Pro12 rugby: Glasgow 35-17 Ospreys

Glasgow centre Graeme Morrison gets a pass away. Picture: SNS
Glasgow centre Graeme Morrison gets a pass away. Picture: SNS
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Glasgow guaranteed their place in the PRO12 play offs and will shoot for a home semi-final when they face Connacht in Galway in their final league game of the season next week.

Scorers: Glasgow: Tries: Grant 2, Maitland, Matawalu, van der Merwe. Cons: Weir 2. Pens: Weir, Horne. Ospreys Tries: Griffiths. Cons: Biggar. Pens: Biggar.

It was an impressive victory by Glasgow in front of a large, appreciative crowd, and a welcome one that wipes out the terrible lapse in form against the Scarlets in Llanelli that cost them their place at the top of the table.

Two tries by loosehead prop Ryan Grant was the highlight of a commanding first half performance that set the tone for the full 80 minutes. Defending champions Ospreys may have been first on the scoreboard but they were always chasing the game after the first quarter and had no real answer to Glasgow’s variety except stubborn persistence.

The second half was all about Glasgow hunting the fourth try that would provide the bonus point. It duly came after a slight hiccup when Ospreys got a consolation try and added another before the end to make the score more respectable.

John Barclay, the former Scotland flanker, was playing his 150th game for Glasgow in what might be the 26-year-old’s last appearance at Scotstoun as he heads for pastures new at the end of the season. His team-mate, former Scotland centre Graeme Morrison, was also marking a personal milestone for the Warriors – the 30-year-old returning from injury to make his 175th appearance in a career stretching back over a decade. The team ran out with a special badge stitched into their right sleeves in honour of the club’s longest serving player.

But, amid the tributes and pitch-side distractions of cheer leaders and Clydesdale horses, the business of professional rugby is no respecter of nostalgia and reputations. There was a game to be won and lost on the pitch.

Glasgow shuffled the squad that lost badly to Scarlets last week, including bringing the halfback pairing of Nico Matawalu and Duncan Weir back into the starting 15, to try and stymie a strong Ospreys side who have the pedigree of defending PRO12 champions but also knew they had to win to have any chance of reaching a play-off place. Ospreys had the momentum – unbeaten in their last five games – but it soon hit the Glasgow wall and ground to a halt.

Glasgow almost scored in the first minute when Fijian scrum half Niko Matawalu pilfered the ball in the 22 but he was offside. Ospreys made a hash of the clearance though and Glasgow came straight back to win a penalty that fly-half Duncan Weir fired wide.

The first scrum was set inside Glasgow’s 22 and Ospreys got the benefit of the doubt when the front rows went down. Stand off Dan Biggar kicked the points.

Moments later at the other end Hogg might have levelled the scores after the visitors were penalised for not releasing in a ruck but once again he fired it wide.

Glasgow’s nerves were further frayed when Sean Maitland came off his wing to make the line break, passed to centre Alex Dunbar and onto Barclay who crossed the line only to fail to ground the ball. But nerves were settled when, as the attacking scrum broke up, Grant was slipped the ball and couldn’t be stopped from close range. Weir converted.

Glasgow increased their lead when Maitland chased a clever Matawalu kick up the right wing and got to the ball before Ospreys full back Richard Fussell coming in at the diagonal. The referee went to the video umpire but it was a try. The touchline conversion was missed.

Ospreys tried to consolidate after the double blow, patiently retaining possession phase after phase but getting no change out of a blanket Glasgow defence and going nowhere. It was the Welsh side who made the error and relieved the pressure.

Weir was having an off day with the boot, missing a third penalty, but he soon had another chance for a conversion after a third try, created by Matawalu wriggling through a gap and off loading brilliantly for Moray Low to carry it on, then Morrison who passed to the supporting Grant for his second try of the night. The conversion was good and Glasgow were 16 points ahead. Ospreys felt the need to inject some urgency, spurning an easy penalty inside the Glasgow 22 and kicking for the corner instead, but an attempt to set up a rolling maul petered out and, with Glasgow refusing to give an inch, Welsh heads began to go down and tempers began to flare. Rob Harley was hauled down at the lineout as he collected the ball and Weir finally managed to knock over a three pointer right on the stroke of halftime to underline the home team’s superiority.

One minute after the restart, the referee lost patience with the front rows at the first scrum and sent try scorer Grant and his opposite number Adam Jones to the sin bin.

Then five minutes in Ospreys got a try that briefly silenced the crowd when replacement prop Cai Griffiths forced his way over around the edge of a pile of bodies. Biggar converted.

Glasgow’s defence was being repeatedly tested but was holding firm. Then they went on the attack and the crowd was happy again. In their first visit to the Ospreys 22 in the second half Matawalu grabbed the bonus point try.

Weir couldn’t land the conversion and had to be stretchered off minutes later with a leg injury after a collision in loose play.

Ospreys made Glasgow a little more uncomfortable with a second try by replacement Sam Lewis, converted by Biggar, but the game was beyond them at this stage even if there was just under 20 minutes left.

Weir’s replacement Peter Horne kicked a penalty to turn the screw. In broken play Grant made a line break in midfield that any centre would have been proud of and Edinburgh swept into the 22. Josh Strauss led a charge that had Ospreys scrambling to cover.

With minutes remaining Barclay was named man of the match and Morrison was subsituted and left the field to a standing ovation. It wasn’t quite over. DTH van der Merse got a fifth try, equalling the all-time club record for tries scored in a season.

Glasgow: S Hogg, S Maitland, A Dunbar, G Morrison, S Lamont, D Weir, N Matawalu, R Grant, P MacArthur, M Low, T Swinson, A Kellock, R Harley, J Barclay, J Strauss. Subs: D Hall (for MacArthur , O Fainga’anuku, E Kalman (for Low 60), T Ryder (for Swinson 49), R Wilson (for Harley 57), H Pyrgos (for Morrison 77), P Horne (for Weir 62), DTH van der Merwe (for Maitland).

Ospreys: R Fussell, T Habberfield, T Isaacs, J Spratt, B John, D Biggar, K Fotualii, D Jones, R Hibbard, A Jones, AW Jones, I Evans, J King, J Tipuric, J Bearman. Subs: S Baldwin (for Hibbard 15), M Thomas (for D JOnes 76), C Griffiths (for A Jones 60) J Thomas, S Lewis (for Evans 59), R Webb (for R Jones 60), M Morgan (for John 68), R Jones.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ire). Attendance: 6,642