IT MAY have been St David’s Day but that didn’t stop Glasgow from getting the better of the Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun Stadium last night.
Glasgow – Tries: Horne, Matawalu (2), Weir. Cons: Weir (3). Pen: Weir.
Cardiff – Try: Navidi. Con: Patchell. Pen Patchell (2)
The host team showed their fighting spirit to register their seventh consecutive league victory. The bonus point try on 64 minutes, combined with Ulster’s unexpected draw with Treviso, means that Glasgow sit proudly at the top of the league this morning thanks to superior points difference, with five more rounds of the regular season still to play.
They did it the hard way, trailing at the break and leaving it until the second half to make their dominance count on the score board with Niko Matawalu claiming a brace – and how he didn’t add the man of the match is anyone’s guess.
Glasgow coach paid tribute to Matawalu as well as early substitute Tom Ryder, saying: “You could see how tiring the game was especially after that mammoth effort against Ulster last week. The bench did very well, Tom Ryder coming on so early and Niko plays as well on the wing as he does at scrum-half.”
There are many unsolved mysteries in the universe but few as unfathomable as trying to work out exactly how the Irish referee George Clancy worked his way to the top of his profession. Glasgow drove a scrum ten metres and the Irishman gave Cardiff the put in at the reset. Glasgow drove them backwards again and Clancy awarded Cardiff a straight arm penalty...not that it mattered on the night.
Glasgow came out of the blocks like they wanted this one won inside the first 20 minutes and, had their execution matched their ambition, it could have been so. The home team should have had several tries but poor hands or poor decisions spoilt most of them.
The first score came on 15 minutes, and it came from Peter Horne who is carving out a name for himself this season in the Glasgow midfield. The opener was a worth waiting for but it had been coming as Glasgow enjoyed all the early pressure. Duncan Weir went wide with a long range penalty, while Byron McGuigan latched onto a Cardiff pass but didn’t quite have the gas to get away and shoddy handling ruined a scoring chance on either flank.
When it finally all came together it came out of absolutely nothing. Horne got the ball just outside the Cardiff 22, he stepped inside the drift defence and handed off one Blues defender and then another on his serene way to the try line.
Even before the opening score Glasgow had been forced to reshuffle their pack when Tim Swinson came off second best in a teeth-loosening tackle on the giant prop Taufa’ao Filise. He was replaced by Tom Ryder but the injuries continued and in bizarre circumstances. Horne made to kick the ball downfield but was prevented form doing so by Gordon Reid’s head. The big prop needed attention just to make it off the field and was replaced by the Tongan Ofa Fainga’anuku after half an hour.
Cardiff worked themselves back into contention, orchestrated beautifully by the young fly-half Rhys Patchell who ran one ball from behind his own try line and made 50 metres because of it. The try was a back row effort. First up No 8 Luke Hamilton made the initial break up the middle of the park and a few plays later his breakaway colleague Josh Navadi burrowed over from inches. Patchell and Weir both converted the tries and the pair exchanged penalties that gave Cardiff a narrow 13-10 lead at half time and Glasgow had a game on their hands.
Cardiff would have extended their lead but for some defensive heroics by Al Kellock and little Niko Matawalu. The next intervention by the little Fijian favourite was even more impressive. Matawalu was shunted to the wing to give Henry Pyrgos a rum at nine and almost immediately he justified the switch. Horne kicked high and recovered the ball which had been spilled, Pyrgos found Matawalu on the right wing and the Fijian flyer found the line with a kick and chase.
With that breakthrough and the lead Glasgow made the game look easy. A long series of attacks ended with Duncan Weir going over for the third score with most of the final quarter left to go in search of the bonus point score. It was almost pre-ordained that when the touchdown arrived it would come courtesy of the little Fijian buzz bomb with 15 minutes left on the clock.
Townsend added: “The first half was unacceptable. To be 13-10 down the pressure was on and they responded very well.
“Getting to first place is good because we know we have some tough games now. It’s fantastic to get another bonus point and five matches with maximum points is a league record.”
Glasgow: Murchie, McGuigan, Dunbar, Horne, Van der Merwe, Weir, Matawalu; Reid, MacArthur, Welsh, Swinson, Kellock, Strauss, Barclay, Wilson. Subs: Ryder for Swinson (10 mins), Fainga’anuku for Reid (30), Low for Welsh (40), Pyrgos for McGuigan (53), Morrison for Horne (55), Wright for Weir (65), Brown for MacArthur (77).
Cardiff: Czekaj, Williams, Smith, Evans, Robinson; Patchell, Walker; Filise, Dacey, Bourrust, Reed, Down, Watts-Jones, Navidi, Hamilton. Subs: Hobbs for Bourrust (40), Cook for Down (50), Breeze for Dacey (50), Williams for Walker (50).