Glasgow’s historic run to the quarter-finals of the European Champions Cup came to a shuddering halt as they were brushed aside by a ruthless Saracens side.
The holders of the competition and English champions marched on to a semi-final meeting with Munster in Dublin leaving the Warriors to focus on the challenging task of pushing for a place in the Guinness Pro12 play-offs and reflecting with pride on the achievement of getting out of the pool stage of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time.
There was no shame in losing to this formidable Saracens outfit, although there will be disappointment with elements of the performance and the late collapse which allowed the score to head up towards the 40-point mark.
Glasgow couldn’t achieve nearly enough possession or territory to have a chance of doing damage and a number of defensive lapses made life too easy for the English giants.
Man-of-the-match Owen Farrell pulled the strings at half-back and the home side had simply too much firepower out wide for Gregor Townsend’s men.
The teams ran out to an impressive backdrop of flags, with the sizeable Glasgow support contributing to a crackling atmosphere on a perfect day for rugby in north London.
Pre-match predictions were for an open game and they were borne out in the opening stages, but it was Sarries who were carrying the menace.
Two scrambled tackles into touch were required on both the home wingers, by Lee Jones on Chris Ashton and Stuart Hogg on Scotland team-mate Sean Maitland, to keep the match scoreless as the TMO ruled out both try claims.
Saracens did get the scoreboard moving in the ninth minute, however, as Farrell slotted an easy penalty chance.
Glasgow only needed a minute to respond as a ruck infringement gave Finn Russell a chance to level things and the Scotland stand-off duly accepted, but the kicking duel swung back to Farrell and the home side went ahead again.
There was a blow for the Warriors when it was announced that co-captain Jonny Gray, who had gone off for a head injury assessment, would not be returning to the fray.
Farrell dragged his next attempt wide of the left-hand post but the England man was back on target in the 26th minute to open up a six-point gap as indiscipline continued to cost Glasgow.
The first try of the afternoon came bang on the half-hour mark as Ashton squeezed in at the right-hand corner, brushing off Russell’s attempted tackle, and this time the TMO was happy. Farrell couldn’t make the testing conversion but Sarries were now 14-3 to the good and the visitors could have no real complaints.
Saracens continued to utterly dominate territory and Ashton was over in the right corner yet again but, for a second time, the TMO showed he was in touch and Glasgow went in at the break fortunate to be only 11 points adrift.
Glasgow needed to find some kind of spark early in the second half and they got it from the familiar source of Russell’s joyous creativity. One of his trademark teasing chips was collected on the left by Jones and he broke the Sarries defence to scamper over.
The magic left Russell’s right boot for the makeable conversion, however, as his attempt at the extras came back off the post.
Ali Price, pictured below, was introduced at scrum-half for co-captain Henry Pyrgos and this felt like the heart of the game now, with the next score sure to be crucial.
Some dancing feet from Schalke Brits and Richard Wigglesworth had Sarries threatening again, with Price saving his side with a ball-dislodging tackle on the latter.
That good defensive work was undone moments later, though, as home centre Marcelo Bosch was able to ghost through some weak tackling – the Warriors had now missed more than 20 in the game – and over for a converted try that left the visitors staring down the barrel.
Glasgow continued to shoot themselves in the foot as a penalty to touch inside the Sarries’ 22 was followed by a lost lineout and then, as the clock ticked into the last 15 minutes, a series of drives were wasted when possession was coughed up.
That proved to be the last suggestion that Glasgow could get anything from this game as Saracens took it by the scruff of the neck and snuffed out the wilting Scottish resistance.
Another Farrell penalty took the home side beyond two converted tries and the deal was well and truly sealed as Brad Barritt’s try and a second for Ashton put the matter beyond doubt.
Ryan Wilson crashed over at the death for a consolation try, which Russell couldn’t convert, as the whistle blew on the match and Scottish involvement in Europe this season.