GLASGOW made a welcome return to winning ways yesterday as a much-improved second-half performance swept aside the Ospreys at Scotstoun.
Tries from Sean Lamont, Greg Peterson, Alex Allan and Taqele Naiyaravoro saw the Guinness Pro12 champions improve their record to won three, lost three in defence of their title and condemned their opponents to a fifth defeat from six in the campaign so far.
It was a far from perfect display but coach Gregor Townsend will hope his side use the bonus-point victory as a catalyst to push on in the league and into the European Champions Cup as star internationalists continue to filter back into the team.
On a beautiful sun-kissed afternoon the Warriors drew first blood when Duncan Weir was successful with a 25-yard penalty before Dan Biggar showcased his now famous pre-kicking ticks and flicks, not to mention skill with the boot, with a couple of finely struck long-range efforts to put the Welshmen ahead.
It may still be early days in the season but yesterday’s clash between two of the league’s heavyweights in front of a sold-out Scotstoun had the feel of a big match.
Both had their resources tested by the World Cup and with Glasgow already on three defeats and Ospreys on four going into the game, another slip-up was the last thing either side needed.
Nerves were apparent in a cagey opening quarter, which Glasgow shaded in terms of territory and positive intent but they still trailed 6-3 after Weir just missed a difficult long penalty and handling errors prevented any phase continuity developing.
The return of Leone Nakarawa received the biggest cheer when the teams were read out before the game and the man of the match from May’s Pro12 final win in Belfast was at his brilliant offloading best on the half-hour mark when he bore down on the left corner, took the contact and effortlessly flipped the ball into the hands of Lamont and Scotland’s newest cap centurion gleefully crashed over for the game’s first try.
Weir missed the touchline conversion and then Biggar was uncharacteristically wayward with a straight on chance after wing Lee Jones was harshly penalised for not releasing.
The Wales stand-off made no mistake when he was offered another opportunity by Irish referee Peter Fitzgibbon, though, and gave the Ospreys a one-point lead to take in with them at the interval.
Glasgow got off to the best possible start in the second half when Weir slotted a 35-yard penalty to nudge his side back in front. Handling errors continued to hurt the home side, though, and a scrum for a knock-on 30 yards from their posts turned into a penalty for collapsing and Biggar was again on the mark to continue the seesaw pattern on the scoreboard.
There was a significant boost for the Warriors when visiting inside centre Josh Matavesi was sin-binned for a blatant offside as Glasgow stretched the Welsh defence with some potent forward interchanges. Weir eschewed the kick at goal, opting for the corner instead, and after a powerful series of drives for the line, it was Peterson, the USA lock making his first start for the club, who crashed over.
After an interminable and pointless visit to the TMO the try was confirmed, Weir slotted the extras, and Glasgow were now six points up at 18-12.
The Warriors had their tails up now and Weir pushed the lead beyond the converted try mark with another successful penalty.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors when sub Ryan Bevington was yellow carded within seconds of coming on and Glasgow started to turn the screw on opponents who were starting to creak.
Try No 3 came in the 63rd minute as replacement prop Allan burrowed over for his first try for the club.
Weir missed the conversion as the match announcer bizarrely decided to blare out a couple of replacement announcements during the stand-off’s run up but, by now, the win was seemingly in the bag and attention turned to securing the bonus point.
However, frustrating errors continued to stall Glasgow’s momentum and it was Ospreys who struck next when sub Dan Baker dived over and Biggar converted to reduce the lead to a precarious seven with five minutes to go.
However, when Glasgow won a penalty just inside the Welsh half with just a minute left there was never any doubt about going for the try rather than the three points.
The enterprise was rewarded when substitute wing
Naiyaravoro powered over from close range to complete a satisfying day’s work for the champions.
Weir missed the conversion but the Scotstoun faithful left in buoyant mood.
GLASGOW: T Seymour; L Jones, R Vernon, P Horne, S Lamont; D Weir, M Blair; G Reid, P MacArthur, S Puafisi, G Peterson, L Nakarawa, R Harley, S Favaro, R Wilson. Subs: C Fusaro for Favaro 54, T Naiyaravoro 57, A Allan for Reid 61, Z Fagerson for Puafisi 61, A Price for Blair 65, S Cummings for Nakarawa 65, S Johnson for Vernon 68
OSPREYS: D Evans; T Grabham, B John, J Matavesi, E Walker; D Biggar, B Leonard; P James, S Baldwin, A Jarvis, L Ashley, R Thornton, D Lydiate, J Pipuric, J King. Subs: D Arhip for Jarvis 50, A Wyn Jones for Ashley 55, R Bevington, for James 55, James for Brabham 58, S Davies for Evans 68, J Spratt for John 68, S Otten for Baldwin 69