GREGOR Townsend could barely contain his smile after 14-man Glasgow ran away with a bonus-point win at Newport. The Warriors played the entire second-half with only seven forwards after Scotland flanker Tyrone Holmes was sent-off for stamping.
Scorers: Dragons: Try: Rees. Con: O’Brien. Pen: O’Brien (2); Warriors: Tries: Dunbar, Strauss, Seymour, Swinson. Cons: Weir (2). Pens: Weir (3).
Yet Glasgow showed their class as Richard Strauss, Tommy Seymour and Tim Swinson added to Alex Dunbar’s early try to take maximum points from Rodney Parade. Head coach Townsend said: “We would have been pleased to get a bonus-point with 15 men let alone 14 men. That was way more than we were expecting when we were reduced to 14 men, but to play the way we did in the second half shows the character and fitness within this squad.
“There were some excellent individual performances and players really stepped up when things got tough. There was a period just after the card that we made a few errors and gave them momentum but, after that, we played really smart and ambitious rugby. Our decision making was really good, the second-rows just got better and better and the back three controlled things.”
Townsend was frustrated that referee Neil Hennessy was unable to watch a replay of the red card incident, despite the game being televised live. He said: “The referee didn’t get a chance to look at the incident which is something that needs to be looked at. Tyrone was wrong to use his foot to get the player’s arm off the ball, but scrum-halves are constantly allowed to do that.”
Yet it was a hugely pleasing return to south Wales with Townsend eager to make amends for suffering twice at the hands of Lyn Jones last season.
The first try was all down to the impact of Dunbar who picked his line of running and simply had too much momentum for Newport’s young fly-half as he surged over from 20 yards out.
The score enabled Glasgow to steal a march on their hosts, playing on the front foot and in the faces of their opponents, typified by skipper Strauss and Peter Horne.
Strauss was alert enough to capitalise on a fortuitous deflection of Seymour’s kick, releasing Nikola Matawalu for a break that led to Duncan Weir opening a 10-0 lead with his first penalty.
Matawalu was a constant threat and following his brace last week, he would have snatched another interception try had it not been for the brilliance of Taulupe Faletau.
Dragons were on the attack when Matawalu timed his intervention to pick-off Aled Brew’s pass. The Fijian looked odds-on to score with the opposition committed, yet British Lion No.8 Faletau showed tremendous pace to hunt him down.
It was breathless stuff once again from a Glasgow side that are fast becoming the great entertainers of this season. Euan Murray also started in an all-new front-row that was recast to beef up a scrum that struggled a week earlier, and did enough to win a penalty.
Weir converted after Angus O’Brien had kicked Newport’s opening points for a 13-3 lead. That lasted to half-time after DTH van der Merwe was denied and Glasgow lost Matawalu during the build-up to a thumping tackle by Dragons prop Lloyd Fairbrother.
Fairbrother was binned moments later, on the stroke of half-time, not for the tackle but for a scrum infringement.
Yet it took just 50 seconds of the second-half for the Warriors to be permanently reduced to 14 men with a moment of madness by Holmes.
Against a seven-man scrum, Dragons went for the jugular, bringing Wales wing Brew to help shove the Glasgow scrum into reverse and hand O’Brien an easy three points. However, Glasgow were gifted a response when the Dragons, with O’Brien looking to press their case, were penalised for crossing and Weir kicked a second penalty.
The red card could well have swung the game out of Glasgow’s hands, but Strauss galvanised his forwards to wrestle back control. They tucked the ball up their jerseys with lock Leone Nakarawa at the forefront. Dragons looked to have kept the visitors at bay but it was only a brief respite as Glasgow kept knocking on the door.
Van der Merwe broke lose and was held up short, but Strauss picked up and lunged over for his side’s second try on 55 minutes, again converted by Weir.
Somehow, having seen their advantage cut to 13-6 and a man down, Glasgow were ahead 23-6 and in a comfortable position.
Newport briefly threatened when former Edinburgh scrum-half Richie Rees dived over just before the hour mark but it was a brief interlude as Glasgow’s 14 men dominated possession and territory.
Nakarawa showed off his handling skills as the game opened while Dunbar and Seymour were constant threats.
Stuart Hogg also grew into the game, going close himself before a wonderful switch of direction and injection of pace released Seymour who finished impressively in the corner on 69 minutes for the try that secured victory.
Better still was to come. Hogg’s clever kick set up field position before Swinson trundled over with the rest of his fellow forwards from a lineout drive to claim the bonus point.
Dragons: H Amos; T Pydie, B John, D Jones (B Nightingale 67), A Brew (A Hewitt 71); A O’Brien, R Rees (L Jones 71); B Stankovich, R Thomas (E Dee 55), L Fairbrother, C Hill (M Sceech 64, H Gustafson, 68), R Landman (c), L Evans (D Way 43, A Powell 64), N Cudd, T Faletau.
Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour (L Jones 77), A Dunbar, P Horne, D Van der Merwe; D Weir, N Matawalu (H Pyrgos 38); G Reid (A Allan 64), K Bryce (F Brown 49), E Murray, T Swinson, L Nakarawa, R Harley (J Eddie 55), J Strauss (c), A Ashe 64), T Holmes.
Referee: N Hennessy (Wal). Attendance: 5,885.