Glasgow were fortunate to hold on for a victory against Cardiff in this Pro14 cross-conference fixture, but after two defeats in a row, the sheer fact of the win was more important than the manner in which it was achieved. And at least, while still some way short of the form they would like to be in, the Warriors are improving, albeit in a patchy manner.
Their inconsistency was evident in the manner of this win, which saw them race into a 14-point lead before going on to just about hold on. Their problem last week had been the time it took them to get up to a decent tempo – and the lapses of concentration they suffered before getting there – so at least here they showed straight from kick-off that they were determined not to repeat those defects.
Twice in the opening minutes they turned down simple kicks at goal to send a penalty to touch, and at the second time of asking they piled over the try line straight from the lineout, with captain Callum Gibbins being credited with the score. Brandon Thomson converted from wide on the right, and the Warriors had exactly the start they wanted.
It got better, too, as the second try came just two minutes later. Nick Grigg was the creator with the half-break, and although his pass still left Nick Frisby with some work to do, the scrum-half was equal to the task, changing direction cleverly to evade what was left of the Blues defence.
Thomson added two more points, but if we thought we were in for a relaxing evening, we quickly had to think again. A lineout drive gave Cardiff a good platform for the first time in the match, and a delayed pass saw Aled Summerhill break through a flimsy defence to open Cardiff’s account with a try which Jarrod Evans converted. Just inside the second quarter, however, the stand-off added a penalty from the ten-metre line.
The half ended in ill-tempered fashion, and with Cardiff on top, leaving the Warriors with it all to do all over again in the second 40 despite their commanding start to the contest. They needed the next score, and they got it a few minutes after the restart through a Thomson penalty from the edge of the 22 – only for Evans to quickly reply. Then, in what was an increasingly frenetic encounter, a Glasgow attack was held up over the Blues line.
With barely quarter of an hour to go, Evans missed a long-range penalty, then Cardiff came close to running in a try in the right corner. Glasgow needed a break, and they got one when Blues lock Rory Thornton was sinbinned for taking out Ruairidh Jackson in the air. As in the first half, the option of kicking for goal was passed up in favour of the lineout. The first drive was stopped illegally, so they tried again, only to be held up, legitimately this time.
With five minutes to go, Thomson missed touch with a penalty from inside his own half that would have given his team a chance to build an attack while running down the clock. But Cardiff were error-prone too, and although they had one last play in which to snatch the game, their attack was snuffed out.
“It was important,” said Glasgow coach Dave Rennie of the hard-fought victory. “Probably a bit ugly in the end, but important we got a result tonight. We started well, but our first defensive set was really poor. On the whole they won the battle post-tackle. [Cardiff openside and man of the match] Olly Robinson was outstanding – he caused a bit of havoc.”
Glasgow won’t be back in Pro14 action for another two weeks and Rennie has mixed feelings about the lay-off. “We’d sooner keep playing, to be honest,” he explained. “But we’ve got a couple of bumps and bruises, and the break gives us a chance to get a couple of guys back on the field.”