IN the last act of Glasgow Warriors’ pre-season they enjoyed a punchy display against Aviva Premiership opponents Exeter Chiefs, creating several scoring opportunities and scrambling manfully in defence to ensure the narrowest of victories.
Scorers: Exeter – Tries: James 2. Cons: Steenson 2. Pens: Steenson 4. Glasgow – Tries: McGuigan 2, Dunbar, Bennett. Cons: Wight 2, Russell. Pen: Wight.
In winning 29-26 Glasgow showed great adventure, with Byron McGuigan scampering to a brace while Alex Dunbar carried his impressive form from Scotland’s summer tour of South Africa into the beginning of this new season. The result also benefited the west coast outfit on two fronts, helping coach Gregor Townsend to plan for the Pro12 opener against Cardiff Blues at home on Friday, and to do some homework on their Heineken Cup pool rivals. “It was probably the perfect preparation for next week,” Townsend said.
“You play to win, so that was pleasing and there were errors which pleases the coaches because we get to work on things during the week, but there were a lot of positives. Our defence, when we stuck to our structures, was good and our attack was good. I spoke to one of the guys about playing Exeter in the Heineken, and it’s difficult because psychological edges mean nothing, but it’s good to know what their game’s about.
“We know they put a lot of pressure at the breakdown and they do a couple of things differently in attack – keeping both sides of the ruck open.”
Elite referee Wayne Barnes was keen to put his imprint on the game early on, with both stand-offs allowed to swap penalty kicks before a yellow card was brandished just 10 minutes into the contest. Glasgow fans were only just salivating over the thought of a bright future for second-row Jonny Gray when he took a lineout deep in Chiefs territory and his pack patiently built up a drive, but prop Brett Sturgess skittled the Warriors to earn some time in the sin bin.
With extra room on the pitch and men piling in at the breakdown, there was a chance for a lively Glasgow back three to roam. Twice Peter Murchie and Tommy Seymour combined to manufacture one-on-ones with Chiefs full-back Luke Arscott; twice kicking over the top achieved nothing.
It looked like Glasgow were able to create gaps but lacked the killer instinct to score. That was, until McGuigan greased his heels and eyed the grass behind his opposite man. There was no stopping him once Dunbar thumped a kick in the direction of Arscott and as the ball skidded off him it fell perfectly for sevens specialist McGuigan to dribble through and take his try.
Glasgow’s forwards hardly broke sweat as they set about defending their tryline from a doughty drive from the hosts, bombarding rucks with Tyrone Holmes and Rob Harley – the latter doing what he does best in tugging shirts and drawing the ire of the opposition half-backs – but Exeter only had a third penalty from Gareth Steenson to show for it.
Meanwhile McGuigan was hunting for work, first running through sloppy defence and almost unleashing Murchie, only missing out thanks to a trailing Chiefs hand, and then bagging his second try when he danced, let the packs wrestle a bit and then profited from impressively quick hands from Richie Vernon and Sean Lamont.
The coaches made changes on either side of half-time, as is their wont during pre-season matches, and after the break Glasgow replied by flinging more passes out of the tackle. Clearly buoyed after his first-half antics, McGuigan sparked another attack in which Jerry Yanuyanutawa and Lamont were able to lace passes and a rampaging Dunbar emphatically announced his presence by blitzing through weak tackling to score.
Barnes was drawn back to his pocket when Henry Pyrgos was adjudged to have killed the ball on 51 minutes. The extra numbers told eight minutes later when Tom James streaked in behind a rushing defence, scoring without a finger being laid on him. With the game close, Glasgow could have planned for their first Pro12 match by tightening up, but they made a slew of changes for the last 20 minutes.
Mark Bennett got on the pitch and in two minutes he had made the biggest hit of the game, ending Jason Shoemark’s afternoon, before scoring Glasgow’s fourth. James got his second try with the last play but it was too late to steal the result.
Townsend added: “We played some good rugby and for our second hit out it was a good exercise. I’m happy with the squad depth ahead of the new season. We used 27 players and we used a similar number last week against Harlequins. It was good to see Leone Nakarawa and Jerry Yanuyanutawa get their first run outs for the club.
“We made a few changes at half-time and then again with 20 minutes to go to give everyone some game time and when Exeter came back into the game I was pleased that the players still managed to score a fourth try to seal the win.”
Exeter Chiefs: Arscott; Vainikolo, Dollman, Shoemark, Whitten; Steenson, Thomas; Sturgess, Yeandle, Rimmer, Mumm, Welch, White, Johnson, Ewers. Subs used: Moon, Brown, Hayes, Graham, Phillips, Chudley, Lewis, Sweeney, James, Hill, Jess.
Glasgow Warriors: Murchie; Seymour, Lamont, Dunbar, McGuigan; Wight, Pyrgos; Low, Brown, Welsh, Swinson, Gray, Harley, Holmes, Vernon. Subs used: MacArthur, Kalman, Yanuyanutawa, Nakarawa, Cusiter, Russell, Ascarate, Bennett, Eddie, Fusaro, Reid, Gillies.