point – and failed to claim one in the dying seconds.
The game, which followed a minute’s silence for the Clutha tragedy, Nelson Mandela and a former Cardiff and Wales international, was played against a political backdrop with the Welsh regions threatening to leave next year’s planned Heineken Cup competition to join the English full-time.
The Scots may have come to terms with the idea of not playing the English sides next season, but not facing the Welsh either would certainly be something of an extra blow. It would mean the Welsh pulling out of the RaboDirect as well, as politics continues to leave events on the field in the shadows – no matter how successful the Heineken Cup continues to be on the pitches.
It may be the last time for some years that there is a meaningful pan-European competition, which adds a little extra spice to doing well this year as there will be no second chances.
With that in mind, facing a Cardiff side missing 12 internationals – including Lions forwards Sam Warburton, Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Wales lock Bradley Davies – was an easier task than it might have been for Glasgow in the first of their double header against the Blues.
On the artificial pitch at the Arms Park there was every reason for Glasgow to keep the ball in hand, while the Blues looked to kick for territory much more.
However, turnover inside the Blues 22 allowed them space to break and it took a desperate cover tackle by DTH van der Merwe to prevent Wales wing Alex Cuthbert from going over. However, the resulting penalty allowed Lions star Leigh Halfpenny a penalty chance, but that brought a rare miss.
A second penalty for going over the ball onto the ground at a ruck gave the full back a slightly easier chance which he knocked over to give the home side the lead against the run of play.
A series of Glasgow drives up the middle brought the visitors to the Cardiff try line, but the Blues were again happy to strike from long range on a turnover and they were only denied a try when Cuthbert knocked the ball on as he went over the line.
Glasgow conceded yet another ruck penalty and Rhys Patchell was able to land the penalty from fully 55 yards to extend the home lead.
A mistake by outside half Duncan Weir, knocking on behind his own try line, gave the Blues a perfect attacking position. After the forwards and Cuthbert had a go, there was space for outside half Patchell to rub salt into his opposite number’s wounds by going over the try, converted by Halfpenny. That opened up a 13-0 lead for the home side.
Yet another breakdown penalty gave Halfpenny chance to extend that lead, he did not need a second invitation.
The breakdown problems meant a substitution of openside Chris Fusaro, Tyrone Holmes coming on, and at least Glasgow finished the half strongly with wing Sean Maitland going over on the left, with Weir converting. However, guess what, a breakdown penalty gave Halfpenny another penalty chance at the start of the second half and he took it from 45 yards.
Weir added a penalty of his own, then a high tackle on Matawalu brought another successful kick of Weir and Glasgow were back within a single score.
However, yet another breakdown penalty allowed Halfpenny another penalty to give the Blues a cushion once again.
Glasgow had earned a penalty, but broke forward only to give away an interception to Cuthbert who went 80 yards with the pace and powerful hand off to get past replacement Ruaridh Jackson, who was the last line of defence.
A 79th minute try for Leone Nakarawa was little consolation.
Cardiff: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, R Smith, D Hewitt, C Czekaj; R Patchell, L Jones; S Hobbs (Capt), K Dacey, T Filise, F Paulo, C Dicommidis, M Cook, R Watts-Jones, R Copeland. Subs: M Breeze for Dacey 77, T Davies for Hobbs 78, B Bourrust for Fililse, L Hamilton for Cook 78, E Jenkins for Watts-Jones 75, L Jones for Williams 73, G Davies for Patchell 77, D Fish for Robinson 63..
Glasgow:S Hogg; S Maitland, G Ascarate, A Dunbar, DTH van der Merwe; D Weir, N Matawalu; R Grant, D Hall, M Low, T Ryder, A Kellock (capt), R Harley, C Fusaro, J Strauss. Subs : P MacArthur for Hall 40, J Welsh for Low 40, E Kalman for Low , L Nakarawa for Ryder 54, T Holmes for Fusaro 36 , R Wilson for Harley 61, C Cusiter for Hogg 67, R Jackson for Ascarate 61.