GLASGOW’S European slump continued at Scotstoun as another high-energy, but error-strewn performance allowed Cardiff to claim a double and go top of Pool Two before tomorrow’s games.
Scorers: Glasgow – Try: Grant. Con: Weir. Cardiff – Pens: R Patchell (2), Halfpenny.
Boos rang out in the main stand at the final whistle – the referee possibly also a target – as Warriors supporters, who grew to love the free-flowing rugby witnessed last season, stood stunned, trying to work out what has happened to the Glasgow they know. Just as in the previous week at Cardiff, they created opportunities, their lineout good and scrum wholly dominant, but poor basic skills left them resembling a side that had just been thrown together.
While they failed to exploit early penalty chances, Cardiff centre Rhys Patchell took everything on offer with two first-half penalties, the first from 12 metres inside his own half, after six minutes. The Blues worked tirelessly, if with a limited game-plan set up simply to win, and it worked.
Glasgow openside Tyrone Holmes had presented the opportunity by going off his feet at a ruck, ruining a good turnover chance, knock-ons halted Glasgow’s next two forays into the Blues half and then the scrum was penalised, which suggested the hosts had yet to shake off last week’s inertia.
The sight of skipper Al Kellock running back down the tunnel in the 13th minute hardly improved the mood of the fans, but he returned after being patched up eight minutes later. By then, Glasgow might have been 6-0 down, Ryan Wilson giving up a penalty at a ruck, but Leigh Halfpenny sent his kick wide of the uprights.
The gusty wind was a factor, but Glasgow’s handling was nothing short of appalling and for the second week running they were outsmarted at the breakdown. A fine scrum by the home pack did raise a cheer, but Stuart Hogg’s kick to touch made just ten metres in the wind and the Warriors lost the lineout. With two orchestrators in Gareth Davies, back at fly-half, and Patchell at inside centre, Cardiff controlled territory too and obstruction at a lineout handed Halfpenny another chance at goal, which he took to push Cardiff into a 6-0 lead after 23 minutes.
Maitland released Tommy Seymour on a great angle, Nakawara made good yards with Blues players hanging off the big Fijian, and, though the Warriors kept possession well, Cardiff slowed the attack cutely at each breakdown, which was enough to keep pressure on the attackers and ultimately force errors.
The Glasgow scrum was one thing causing Cardiff problems, and, after forcing a turnover, they forced two penalties from the Cardiff pack for driving up in the scrum, the second leading to skipper Sam Hobbs being yellow-carded. Another referee might have awarded a penalty try, but Frenchmen Jerome Garces decided against it, and, in truth, Glasgow only had themselves to blame for failing to then finish two glorious chances.
Alex Dunbar was superbly held up over the line, initially by Patchell and Richard Smith, and then driven back, and Matawalu moved the ball wide left to where the hosts had a two-man overlap.
But a poor pass by Ryan Grant, led to a knock-on by Byron McGuigan, and still there was a two-on-one, but Maitland inexplicably lost Hogg’s pass three metres from the left-hand corner.
Two minutes later and Matawalu darted through a gap to finally touch down, but this time the television match official ruled it out after replays showed Rob Harley had continued driving through the ruck and held Patchell back from tackling the scrum-half.
It was a thoroughly disappointing finish to the half for Glasgow, whose pack had brought them steaming back into the game only for them to head inside with nothing. And by the time they returned to the field Cardiff were also back to full strength with Hobbs released from the sin-bin and without their own captain, Kellock having succumbed to his earlier injury, forcing Harley into the second row and Josh Strauss into the game, and the skipper’s role. The Warriors were more combative at the breakdown in the second half, but still passing and catching seemed to be a new phenomenon to many and balls continued to fall to ground, into Cardiff hands or straight into touch from Hogg at one point. Coach Gregor Townsend sent DTH van der Merwe on for McGuigan, clearly striving to inject some urgency in the back division, while Cardiff sent on two forwards, Ellis Jenkins and their French prop Benoit Bourrust, to freshen up their pack.
Glasgow’s pack remained in control, however, and another big scrum handed Ruaridh Jackson a penalty chance, but he pulled his kick wide. Cardiff continued to plunder ball from the Warriors and Glasgow’s defence had to work overtime to stop Patchell from scoring on the right, but they still conceded a penalty that Halfpenny’s boot turned into a nine-point lead with 16 minutes remaining.
Another five replacements were sent from the Glasgow bench, changing the half-backs, hooker, tighthead prop and openside flanker, and Glasgow tightened up, kicking penalties to touch and driving Cardiff back.
A squint lineout from newcomer Dougie Hall wasted one chance, but then a squint feed to the scrum by Cardiff scrum-half Lloyd Williams handed possession back, and this time Glasgow did make something of it. Attacking around the fringes, they drove momentum through phases across the pack, and when it came back to the middle, prop Grant steamed through two defenders to touch down under the crossbar.
Weir quickly converted and Glasgow were back in the game with ten minutes remaining, Cardiff now beginning to rattle up the errors.
And another scrum penalty handed Glasgow a chance to win the game. But Weir could not take it, making the distance from near halfway with two minutes remaining but pushing his kick just wide of the posts to put the final seal on Glasgow’s European qualification hopes for another season.
Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; S Maitland, B McGuigan, A Dunbar, T Seymour; R Jackson, N Matawalu; R Grant, P MacArthur, J Welsh, L Nakarawa, A Kellock (capt), R Harley, T Holmes, R Wilson. Subs: J Strauss for Harley 13-21mins, 40, D Hall, J Yanuyanutawa, E Kalman, C Fusaro, C Cusiter, D Weir, DTH van der Merwe for McGuigan 53, D Weir for Jackson, C Cusiter for Matawalu, D Hall for MacArthur, E Kalman for Welsh, all 65, C Fusaro for Holmes 69,
Cardiff Blues: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, R Smith, R Patchell, H Robinson; G Davies, L Williams; S Hobbs (capt), K Dacey, T Filise, C Dicomidis, F Paulo, M Cook, R Watts-Jones, R Copeland. Subs: E Jenkins for Watts-Jones 55mins, B Bourrust for Filise, 56, A Pretorious for Dicomidis 65, M Breeze for Dacey 75, T Davies for Hobbs 76.
THE SCOTSMAN RUGBY SHOW IN ASSOCIATION WITH GINGER GROUSE