IT MAY have been their record margin of victory over an English side in elite European Rugby competition, giving them a priceless first opening success since 2011 – which was deliciously garnished with a bonus point – but Henry Pyrgos has warned that Glasgow’s rampant 37-10 five-try destruction of Bath will amount to nothing if the Scotstoun men can’t back it up at Montpellier in their second pool four outing at the Stade Yves-du-Manoir in five days’ time.
Ironically enough, that last salutary success in the maiden fixture of a European campaign came against the men from the Rec, at Firhill, in November 2011, but sadly for Glasgow they were unable to build on it and slipped to a juddering defeat at Leinster a week later that ultimately dealt a fatal wound to Warriors’ hopes of making it out of the Pool stages of the old Heineken Cup for the first time.
Yet after this outstanding display against Mike Ford’s heavily hyped side, in which Warriors consistently won the breakdown contest and claimed key turnovers at crucial stages, while performing at a tempo the English Premiership side struggled to live with, hope now springs eternal that this could be the year Glasgow finally graduate from the pool stages.
But Pyrgos, who was part of the Warriors’ squad who carved out a 13-13 draw at Montpellier the last time the sides met in a European context, “en France”, in that same distant campaign three years back, admits Glasgow face another huge examination of their credentials to cut it at emeritus level.
“We all know in this competition you must win your home games, so to have opened up at Scotstoun with five points against a really good Bath side is great but it will mean nothing if we don’t go to Montpellier on Saturday and augment it with another performance of similar quality and hopefully another positive result,” said Pyrgos.
The Glasgow scrum-half added: “A year ago we started at Toulon with a heavy defeat that put us on the back foot so we knew how important it was to get the win in the opening game, and doubly so given it was on home soil. Now that we have that, it is up to us to build on it at Montpellier and that will be no easy thing.
“They are a great side and it will be a massive task but that is what this competition is all about.
“You play a top side one week and then you are on to another of similar quality in the following game and that is what the European Rugby Champions Cup is all about.
“I was fortunate enough to be in the squad when we went to Montpellier a couple of seasons back and got a share of the points and it was a great atmosphere over there and I can’t wait for this Saturday’s return trip.”
The 25-year-old clearly revelled in the extra responsibility of the captaincy which was bestowed on him after Josh Strauss’ late withdrawal through injury, and it was Pyrgos’ quick thinking that led to Warriors’ pivotal third try by Tommy Seymour and also underlined that his man-of-the-match accolade was a worthy one.
“It looked like Bath were expecting a scrum and I just concentrated on getting it wide to Hoggy and he put Tommy over for a great try, it was just a case of opportunity presenting itself other than anything planned but I’m glad it came off,” said Pyrgos.
The Scotland international added: “In big games it is nice to have come out and performed well and I enjoyed being captain although it was a pity that Josh missed out with injury.
“Bath have got a lot of good players who have been playing really well in the Premiership and we knew that defensively we were going to have to put in a really big effort to nullify their threat and we did all of that pretty well. But it was a real team effort.”
Despite falling behind to George Ford’s fifth minute penalty, a beautifully timed pass from Duncan Weir put Mark Bennett through on one of his trademark scything runs and the Warriors’ centre broke two tackles to touch down under the posts and present Weir with an elementary conversion.
But Glasgow’s ascendancy was short-lived, and after Stuart Hogg uncharacteristically fumbled a Ford up-and-under, Jonathan Joseph scavenged the ball and strode over for an easy touchdown which Ford duly converted as the visitors went 10-7 in front.
Yet with Weir slotting two penalties Glasgow reclaimed the lead and after some stoic defensive work had repelled the much vaunted Bath driving maul, a brilliant high ball collect by the hugely impressive Tommy Seymour eventually led to Sean Maitland powering over.
Scotland wing Seymour then profited from Pyrgos’ moment of decisive clarity as Glasgow reached the sanctity of the dressing room 23-10 in front at half-time.
Although a tendency to kick when on the front foot helped the visitors gain possessional ascendancy in the third quarter – and the introduction of former Ireland No 9 Peter Stringer added composure to their work – Glasgow’s relentless attack was never far away.
Pyrgos’ replacement Niko Matawalu finally put the contest out of the visitors’ reach and secured the vital bonus point when he chased down his own kick and delivered the coup de grace with a brilliant and typically idiosyncratic finish which was converted by Weir.
Bennett then added a fifth try after fine work by DTH van der Merwe, and Weir converted to send an ecstatic Scotstoun crowd into the brilliant blue stratosphere.
By contrast, for Bath head coach Mike Ford it was a painful lesson: “It was disappointing and a hard lesson learned in a tough European tie.
“We are disappointed with the tries that we let in and we let the game get away from us. We will learn from it though.”
Scorers: Glasgow – Tries: Bennett (2), Maitland, Seymour, Matawalu. Cons: Weir (3). Pens: Weir (2). Bath: Try: Joseph. Con: Ford. Pen: Ford.
Glasgow: Hogg; Maitland, Bennett, Horne, Seymour; Weir, Pyrgos; Reid, MacArthur, Murray, Nakarawa, Gray, Harley, Fusaro, Ashe. Subs: Russell for Hogg (73), van der Merwe for Seymour (40), Yanuyanutawa for Reid (64), Hall for MacArthur (56), de Klerk for Murray (70), Swinson for Nakarawa (56), Holmes for Fusaro (59), Matawalu for Pyrgos (55)
Bath: Henson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Eastmond, Watson; Ford, Young; Auterac, Batty, Thomas, Hooper, Attwood, Day, Mercer, Sisi. Subs: Agulla for Henson (44), Devoto for Eastmond (37), Stringer for Young (51), James for Auterac (49), Webber for Batty (49), Wilson for Thomas (51), Ewels for Sisi (56).