Glasgow: Duncan Weir’s way stops short of Toulon

DUNCAN Weir declared himself delighted with a winning return to Glasgow colours, but hinted that he expects to be dropped for Saturday’s Heineken Cup kick-off in Toulon.

Duncan Weir: Satisfying return. Picture: SNS
Duncan Weir: Satisfying return. Picture: SNS

The Scotland stand-off made an impressive return from six months out with a broken leg, showing his comeback to have been well judged by the Warriors backroom staff.

Sparky and mixing his game up well, like many in the squad Weir looks leaner this term and he led the line with conviction in the first half to plot the two tries finished off by forwards Ryan Grant and Tim Swinson, which proved to be the difference between the sides. He converted both, added a penalty, just missed with a drop-goal and slotted in at scrum-half late on as the Warriors relied on a scrambling defensive effort with 14 men to clinch victory.

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But he acknowledged that he is behind his Glasgow and Scotland rival Ruaridh Jackson in match fitness this term, and will probably have to play second fiddle in the south of France.

“It was just good to be involved in the matchday experience again,” he said, “and good to come away with a win. It is obviously a huge step-up from the amateur game in Scotland [he played for Stirling County last week], but I was getting the ball through my hands fairly well, and that was the plan, to keep it simple and not try to do too much in my first game back.

“Jacko was playing great at the start of the season, so I was just grateful to get the run tonight and manage to sneak a wee run at nine as well, which was good fun.” Jackson is the front-runner for the stand-off jersey, and Glasgow will also look to recall Stuart Hogg and Josh Strauss after injury, but coach Gregor Townsend enjoys dealing in the unexpected and much will depend on the plan he and his assistants have made for Toulon.

Jackson’s greater experience of big games may count in his favour, but Townsend acknowledged it was a major boost to have Weir back. Having used 36 players in the opening five games, the coach will have a tricky job settling on his best 23 for the weekend, and while this display in Llanelli fell off the standards expected in attack in the second half, as the Scarlets came out of the break strongly, the effort and defensive qualities ensured no players let themselves down.

Glasgow set the pace with a third-minute try from Grant and another slick effort by Swinson after half an hour. The pack worked tirelessly, Chris Cusiter is coming back to his best and Alex Dunbar and Mark Bennett are forming a good midfield pairing, and, understandably enjoy having Niko Matawalu, Lamont and Sean Maitland outside them.

But a handful of debatable decisions by Italian referee Guiseppe Vivarini and his Welsh assistant referees – they whistled an Al Kellock challenge that replays showed to be fair and scrum penalties against the Scots despite the Scarlets employing the outlawed early ‘hit’, and ignored blatant offsides by the home side – enabled Rhys Priestland to keep the hosts in the game with penalties.

The Scarlets were revived after the interval but met with a Warriors wall of defence. Sean Lamont was yellow-carded after the Scarlets were denied in the right-hand corner, but still they had to settle for points from the boot. Jordan Williams converted one and missed one, Rhys Priestland added another and Weir nudged Glasgow back out to 17-12.

Matawalu was sin-binned for a stamp at a ruck. That much was clear on the video, but, in keeping with the puzzling officiating, the referee had only gone to the video ref to determine who had put the ball in touch after his assistant’s blank looks. So, barring one sublime Lamont break stopped a few metres from the posts, Glasgow kept it tight and played down the clock, and kept their line intact for a fourth league game.

A new record five-from-five start to the league season provides a fresh foundation for a Heineken Cup voyage that begins in the lair of the reigning European champions, who warmed up with a win over Clermont Auvergne on Saturday.

Weir said: “Where are the stars in their team? One to 15! They are Heineken Cup champions and that says it all for me. It’s a fierce environment to go and play in as well, but we’ll be looking to keep this good run of form going.

“We have five wins in a row. No other Glasgow team has done that at the start of a campaign, and it’s about time we put in a good shift in the Heineken Cup as well.”

Scarlets: L Williams; N Reynolds, J Davies (capt), G Maule, J Williams; R Priestland, R Williams; P John, K Owens, J Adriaanse, G Earle, J Snyman, J Turnbull, J Barclay, R McCusker. Subs: A Shingler for McCusker 30mins, E Phillips for Owens 40, J Ball for Snyman 52, R Evans for John 59, A Davies for R Williams, R Jones for Adriaanse, both 74.

Glasgow Warriors: S Maitland; N Matawalu, M Bennett, A Dunbar, S Lamont; D Weir, C Cusiter; R Grant, P MacArthur, M Low, T Swinson, Al Kellock (capt), R Harley, C Fusaro, R Vernon. Subs: J Welsh for Low, A Ashe for Vernon, both 48mins, F Brown for MacArthur, J Yanuyanutawa for Grant, both 67, DTH van der Merwe for Cusiter 60, J Eddie for Harley 65, S Wight for Bennett 76..