Glasgow 10 - 10 Leinster: Warriors drawn into a battle
With both sides shorn of their Six Nations players and Glasgow chasing a play-off place, the home side came within touching distance of claiming their first-ever double over RaboDirect Pro12 leaders Leinster last night.
Only a late penalty by visiting full-back Isa Nacewa denied them a victory that coach Sean Lineen knew was there for the taking.
“There’s no doubting the effort and our defence was outstanding, but this was hugely frustrating,” said Lineen. “It’s all about our composure and decision-making at crucial times, and this leaves us needing to go and win at the Ospreys next week. We’ve got three games left, with two of them at home, but it’s now all about us fronting up next week.”
In fairness to Lineen, this was a horribly tight-run affair from the get-go. In a dull first half characterised by driving drizzle and some protracted bouts of aimless aerial ping-pong, Glasgow were well-served by Peter Murchie’s rock-solid performance under the high ball. In attack, however, they failed to make the most of a handful of clean line breaks. Wing David Lemi was the first to scythe through Leinster’s porous midfield, setting off a passage of excellent interpassing down the left wing in which Troy Nathan was to the fore. The same two players were again instrumental in Glasgow’s next foray behind Leinster lines, this time the ball failing to go to hand.
But, by far the most frustrating failure to turn pressure into points came halfway through the first half when Glasgow made a series of drives in the Leinster 22, the last of which, from second row Tom Ryder, saw the home side recycle quick ball right under Leinster’s posts, only for Henry Pyrgos to knock on and the move founder. The breakthrough arrived on 27 minutes after Ruaridh Jackson had already spurned one long-range penalty chance, only to be presented with another when Leinster wheeled a scrum just outside their own 22. The stand-off’s kick from the touchline was never in doubt, arrowing between the uprights to give Glasgow a deserved 3-0 lead that they held into the interval.
If the first half was a damp squib, the second crackled into life five minutes after the restart with the break which was to put Glasgow in the box seat. The catalyst was lock Ryder, who broke down the blindside, galloping into the Leinster half and drawing right wing Dave Kearney before feeding hooker Pat Macarthur, who found himself in acres of space with the try line beckoning.
Yet, as the little hoooker scuttled towards the whitewash, Nacewa roared across the pitch and, just as the Glasgow No.2 dived towards the line, hit the hooker broadsides, knocking him into the flag even as he dotted the ball down. Referee John Lacey went upstairs to the TMO, but there seemed little point as the hooker had clearly hit the flag before touching down. Yet Lacey signalled his verdict by running under the posts: Nacewa had failed to use his arms in the tackle and, as well as the award of a penalty try, spent the next ten minutes in the sin bin.
As Wales proved earlier in the day, losing a man can fire up a team, and Leinster dominated the period that Nacewa spent on the naughty step. Glasgow seemed powerless to disrupt their Munster-esque series of close drives, and when burly No.8 Leo Avua’a punched a hole through Glasgow’s first line of defence the home side were on the back foot. A further succession of phases ended with South African loosehead Heinke Van der Merwe being driven over under the posts, with stand-off Ian Madigan converting to make it 10-7 with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Then, with prop Gordon Reid penalised for failing to release just outside Glasgow’s 22, Nacewa kicked the points to bring Leinster level.
The result suits Leinster but does little for a Glasgow side which has lost ground on the top three and remains mired in a four-way race for the final play-off slot.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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