Glasgow’s dreams of making their first appearance in the European quarter-finals were dented yesterday when Toulouse registered their 100th victory in this competition. Both teams scored one try but Toulouse added the conversion and claimed four penalties to two penalties for Glasgow, who were denied the solace of a losing bonus point.
Scorers: Toulouse: Try: Medard. Con: Bezy. Pens: Bezy (4). Glasgow: Try: Matawalu. Pens: Russell (2).
This encounter was a nip and tuck affair, the two teams level at 3-3 going into the final few minutes before half-time when a rash tip tackle by Finn Russell saw the stand-off binned for ten minutes. The game was all but over when he returned early in the second half after Toulouse added 13 points in his absence. But Russell’s card did not decide this result and Toulouse scored another penalty when Leone Nakarawa was in the bin late on, but, in a game of small margins, it certainly didn’t help Glasgow’s cause.
Glasgow will take some consolation from dominating territory and possession for long periods of this match, especially in the first quarter, but still the visitors found themselves down by three when the little Toulouse scrummy Sebastien Bezy knocked over a simple three points on 18 minutes in what had been his side’s only attack to date.
Even at that early stage, Glasgow had lost Chris Fusaro to a leg injury and had conceded two penalties at the set scrum. Just five minutes later and Russell had levelled the scores from another scrum penalty, the referee blowing in Glasgow’s favour this time.
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The visitors took the game to Toulouse with Josh Strauss, Nakarawa and the two props all putting opposition forwards on their backsides. There was no lack of effort or belief but the sheer size of the opposition made life difficult for Townsend’s men. Many of Glasgow’s problems stemmed from the breakdown where they needed many hands to do the heavy lifting and, with Census Johnson and Joe Takori in the mix, what Glasgow really needed was a JCB. The end result was that much of the visitors’ possession was painfully slow and almost useless; only in the final quarter, with gaps appearing, did the Glasgow backs look truly threatening.
Players like Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray occasionally threatened to dance or bulldoze their way through but it was rare that Glasgow could produce a consistent supply of fast, front-foot ball to twist the Toulouse defence out of kilter. As the match progressed, the greater size of the opposition allowed them to steal a good few turnovers and Glasgow ended up on the ugly end of a 14-5 penalty count.
Alex Dunbar was used to carry the ball into contact and Russell had one of his most effective games kicking from hand, at least while he was on the pitch. Several times the young stand-off found acres of space behind the thin black line or the touchline.
The home side always looked dangerous with ball in hand, although they were aided by Glasgow players uncharacteristically falling off more than a few tackles. One such miss allowed Vincent Clerc to dart up the middle of the field. He found Gael Fickou in support but, luckily for Glasgow, what would have been the scoring pass to Imanol Harinordoquy went to ground.
The same man spilled another pass when Toulouse got up a head of steam just before the break, the giant 20-stone lock Tekori adopting a Samoan sidestep to make the initial breach in Glasgow’s defence and put his team on to the front foot, and again the visitors were scrambling to keep their line intact.
They managed that much but at a cost. The referee took a second look at footage of Russell’s tackle on his
opposite number Jean-Marc Doussain and the Scot was shown a yellow card that could have been red. Bezy kicked that penalty and, with Toulouse tails up and a man to the good, the scrum-half added another before the break to give the home side a handy 9-3 half-time lead.
The crowd had barely settled back into their seats for the second half when Toulouse scored the first try of the match. Rob Harley was stripped in contact and Toulouse moved the ball quickly left. Doussain kicked in behind Glasgow’s defence, no one was home and Maxime Medard was first to ball to score in the corner. The crowd’s mood only got better when Bezy added the extras from the touchline. The teams were level pegging when Russell left the field but Toulouse were 16-3 up when he
returned to the action.
The match came to life in the second half, with both sides opening up and suddenly finding space in a field that had previously looked as crowded as a Black Friday supermarket and even less well behaved. Peter Horne threatened for the home team but needed a little more gas in the tank and Richie Vernon made a good run when he replaced the little centre.
These efforts came to nothing and, when Nakarawa was binned in the final quarter, Bezy kicked his fourth and final penalty.
Toulouse dominated the closing exchanges but Niko Matawalu started and finished off a try late in the game after good interplay with Josh Strauss and Tommy Seymour up the left touchline – but only with the home crowd roaring for a forward pass and with some justification.
Glasgow now need to win Saturday’s replay with the Frenchmen to keep those quarter-final dreams alive.
Toulouse: Poitrenaud (Huget 63); Clerc, David (Fritz 58), Fickou, Medard; Doussain, Bezy; Kakovin, Flynn, Johnson, Tekori, Maestri, Nyanga (Dusautoir 61), Harinordoquy, Picamoles.
Glasgow: Hogg; Maitland, Dunbar, Horne (Vernon 63), Seymour; Russell (Weir 73), Pyrgos (Matawalu 67); Grant (Reid 50) , MacArthur (Brown 55), Walsh, Gray, Nakarawa (Swinson 73), Harley, Fusaro (Wilson 17), Strauss.
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