Glasgow Warriors made a huge statement of intent that will have resounded around Europe last night with an astonishing Champions Cup dismantling of Racing 92 at Scotstoun.
Gregor Townsend’s men stormed to the top of Pool 1 as they followed up last weekend’s landmark victory over the French champions in Paris with an astonishing display of speed and skill which simply blew away the cashed up runners-up of this competition last season and effectively eliminated them from this season’s staging.
On a night when All Blacks legend Dan Carter was rendered anonymous, his opposite number Finn Russell delivered a virtuoso display which had the sold-out Scotstoun crowd purring with delight.
The Glasgow stand-off was at the heart of everything in a first half which ended with the Scots 18-0 up and well on course for victory. Racing had responded to last weekend’s shock loss by fielding a mammoth pack in an attempt to take a grip on proceedings and save their European season following two defeats in their first two games.
The Warriors negated that strategy by running the Parisians ragged and a famous victory was clinched by tries from Josh Strauss, Fraser Brown and Ali Pice, plus eight points from the boot of man- of-the-match Russell.
Glasgow got off to the perfect start as Russell continued from where he left off in Paris last weekend with a brilliant piece of skill to carve Racing open. His delicious chip ahead, reminiscent of the one which put Huw Jones in for Scotland in the recent Australia Test, was collected by wing Tommy Seymour.
This time Russell’s mastery came inside his own half and Seymour needed the help of opposite wing Lee Jones, whose inside pass close to the line was gleefully accepted by Strauss for a dream opening to his 100th appearance for the club.
Russell was wide with his conversion but continued to be the man pulling the strings as a brilliant darting run had Glasgow threatening again, with the rattled French defence just managing to bundle Jones into touch in the left corner.
But the door couldn’t be kept shut for long as Glasgow continued to batter their illustrious guests with a fearsome tempo. Again it was the Scotland stand-off who played the creator role as his zipped miss-pass found hooker Brown to surge over, with the extras collected this time to make it 12-0 inside 15 minutes.
The one-way traffic continued as Racing were penalised for holding on at halfway and Russell propelled the penalty into the French 22.
After a scrum the visitors were able to clear their lines for a moment of respite but it was that man Russell who pinned them back once again with a sumptuous kick that rolled into the right-hand corner as the complete home domination continued.
Warriors felt confident enough to turn down a shot at the posts and go for a tap penalty which resulted in a sustained assault on the Racing line. When another penalty was conceded, Russell decided to take the points and open up a 15-point lead going into the last ten minutes of a breathless first half.
A scrum penalty was awarded in the 38th minute and, fittingly, it was Russell who had the last word with a routine three-pointer as Racing’s misery was completed soon after when the TMO turned down a try appeal, ruling that wing Marc Andreu was in touch in the left corner.
Glasgow kept the foot firmly on French throats as they started the second half like a pack of hounds scenting blood. Racing were driven back again and again in their own 22 as the Warriors sought the early breakthrough that would surely take any remaining fight out of the shell-shocked opposition.
It wasn’t long before the line was broken and it was scrum-half Price who scampered over for his third try in as many games. Russell missed the wide conversion and the French side laboured to get some kind of foothold in the game only to be met by as much aggression in the home defence as there was enterprise in attack.
Credit to Racing, many a side in a similar position – soundly beaten and heading out of the tournament – would have chucked it but they are a proud club who were not going to let this drift from the chastening into the realms of humiliation.
Carter was withdrawn just ahead of the hour mark and the sheer excellence that had gone before could not be sustained as a bit of looseness came into the home team’s play and Racing got the consolation score they probably deserved when replacement scrum-half Xavier Chauveau sniped over, but it couldn’t take the shine off a glorious night for Scottish rugby.