The good news was that Glasgow won their last game in Europe, even if it was too late to influence anything very much, and that stand-off Finn Russell was back to something like his old self, bossing play and generally playing with his customary composure that hasn’t always been evident this season. Tommy Seymour did well on his return from injury and the promising young lock Scott Cummings on his first taste of European action.
Sadly the good news was overshadowed by the bad, with injury-prone Alex Dunbar limping off early in the second half with a leg knock that will give the Scotland selectors a few sleepless nights while the midfielder is assessed. Having missed the World Cup, Dunbar will be loath to miss the Six Nations as well.
With the match already lost, Racing scored a second-half try thanks to the driving maul. The tactic has cost Glasgow at least six tries in the pool stages and, by extension, a place in the quarter-finals. The opposition will continue to exploit the weakness until Glasgow sort the problem.
Nevertheless, it was an impressive win for Glasgow and a heartening result for coach Gregor Townsend.
“It took a lot of effort,” he said. “You could tell right from the beginning that Racing were there to win. I thought they defended outstandingly. They are a tough team. Obviously the weather maybe affected the way they wanted to play but I thought that the effort [from Glasgow] right from the first minute to the 80th was excellent.
“There were a couple of tactical things we had to look at [at half time]. We kicked the ball too much in the first half. We had success when we put contestable kicks up.
“We had to have patience, if the first three phases didn’t generate quick ball we had to look at other ways, which was through kicking and pick and goes and I thought the players kept up their intensity in the second half. I think they only got one turnover in the game which shows how well we were supporting contact and getting these big men off the ball.”
Glasgow came out of the traps like they meant business and all their early pressure was rewarded when Russell knocked over a penalty on seven minutes to give the home fans a boost. They weren’t to know that those would be the only points scored for the next 40 minutes!
The artificial surface at Kilmarnock undoubtedly helped the Warriors execute their high-tempo, off-loading game but both sides still found it difficult to hold onto the ball in contact with the rain a constant presence in the opening hour.
Man of the match Leone Nakarawa looked like he was enjoying himself in the middle of the back row but there was no question that the Racing defenders targeted the big Fijian, rushing up on him and not so much double as triple teaming the Glasgow No.8. Jonny Gray carried with his usual enthusiasm and Simone Favaro flew out the line like a man possessed.
Glasgow’s set scrum looked pretty solid on their own feed and even got the nudge on their illustrious visitors on the odd occasion, and the lineout performed as per the script with just the one wayward throw.
On the downside, Glasgow’s old Achilles heel was exploited on at least two occasions, Racing catching and driving several lineouts to good effect before scoring on 66 minutes.
The nearest either side came to the opening try arrived just after the half-hour mark when Lousi Dipichot allowed a clearance kick to bounce past him and when Glasgow retrieved the ball from Brice Dulin’s chip kick, Russell fired a well-judged cross-field kick at Taqele Naiyaravoro who failed to hold onto the ball with three defenders crowding him out.
At the opposite end Racing rallied just before the break and enjoyed a long series of phases deep inside the Glasgow red zone which ended with a long series of forward pick and drives all of which were rebuffed by the Glasgow defence to maintain their slender 3-0 lead at the break.
The match swung one way then the next and Glasgow found themselves aping their guests with one out passes and forward drives. The tactic got them to within a few metres of the Racing try line and, just when it looked like the Warriors had sold their free-flowing soul, the ball was whipped right to Stuart Hogg and Sam Johnson’s dummy line opened up a huge hole in the French defence for Hogg to score. It had taken all off 55 minutes but the first try of the match was worth waiting for.
Russell kicked the conversion and added another three when Gray was collared around the neck just a few minutes later as the home team put clear blue water between them and their visitors. Weir added two late kicks after replacing Russell, Vern Cotter doubtless sighing with relief that at least the stand-off had come through unscathed even if not everyone else was quite so fortunate.
Scorers: Glasgow: Try: Hogg. Con: Russell. Pens: Russell 3, Weir 2. Racing: Try: Gomes Sa.
Glasgow: Hogg; Naiyaravoro, Dunbar (Jones 50), Johnson, Seymour; Russell (Weir 61), Price (Hart 61); Allan (Yanuyanutawa 55), Mamukashvili (Malcolm 55), Puafisi (Fagerson 55), Peterson (Cummings 70), Gray, Eddie, Favaro (Fusaro 50), Nakarawa.
Racing: Dulin; Dupichot, Chanancy, Dumoulin, Andreu; Tales, Machenaud (Chauvenau 50); Brugnaut (Gomes Sa 50), Chat (Lacombe 50), Ducalcon (Khinchagisihvili 50), Chateris, van der Merwe, Lauret, Le Roux (Dubarry 66) Masoe..
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU). Attendance: 9,063.