GLASGOW restored a large measure of pride to Scottish professional rugby as they pushed Castres all the way, only conceding a late try when they had two men in the sin bin and the rolling maul that had been dealt with effectively all day by the defence rolled right over the top of them for the crucial converted score.
Scorers: Castres: Tries: Caballero. Cons: Kirkpatrick. Pens: Teulet. Glasgow: Tries: Barclay. Pens: Horne.
Even after that crushing blow, Glasgow had the opportunity to win it but Ruaridh Jackson’s penalty attempt came back off a post as Castres’ luck held at the death.
It was a bitterly disappointing outcome when Glasgow had played so well for the previous 75 minutes in containing and frustrating the French, who were lucky to maintain their home record of 14 wins in a row at Stade Pierre Antoine. They hardly deserved it, but now have a real chance of progessing from Group 4 because Northampton’s victory over Ulster on Saturday means it is now a three-horse race.
Glasgow, of course, are out in the cold. They may be proud of yesterday’s performance but those that preceded it have consigned them to the category of Heineken Cup no-hopers, along with Edinburgh. Scottish professional rugby will now withdraw from the rest of Europe for the next two weeks and play among themselves in two back-to-back RaboDirect PRO12 derbies at Scotstoun and Murrayfield.
Neither side can take much consolation from two ultimately disastrous Heineken campaigns that have so far yielded not a single victory, precious few tries, and a meagre two losing bonus points in eight games and 640 minutes of rugby.
At least, between the two of them, there is likely to be a winner.
There might have been a whole different aspect to the league matches if Glasgow had been able to hold out in France yesterday. But Castres were actually their own worst enemies, spurning kickable penalty after kickable penalty in favour of forward drives that Glasgow absorbed time after time. In the end it did work but wiser tactics might have meant Glasgow would have been beaten without the last-ditch drama.
It did look promising early on. Glasgow started with real purpose and intent, taking a quick line-out throw in the first minute, punting the ball into the red zone and then hunting down the French full-back and winning a penalty in front of the posts. Inside centre Peter Horne popped it over.
But Castres came right back with a series of pick and drive phases that set them up for a 25-metre penalty that full-back Roland Teulet converted.
Then Horne missed a penalty attempt created by Jackson’s clever cross-kick to DTH van der Merwe on the left wing that forced the home side to kill the ball illegally.
Glasgow were sharp and keen to run the ball at every opportunity, keeping up the tempo of the game and always looking to spread it wide. But errors held them back while Castres chose to keep the ball tight among their big pack. Teulet tried his luck with an attempt from the halfway line but the kick dropped just under the bar.
Outside centre Sean Lamont, playing his 50th game for the Warriors, made a break that took him to within metres of the line but what should have been a scoring pass was knocked down by winger Marcel Garvie. At the scrum, the Warriors were awarded a penalty and Fijian scrum half Niko Matawalu took a quick tap but was held up on the line and Castres were eventually able to scramble it clear.
A rolling maul by Castres threatened Glasgow’s line but the visitors somehow turned it around and pushed them back 50 metres to set up a lineout that launched an attack that foundered on the Castres 22 as No 8 Ryan Wilson’s drive didn’t have enough support.
It was low scoring but intriguing. Glasgow seemed to have found the edge that coach Gregor Townsend had demanded in making ten changes to the team that lost to Castres at Scotstoun last week but they couldn’t make the telling break that was needed. The Frenchmen seemed content to soak up pressure and bide their time. A chance came more than 30 metres out on the right when loosehead prop Gordon Reid went in at the side of a ruck and Teulet’s penalty attempt was wide.
Minutes from half time, the breakthrough finally came for Glasgow when Matawalu ran laterally across the pitch to pop a pass to Wilson, who crashed through the gainline and Pedrie Wannenburg’s tackle to reach the 22 before feeding captain John Barclay, who tore a hamstring as he went over for the try. Horne couldn’t make the conversion and the teams went in with the score at a tantalising 3-8.
Soon after the restart, Glasgow won a line-out inside the Castres 22 but Iosefa Tekori disrupted it and Garvey was suddenly streaking down the right wing as Castres opened up their play for almost the first time. He was brought to ground well inside the Glasgow half. There was a new sense of urgency about Castres but they still seemed to prefer their big ball carriers.
Glasgow blindside flanker James Eddie was caught offside at a ruck and stand-off Remi Tales kicked for the corner rather than take the penalty points. The Glasgow defence repelled the maul the first time and then a second time as Castres tried the same tactic. Then Glasgow got the penalty that allowed them to clear. But Castres kept coming back and the Glasgow defence was creaking when Matawalu, player of the tournament at the 2011 Hong Kong 7s, silenced the crowd and relieved the pressure by taking a quick tap and running more than 60 metres before being dragged down just short of the line.
The game went into the final quarter and Castres were rattled as their powerful drives were nullified again and again by resolute defending and the pushing and shoving after the whistle began to get nasty.
Then Glasgow lock Tom Ryder was sin binned for interfering with a player in the air at a line-out and Castres continued the siege of the visitors’ line with a succession of pick and drive attacks that inched closer and closer. A series of five-metre scrums produced three penalties against Glasgow but, at the fourth, Matawalu fly-hacked it away, forcing Castres to regroup beyond the halfway line.
Glasgow were reduced to 13 men when replacement Byron McGuigan was yellow carded for a very debatable late tackle. The depleted, tiring defence couldn’t cope with the next rolling maul off the back of a line-out that saw openside Yannick Caballero score the try. Daniel Kirkpatrick’s simple conversion put Castres in the lead by two points with less than five minutes left.
Glasgow had one more opportunity when they won a penalty 35 metres out as the Castres front row went to ground at a scrum.
But Jackson’s attempt hit the post and suddenly, as Glasgow tried to run from deep, there was no more time left.
Castres: R Teulet, P Bonnefond, R Cabannes, R Lamerat, M Garvey, R Tales, T Lacrampe, W Lazar, M Bonello, M Coetzee, M Rolland, I Tekori, J Bornman, Y Caballero, P Wannenburg. Replacements: B Mach, K Wihongi (for Coetzee 49), S Taumoepeau (for Lazar 57), C Samson (for Rolland 62), I Diarra (for Wannenburg 49), T Sanchou (for Cabannes 57), D Kirkpatrick (for Tales 49), B Dulin (for Teulet 65).
Glasgow: S Maitland, T Seymour, S Lamont, P Horne, DTH van der Merwe, R Jackson, N Matawalu, G Reid, P McArthur, M Low, T Swinson, T Ryder, J Eddie, J Barclay, R Wilson. Replacements: D Hall (for McArthur 65), R Grant, G Hunter (for Low 70), M Campbell (for Swinson 70), R Harley (for Barclay 40), S Kennedy (for Matawalu 72), G Morrison (for Horne 60), B McGuigan (for van der Merwe 65).
Referee: Andrew Small.