Glasgow Warriors win but the acid test is still to come

This match was a home banker and never really in doubt from the moment that Callum Gibbins scored the first of Glasgow’s five tries as early as the fifth minute of the match.

Glasgow lock Scott Cummings goes over for the fifth and final try of the evening, following good attacking play. Picture: SNS/SRU.
Glasgow lock Scott Cummings goes over for the fifth and final try of the evening, following good attacking play. Picture: SNS/SRU.

Glasgow’s front row went well, earning a yellow card for one Cheetahs prop and dominating the set scrums. Ruaridh Jackson made one outrageous offload that had the crowd on their feet, but the full-back was unable to lay a finger on the Cheetahs Willilam Small-Smith when the winger grabbed the visitors’ opening try in some style.

But the question on everyone’s lips after the game was whether a blow-out against the team that plays the fastest rugby in a league known for its speed, is ideal preparation for a Champions Cup quarter-final at Allianz Park against Saracens, who throw a defensive blanket over you and smother you to death.

“It just shows that we can play that attacking brand of rugby that we’ve been doing all year,” said Glasgow No 8 Matt Fagerson, pictured. “There were a few lapses at times but our ‘D’ held firm and we were really, really physical.

“Last time we went down there [to Allianz Park] we matched them [Saracens] physically and especially when they came up here. Sarries are massive boys but their skill set is so good as well. It will be massive going into next week.

“I thought up here, you don’t want to make excuses, but I thought we were unlucky to finish with the score that we did [3-13]. I thought the boys put in an exceptional performance. We reviewed it and we went back down there and again the boys put on a great show for 60 minutes. That time at the end we came off the pace so it will definitely need to be an 80-minute performance.”

The young breakaway was the man of the match on Saturday, although there were any number of candidates who put their hands up, specifically the centre pairing of Stafford McDowell and Kyle Steyn. They offer coach Dave Rennie some options next weekend with Nick Grigg injured.

Both men bring with them a physicality that Glasgow’s back line has not always boasted and both men scored well-taken tries. One of them is almost certain to start outside Sam Johnson next weekend. The South African Steyn is more comfortable in the No 13 shirt having played most of his rugby there, but Rennie did flag the possibility that he could turn out on the wing.

Glasgow’s other tries came from Rory Hughes when the winger found space through the middle of an attacking breakdown and Scott Cummings, when the big lock benefitted from some good attacking play from Nick Frisby.

The Cheetahs got three tries, two of which went to speedster Small-Smith who scored at the start and the very end of the match. Somewhere in the middle replacement hooker/flanker Joseph Dweba was sent through a large hole in the Glasgow line.

Peter Horne limped off the field just after the 50 minute mark but should be fit for selection against Saracens and everyone else emerged unscathed from Saturday’s match.

Saracens are struggling a little in 2019 with three league losses to Bath, Gloucester and Sale, although none of the defeats occurred at their Allianz Park.

On Saturday afternoon they were trailing Harlequins at half time at the London Stadium before they flexed their muscles in the second half which they won 21-3. Might Saracens’ aura of invincibility be a little tarnished at the moment?

“When Saracens can’t play up-front football they may find it difficult to spread it out wide and get that tempo that they want from the game,” Fagerson said, but he could have said the same about almost any team. “But they are a quality side, we are not going to take them lightly at all, and we know they are double European Champions and we have to take that for what it is. They are massive, massive challenge.”