IF they are to experience the knockout phase of European competition for the first time in their history, Glasgow will have to do it the hard way. They have two matches remaining, Montpellier at home and Bath on the road, and you fancy they will need to win both to give themselves a decent chance of progressing.
Yesterday’s bonus point means that Glasgow sit third in Pool 4 behind Toulouse and Bath. They are level on points with Bath, but the English club will fancy their chances at home against a side that looks to have lost its way a little.
In fairness, Glasgow were improved on last Sunday, the forwards generated some quick front-foot ball largely by attacking a little wider from the breakdown, but the quick men in the back line lacked the creative juices needed to break down a highly disciplined Toulouse defence. In fact, both defences were on top in what was a disappointing spectacle all round with neither side able to score a try.
The closest Glasgow came to grabbing a five-pointer was when Henry Pyrgos prodded a grubber kick in behind the rushing red defence but the ball got to the touchline before Tommy Seymour could get to it. In 160 minutes of rugby against a top European team Glasgow managed just one try and even that needed the help of a forward pass.
Glasgow’s lack of penetration was illustrated at the end of the first half when some determined pressure on Toulouse’s ball carriers earned the home side good field position on the opposition 22. The ball was shipped to the right, the ball was swung to the left and so it went on, back and forth, but not once did the thin red Toulouse line look like being breached and eventually Glasgow made a handling error.
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Last weekend, Glasgow’s indiscipline cost them the game and yesterday afternoon it may just have cost them a place in the European quarter-finals as one six-minute slice of the action illustrates.
On 18 minutes, the home side conceded a penalty at a set scrum and Toulouse opted to kick for an attacking lineout. A few short phases later and Tim Swinson was pinged in the shadow of his own posts for not rolling. Sebastien Bezy kicked that penalty on 20 minutes and a little later the scrummy was lining up another shot after Alex Dunbar needlessly came around the side of a ruck.
That kick took off like a rocket on Guy Fawkes night, low, ugly and nowhere near the sticks to the delight of the increasingly frustrated crowd, but shortly after Glasgow worked their way into a good attacking position deep inside Toulouse territory only to give the visitors an easy out with yet another penalty, this time for holding on in a ruck.
In a game that was always going to be nip and tuck penalties were vital and while Glasgow only conceded 11 (to ten from Toulouse), where they were conceded on the field was all important. Bezy kicked all 12 of Toulouse’s points, Finn Russell responded with just one penalty of his own, while Glasgow’s other points came from replacement Duncan Weir late in the game.
Russell has enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent months but the last two matches have been a sobering experience for the young stand-off. His yellow card cost Glasgow last weekend and he picked a bad day to have a bad day with the boot yesterday. Russell missed two simple kicks that would be “gimmies” on another day. Stuart Hogg also missed one from long range...where is Mark Bennett when you need him?
Russell made his second slice at the posts on 44 minutes, while in contrast Bezy was coolness personified when he slotted home his third penalty four minutes later and his fourth on 58 minutes to give his side a 12-3 lead.
If it didn’t sound much it proved just enough.
With this match edging away from Glasgow, coach Gregor Townsend went to the bench and Glasgow finished the match the stronger of the two teams thanks to Weir, who kicked Glasgow to within touching distance of the opposition.
His first penalty on 65 minutes narrowed the gap to six points and his second on 73 minutes dragged his team to within three points of the French club. The crowd woke up and sensed something special may have been on the cards. Glasgow huffed and puffed their way into the Toulouse half and they went through their drop goal routine in an effort to grab a late equaliser, only to be knocked back all the way to the halfway line.
The game ended tamely with Hogg carrying the ball over his own try line for an “own try” if you like. It was the only one either side managed all afternoon.
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