Remember the school bully in the playground who would stick your head in an arm lock and keep it there no matter how much wriggling you did. That is exactly what Exeter did to Glasgow on Saturday evening at Sandy Park.
Bullying is lauded in rugby and, if a team are allowed to get away with it, they will. Now that Exeter have shown everyone the way, Glasgow are going to have to face down a lot of bullies in this competition.
Dave Rennie’s team want to play fast and loose but they came up across a brick-wall defence on Saturday evening, with Exeter committing almost no bodies to the breakdown to ensure that the line was well manned throughout. It was no surprise that Glasgow’s twin tries both came from kicks.
All three of Exeter’s tries came from big men barging their way over the Glasgow line, two in the first half, the third coming with the two teams just inches from the finishing line, denying Glasgow the losing bonus.
All of Exeter’s tries came after Glasgow indiscipline gave the home side the opportunity to stick the ball into the corner and turn the screw.
The 5-12 penalty count tells you who was squeezing and who was squealing.
The visitors knew what was coming, as Ali Price conceded after the match, but still proved powerless to halt the English juggernaut in its tracks.
“You have to credit Exeter,” said the scrum-half. “They held on to the ball well and they stopped us playing.
“We weren’t accurate and, in the end, that gave them the ball back to get back into our half and muscle up with their forwards. They scored three tries off the back of that but it comes down to us not being accurate.
“There are a couple of things we would have done differently when we got into the 22. On occasions we should have tightened it up a bit more. They were very good at that in our 22 and we struggled to cope.
“We’ve played teams similar to them this season. I think Exeter were just better at it. Mixed in with that there were a few mistakes and the bounce of the ball didn’t go our way at times. Things didn’t quite click for us.
“We planned for Exeter all week and we knew what was coming. Their three tries were from forwards, off the back of getting into our 22. It’s our own faults and our inaccuracies.”
Whether Glasgow have the personnel to combat the brute strength of a team like Exeter is a moot point but they certainly didn’t help themselves with poor handling exacerbated by a greasy ball despite the perfect weather.
The pitch was soaking wet which makes you wonder if Exeter watered it in anticipation of Glasgow’s high- tempo style.
Glasgow’s game has a lot of moving parts and they all came together in one purple patch in the middle of the second half.
The forwards were making dents in the Chiefs’ defence, the backs looked threatening and then someone spilled a pass and Exeter had an easy out.
It happens all too often. Glasgow players make too many handling errors and Finn Russell was a case in point. He had some nice touches, setting up both of Glasgow’s tries for Tommy Seymour and Lee Jones with a cross-field nudge and a little grubber up the line, but Russell started the match by kicking dead, he continually found Exeter’s two back field defenders with his clearances and he dropped a pass under no pressure whatsoever. And he was one of the better players in black.
“We didn’t hold the ball well enough,” admitted Price, “and they’re a team that holds the ball the most in the Premiership. We didn’t play the territory well enough and they held the ball for large parts of the game. They had the momentum for a large part of the time.”
The statistics back him up. It says something of Glasgow’s spirit and obduracy that Dave Rennie’s team survived on 39 per cent of possession and a mere 32 per cent of territory and were only trailing by just two points inside the final three minutes when Sam Simmonds’ last-gasp effort snatched the consolation bonus point out of Rennie’s despairing hand.
Somehow the Kiwi coach must lift his deflated squad ahead of the visit of Leinster next Saturday.
Europe can unravel at alarming speed and, having lost their opening game and failed to land any points in the process, Glasgow are effectively entering the knockout phases of this competition a little earlier than they would have wished.
“Next week will be different,” promised Price. “We’re all disappointed in the result, but Leinster is a whole different game. We will look at them on Monday and go again.
“We know what we need to do. Munster is the closest thing we’ve put out there yet as to how we are looking to exploit teams.
“If we can build performances off the Munster one, then we will be going in the right direction and picking up wins.”