NO team likes to lose, but in the circumstances Gregor Townsend will not have too many sleepless nights agonising over this failure to hold onto a nine-point lead during the final 15 minutes.
This was Harlequins’ third and final run-out of their pre-season programme, while the Warriors were back in action for the first time since losing the Pro 12 Final against Leinster back in May – but there was no obvious deficit in terms of match sharpness.
Against a physical and highly experienced opposition, the Warriors looked potent in attack, and stuck to their guns in defence. Given that they are still resting a number of internationalists, and were blooding several new faces, this was a pretty impressive showing.
“The first thing you look at in a pre-season game is how the guys are conditioned and I think we looked really good in the first 15 minutes when there were no set-pieces, and as the game wore on the guys continued to look good physically and the players coming off the bench also did well,” agreed Townsend.
“Every game you play you want to win so that is disappointing. We’ve got to make sure we stay switched on right to the end, but I’m generally pleased with where we are.”
Having said all that, Townsend was quick to point out that it would be foolish to read too much into one pre-season jaunt.
“Last year we scored five down at Exeter in our pre-season [but they then struggled to grind out wins when the season proper got under way] so it will depend on a lot of things like the conditions and the opposition we’re facing. Leinster is our first league game and they are an excellent defensive team, so that will be a big challenge,” he reasoned.
“The pleasing thing is that the skill level was high, there was some really good passing under pressure to put the wingers free, and good support lines being run.”
The Warriors drew first blood when Duncan Weir punished a Harlequins offside with a straightforward penalty, but the home side were never going to have it all their own way against a Harlequins team packed with international quality.
Mike Brown, Marland Yarde, Ugo Monye, Nick Evans and Danny Care were all in a classy visiting backline, but it was the power and savvy of a pack containing Joe Marler, Nick Easter and England captain Chris Robshaw which provided the impetus for the London side’s domination of the next quarter of an hour. After several minutes encamped by the Warriors’ line, Harlequins eventually got their reward when Easter won a line-out and Marler rumbled over.
On a sunny afternoon in west Glasgow, the holiday mood was not replicated on the park, with Leone Nakarawa picking up a yellow card after a bad-tempered scuffle. It was hard not to feel sorry for the big Fijian, who was understandably irritated after he had set up a sweeping attack which was carried on by Murray McConnell and Weir before the ball was snaffled by a Harlequin lying on the wrong side of a ruck.
The niggling continued, and Care soon joined Nakarawa on the naughty step after another shoving match. By this time, Weir had closed the gap to a single point with his second penalty of the afternoon.
An overthrow at a Warriors line-out gave Kyle Sinckler a clear run to the line at the start of the second half, and the big prop didn’t need a second invitation to touch down.
Niko Matawalu had come on for Murray McConnell at half-time and he wasted little time in reminding the Scotstoun faithful of why he is such a firm crowd favourite, with two quick-fire tries which exhibited a fine balance of ingenuity and pace.
It was a red letter day for DTH van der Merwe, who was playing his first game for the club since injuring his shoulder in training eight months ago, and the Canadian winger marked the occasion in fine style by intercepting a loose pass and showing phenomenal pace when leaving Yarde floundering in his wake as he raced home from 80 yards.
That score made it 23-14 with just 15 minutes to go and the Warriors looked likely to cruise to victory, but they then took their foot off the gas and paid the price when tries from Ollie Lindsay Hague and Yarde squeezed Harlequins back into the lead.
Glasgow: Tries: Matawalu 2, van der Merwe. Con: Weir. Pens: Weir 2.
Harlequins: Tries: Marler, Sinckler, Lindsay-Hague, Yarde. Cons: Evans 2.
Glasgow: P Murchie; L Jones, M Bennett, J Downey, R Hughes; D Weir, M McConnell; A Allan F Brown, E Murray, J Gray, L Nakarawa, J Eddie, T Holmes, J Strauss.
Subs: F Scott, D van der Merwe, N Matawalu J Yanuyanutawa, R De Klerk, R Harley, C Fusaro, P Horne, P MacArthur, C Braid.
Harlequins: M Brown; M Yarde, M Hopper, J Turner Hall, U Monye; N Evans, D Care (K Dickson 45); J Marler (M Lambert 40), J Gray, K Sinckler, C Matthews, G Robson, L Wallace, C Robshaw, N Easter. Subs: M Lambert, K Dickson, R Buchanan, P Doran Jones, G Merrick, B Botica, R Chisholm.
Referee: Neil Paterson. Attendance: 3,849