Scarlets 6 - 9 Glasgow: Russell wins it for Warriors

Glasgow Warriors' Leone Nakarawa claims a lineout''. Picture: Ian Cook/CameraSport
Glasgow Warriors' Leone Nakarawa claims a lineout''. Picture: Ian Cook/CameraSport
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Should Glasgow end up reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup they will owe a great deal to this gutsy second-half defensive effort with just 13 men on the field that sealed a narrow win over a dogged Scarlets outfit.

The Warriors had looked in control when Finn Russell booted them into a 9-0 lead on a wet and windy night in Llanelli. But two yellow cards in quick succession for Sean Lamont and Simone Favaro swung the momentum back in favour of the Welsh side with Aled Thomas trimming the lead to just three points.

But Gregor Townsend’s men held on to move to within a point of second-placed Northampton in Pool 3 with a game in hand following the cancellation of last month’s tournament opener against Racing 92 following the Paris terror attacks.

Glasgow had simply overrun the Welsh region in the first fixture of this double-header at Scotstoun last weekend, with winger Taqele Naiyaravoro running in a hat-trick.

Conditions last night meant a repeat was never on the cards.

Gusting winds and torrential rainfall made for sodden conditions, fiendishly difficult for handling and hardly conducive to producing five-try victories. The arm wrestle against a Scarlets side smarting from last weekend’s capitulation would be key.

The visitors defied the testing conditions during the early going with a well-worked attack that should have yielded the opening try.

Russell spotted Mark Bennett lurking outside the narrow home defence and his cross-kick was on the money. The centre quickly shifted the ball to Lamont, who cut infield but ignored the possibility of a return ball to Bennett which would have sent him racing in at the corner.

There was at least the comfort of three points for Townsend’s men when Scarlets No.8 Morgan Allen cynically tripped Tommy Seymour as the full-back chased his own kick.

The sense of adventure, while admirable, nearly cost Glasgow a few minutes later. The decision to try and play out of their own territory with ball in hand allowed Wales lock Jake Ball to get his hands over an isolated ball carrier and win a penalty, only for Thomas to spurn the opportunity with an ugly kick.

The Scarlets were soon back on the front foot. Russell putting a penalty kick to touch dead in goal from just inside his own 10-yard line. The hosts worked their way into the Glasgow 22 and forced a five-metre attacking lineout, but bungled the execution.

The scrum was proving to be one area where the Scarlets were enjoying a real dominance, with Samson Lee getting the edge on Alex Allan and turning the screw on the Warriors front row. It was giving scrum-half Davies the platform to cause havoc with some trademark sniping runs down the blindside, but the Wales international was soon having to steer the ship without the help of half-back partner Thomas.

The fly-half recovered well to haul down Russell as his opposite number feinted through a half-gap, but blotted his copybook by batting the ball away as the Scotland international prepared to offload, earning himself a ten-minute spell in the sin-bin.

It also allowed Russell to double the Glasgow lead with his second penalty attempt, but he could not make it three from three when the Warriors front row were awarded the honours at a collapsed scrum.

The conditions were ensuring an even contest, but it was Glasgow who were proving to be the more streetwise. They used their first attacking platform of the second half to rumble a rolling maul through the heart of the Scarlets pack, earning another penalty, with Russell making no mistake this time for a 9-0 lead.

Just as Glasgow gave themselves breathing space, the home side responded. The Warriors were turned over near the edge of their own 22 and Allen took the Scarlets towards the line. As the pressure increased Lamont was carded for repeating Thomas’ first-half offence of playing the ball on the floor. The Scarlets fly-half got his side on the board from the resulting penalty.

Favaro soon joined Lamont in the sin bin for a late charge on the Scarlets 10 and, having looked so comfortable, Glasgow suddenly had to survive seven minutes with a two-man disadvantage.

Matters only got worse for Glasgow when replacement scrum-half Grayson Hart landed heavily on his neck after colliding with Russell fielding a high kick. With Mike Blair also having left the field for a head injury, it briefly forced wing Lee Jones into emergency No.9 duties.

But the Scarlets could not make any headway and only added a second Thomas penalty despite their numerical advantage.

Scorers: Scarlets: Pens: A Thomas 2. Warriors: Pens: F Russell 3.

Scarlets: M Collins; S Evans, G Owen, H Parkes, DTH van der Merwe; A Thomas, G Davies (A Davies 67); R Evans (W Jones 74), E Phillips (K Owens 54), S Lee (R Jones 67), J Ball, M Paulino (G Earle 54), L Rawlins, J Condy, M Allen.

Warriors: T Seymour; T Naiyaravoro, M Bennett, A Dunbar (L Jones 79), S Lamont; F Russell (D Weir 60), M Blair (G Hart 43)(L Jones 62-67); A Allan (G Reid 50), F Brown, S Puafisi (Z Fagerson 67), L Nakarawa, J Gray (T Swinson 31), R Harley (R Wilson 43), S Favaro, J Strauss.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (Fra). Attendance: 5,767.