GLASGOW romped to their best ever win in Celtic competition as they inflicted the worst ever defeat on the Dragons to keep up the pressure on Ulster at the top of the Rabo Direct.
Scorers: Dragons: Pen – Prydie; Glasgow: Tries – Bennettt, Matawalu, Horne, Paris, Swinson (2), Strauss, Thomson. Cons – Weir (5), Weir (2). Pens – Weir (2).
It was a firm statement of intent that they are set on getting one of the top four places and also gunning for a first home semi-final with this comprehensive performance which started well and got better as they stormed to eight tries away from home.
They showed pace and handling ability, recycled effectively – in the end it was almost too easy for Gregor Townsend’s team who shrugged off the absence of their international stars to give Scottish rugby a major boost.
The Dragons were not great, but this was a story of Glasgow being good and wearing their opponents down with some verve and skill. Given the amount of young players on display, this really was an encouraging match for the future of Glasgow and Scotland.
Glasgow did lose wing Byron McGuigan in the warm up which meant reserve scrum half Niko Matawalu moving to the wing and Taylor Paris coming onto the bench.
Neither side’s pre-match demeanor would have been helped by the presence of an Italian referee, either. Claudio Blessano handed out a couple of soft breakdown penalties for Tom Prydie and Duncan Weir to get their respective sides on the scoreboard with a successful kick at goal each.Rabo Direct Pro 12 second placed Glasgow were generally going into the game with some confidence after god run has seen them with only Ulster above them in the table. They were only missing around half a team to international commitments – pretty good at this time of year – and there was excitement about the midfield debut of Mark Bennett after his man-of-the-match performance for Scotland Under 20’s last weekend.
He confirmed that excitement with the first try. No 8 and captain Ryan Wilson made the first half break as Glasgow looked to keep the ball in hand, with the forwards working their way up to the Dragons try line.
When the ball eventually was released to the backs, Bennett was able to neatly sidestep his way over with ease.
The good news kept coming as Glasgow quickly worked their way back into the Dragons half.
Scrum half Henry Pyrgos, released by Scotland to get some game time, chip-kicked over the top and a wicked bounce undid the defence allowing Matawalu to claim the ball and score.
Weir converted both tries and also added another penalty from wide out to take Glasgow to 20 points after an impressive opening 25 minutes.
Jonny Gray, a slightly shorter and broader version of Scotland lock and older brother Richie, got a taste of the action as a blood replacement for Tim Swinson – showing he is ready to mix it with his elders and will merit a few starts before the season is out.
Glasgow rounded off a superb first half with their third try just before the break, Weir putting Peter Horne through the middle on a simple scissors, the centre bursting through the weak tackling to put his side 27-3 ahead at half-time with Weir maintaining his 100% kicking record.
Quite simply the home side had to get better after the break and the Dragons did come out with much more fire.
It took some good last-ditch tackling by the Scots to hold their line, but they held out and it is a sign of their developing strength in depth that despite the international calls they were able to bring someone like South African Josh Strauss off the bench to add impetus.
However it was another change which brought the greatest delight for Glasgow. Pyrgos was replaced by Paris on the hour, with Matawulu moving to his preferred scrum half berth.
Within seconds of coming onto the pitch, having not expectd een to be part of the match squad, Paris was bursting through the middle, using support to dummy his way out of the tackles and sprint over beside the posts.
He went over the dead ball line to celebrate his remarkable introduction while all 14 teammates rushed to join in one big celebratory huddle – and not just because the try secured their bonus point. Weir continued to rub salt in the Dragons wounds with the conversion.
Glasgow brought on Gerwyn Price, the hooker on load from Cross Keys a few miles up the road and his introduction was greeted by part of the crowd who had got used to being very quiet by this stage.
Having got the bonus point, Glasgow started to run wild. Second row Tim Swinson went over from a lineout drie, Strauss finished off another move and Glasgow were happy to run the ball from anywhere.
Swinson got his second and the rout was finished by replacement back Fraser Thomson getting the eighth.
Dragons: D Evans; W Harries, P Leach, J Dixon, T Prydie; S Jones, J Evans; O Evans, H Gustafson, N Buck, I Nimmo, A Jones, L Evans (Capt), N Cudd, I Jones. Subs: S Parry for Gustafson 68, A Coundley for Evans 66, N Williams for Buck 68, J Tyler for Nimmo 71, J Groves for Cudd 68, W Evans for J Evans 60, A Hughes for Leach 66, H Amos for S Jones 56.
Glasgow: P Murchie; N Matawalu, M Bennett, A Dunbar, DTH van der Merwe; D Weir, H Pyrgos; G Reid, P MacArthur, J Welsh, T Swinson, T Ryder, J Eddie, J Barclay, R Wilson (Capt). Subs: G Price for MacArthur 66, O Fainga’anuku for Reid 59, E Kalman for Welsh 64, J Gray for Swinson 25-37 for Wilson 60, J Strauss for Eddie 51, Taylor Paris for Pyrgos 56, F Thomson for Murchie 68.