In the end it wasn’t even close. After 21 years of trying and failing Glasgow finally booked their passage into the last eight of the European Champions Cup and will rub shoulders with the elite when the quarter-final draw is set in stone following this afternoon’s ties, with Saracens or Munster the likely opposition.
What’s more they did it in true Glasgow style – with swagger. The final score was a record loss for Leicester in Europe and a record win for the Warriors in continental competition.
Glasgow have saved their best for Europe this season and this was right up there with anything we have seen from this squad. The question left hanging concerned the quality of the opposition, who looked nothing like the world beaters of old. The only reason the Welford Road faithful weren’t totally silenced is because they jeered their own team at half-time.
Glasgow scored their first try after just five minutes, their second at the end of the opening quarter and their third before the half-hour mark. It was only appropriate that skipper Jonny Gray scored the bonus-point try just after the half-hour mark. Two more followed in the second half. All this against a team that had lost just one of their last 34 European home matches.
It was one-way traffic, such a mismatch that you half expected a towel to appear from the Tigers’ dugout because the players on the field were reeling, punch drunk from the countless blows raining down on them from every conceivable angle.
When stand-off Freddie Burns got two rare opportunities to kick long-range penalties in the first half he fluffed them both. Full-back Matthew Tait was carded early on after giving Lee Jones an off-the-ball nudge, and prop Ellis Genge followed him into the bin late in the game.
Nothing went right for Leicester who only had pride to play for and, on this showing, precious little of it. The penalty count was almost as one-sided as the final score. Glasgow played with variety, patience and no little panache, moving the point of attack and bossing every facet of play.
Before the opening try they “Munstered” their hosts with an endless series of pick-and-drives and one out rugby, before an inside pass from Ali Price gave Tommy Seymour a sniff of the Tigers’ try line, which is all the winger needs. Glasgow’s big men milked a penalty try for their second score, driving a lineout until the referee decided that Leicester dropped the maul illegally.
As the game progressed, Glasgow dug ever deeper into their box of tricks and frankly embarrassed their hosts. Finn Russell sauntered through this match looking like a latter day Jim Baxter. If the stand-off didn’t actually sit on the ball he did everything but and his drop-goal attempt at the death of the first 40 looked suspiciously like it was done purely for the practice.
Zander Fagerson and Gray carried the ball relentlessly, Tim Swinson and Ryan Wilson repeatedly hit a hard line in the wider channels and the entire defence swarmed on the odd occasion Leicester got hands on the ball. Several Warriors – Gordon Reid, Swinson and Russell – all carried and off-loaded the ball quite brilliantly in the build-up to Glasgow’s third try, which fell to Mark Bennett who got on the end of the best move of the match before diving over in the left-hand corner, Lee Jones smartly stepping inside to make space wider out.
The second half was by necessity a more subdued affair but Glasgow continued to boss their hosts, even winning a couple of scrum penalties. A training ground ploy saw Wilson make a break through the middle of a lineout and several phases later the same man finished off, diving over for Glasgow’s fifth try.
Swinson barrelled over for Glasgow’s sixth on the hour-mark but only after Henry Pyrgos threw a blind, overhead pass that fell perfectly to Pat MacArthur – it was that sort of night.
As the match wound down, D’arcy Rae thought he had scored Glasgow’s seventh try but the TMO thought otherwise and things were so horribly one-sided that that decision almost came as a relief.