IT MAY so nearly have been a case of snatching defeat from the jaws of a famous victory, but Tommy Seymour believes that Glasgow’s scintillating 22-20 success over champions Leinster has provided the ultimate proof that his side have the character in their ranks to once again challenge for glory in the new Guinness Pro12.
Glasgow Warriors 22-20 Leinster
Scorers: Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Horne, Gray, Strauss. Cons: Pyrgos (2). Pens: Hogg. Leinster: Tries: McGrath, Denton. Pens: Maddigan, Gopperth. Cons: Gopperth (2).
With the dust having settled on an opening day success, that had seen Glasgow blow a commanding 16-point lead to trail by two going into injury time before a nerveless Stuart Hogg penalty sealed eventual redemption, this, make no mistake, was one of the most dramatic denouement’s in Warriors’ league history.
The Scotland wing, who was instrumental in Glasgow’s opening try, admitted that a flawed second period in which his side shipped 17 points was cause for concern and the lack of a winning bonus point an irritation.
But Seymour also had no doubts that the ultimate benefits from a successful revenge mission on the men from Dublin who have so often wreaked havoc with Glasgow’s ambitions, provided Warriors with a huge psychological boost for the campaign ahead.
“We are very happy to get the win. The lads showed tremendous heart and a lot of character in the last two minutes to force the penalty and you take the victory and say what a great start to the season to beat the defending champions,” admitted Seymour.
He added: “Obviously we are not so happy with the second-half performance and we know that we have work to do to make sure we are staying at the levels we set ourselves in the first-half for the full 80 minutes.
“But if you look back over the last couple of seasons we’ve become a side who know they have to play for 80 minutes.
“You can eye both sides of the coin and we know we can’t go conceding two late tries like we did and turn a winning position into a losing one, but at the same time if you do you must show the character to salvage that situation and we did that. So we showed a lot of character, we didn’t go back into our shells and psychologically it’s a huge win.
“This was a massive fixture for us after what happened in the final last season and so if we can iron out these kinks from the second-half we are going to have a good strong season.”
The ferocity of Glasgow’s tackling repeatedly knocked the champions onto the back-foot and stopped Matt O’Connor’s men developing any attacking fluidity in their play while the dexterity of the Scotstoun side’s off-loading during the first period left Leinster snatching at shadows.
Now Seymour believes that Warriors have it in them to deliver such a high-octane performance for the full 80-minutes. “We believe we can sustain the tempo of the first-half for the duration, obviously it’s not easy to do but that is our aim,” he said.
Seymour added: “The first 40 was awesome from the lads. It was some of the best flowing rugby we have played against a team who have been arguably the best in Europe for the last three seasons or more.
“We put ourselves in a fantastic position at half-time and all right we didn’t kick-on from there, but we knew there would be a reaction from Leinster and the main thing is that we have got the win behind us.” Glasgow’s ferocious start saw the breakthrough come in 17 minutes when Peter Horne latched onto Seymour’s cute pass to touch down just inside the Leinster left touchline.
Subsequently, scrum-half Henry Pyrgos made a difficult conversion look simple as Glasgow soared seven points clear.
With their vigour unbridled, Glasgow powered forward and a relentless wave of multi-phase pressure eventually saw Jonny Gray surge over from close range.
This time Pyrgos’ accuracy deserted him but a 12-0 lead after 26 minutes was ample reward for the bone jarring intensity of the home side’s play which had completely nullified the Dubliners as an attacking force.
Glasgow refused to let their intensity drop and skipper Josh Strauss burst through a toothless tackle to rampage over with a barnstorming 30-metre run that Pyrgos converted to put the Scotstoun side 19-0 with just 33 minutes gone.
An Ian Madigan penalty put the champions on the scoreboard but the 19-3 half-time scoreline was an accurate reflection of Glasgow’s dominance.
Yet a 52nd-minute Jimmy Gopperth penalty confirmed Leinster had at last stemmed the flow of Warrior’s forward ferocity, while with injuries to Alex Dunbar and Peter Horne undermining home intent, Gregor Townsend was forced to shuffle his cards with Stuart Hogg installed at 10 and Sean Lamont introduced in the centre.
But Leinster continued to pound away in search of a game changing try and a needless piece if ill-discipline by the impetuous replacement Niko Matawalu ultimately led to a Jack McGrath try which was converted by Gopperth to take the champions within six points of Glasgow with seven minutes left.
Glasgow’s late and sudden implosion was spectacular after Peter Murchie misjudged a kick to touch and replacement Pat Macarthur incredibly threw long to a shortened line-out after Jonny Gray’s lift was badly mistimed. Tom Denton powering over with Gopperth delivering what seemed like a heart-breaking coup de grace.
Yet Glasgow stormed back into opposition half and when their relentless attack’s led to an infringement by the Irishmen, Hogg stepped up to slot home assuredly and claimed a 22-20 victory that is certain to linger long in Warriors’ folklore and sent the home crowd of 5,725 into delirium.
“It showed a lot of our best side in terms of the speed of our game, the accuracy of our off-loading and our defensive alignment but in terms of the second period there were a lot of learning points and we need to exit better,” admitted Townsend.
He added: “But the players know that, we also knew that playing at that high tempo takes a toll, especially in the first game.
“But ultimately this is one game out of 22 and we’ve got the win on the board and we’ll take that.”
Glasgow: P Murchie; T Seymour, M Bennett, A Dunbar, L Jones; P Horne, H Pyrgos; A Allan, F Brown, E Murray, L Nakarawa, J Gray, R Harley, C Fusaro, J Strauss. Subs: S Hogg, S Lamont, N Matawalu, G Reid, P MacArthur, R De Klerk, T Swinson, A Ashe.
Leinster: Z Kirchner; F McFadden, B Macken, N Reid, D Fanning; J Gopperth, I Boss; C Healy, S Cronin, M Ross, B Marshall. M McCarthy, D Ryan, S Jennings, S O;Brien. Subs: I Madigan, L McGrath, J McGrath, B Byrne, T Furlong, T Denton, K McLaughlin.
Referee: N Owens.