Glasgow show resilience in comeback win over La Rochelle

Niko Matawalu takes on the La Rochelle defence as Glasgow fought back to beat the French side. Picture: Xavier Leoty/AFP via Getty Images
Niko Matawalu takes on the La Rochelle defence as Glasgow fought back to beat the French side. Picture: Xavier Leoty/AFP via Getty Images
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As everyone involved accepted, it was a far from perfect performance but the willpower that dragged Glasgow Warriors over the winning line bodes well. If they can harness that and repeat it more regularly, nobody will fancy them as opponents.

It gives them a chance in their Heineken Champions Cup campaign, though it is starting to look as if they may struggle to top the pool and might have to rely on a best second place to progress. The two home games coming up, against La Rochelle and Exeter Chiefs, are the key.

The match also marked the end of a special week for Kyle Steyn, the Glasgow utility back, who settled his immediate future with a new deal on Wednesday and celebrated by scoring the go-ahead try 63 minutes into the game.

“There was a lot of relief and elation,” he said. “There was cover there and I could feel that cover breathing in my ear the whole way to the try line but I was thinking that hopefully I had enough momentum so that, even if he did get me, I would still slide over.”

That score from a perfectly placed kick-pass from Adam Hastings was the high end of the emotional rollercoaster for Steyn and his colleagues – the final few minutes were the other. That was raw drama, as intense as you get, as Ali Price raced back to catch wing Vincent Rattez five metres out; a series of penalties on Glasgow’s line enabled La Rochelle to turn the screw but they could not breach the backs-to-the wall defence.

Glasgow stopped a driving maul to win a turnover with seconds left but were then penalised in the scrum to give their opponents one final chance. But they held that second scrum and kept the French out with a series of brutal tackles just feet from their own line, the last of them forcing a knock-on and sparking the celebrations.

“They stretched out like an eternity,” Steyn said of those last few minutes after the clock had turned red. “That old saying about squeaky bum time probably sums it up pretty well. It was to and fro again. We probably celebrated that maul [turnover] like we had won the game, then we lost the scrum. There was a lot of relief when the final whistle went. Sometimes you win ugly, but they sometimes feel the best when you grind them out like that. The defence was really satisfying, something we can take into the rest of the season.

“Our big boys up front have been good about that most of the season, they’ve put in some really good sets. We need to be able to do it on a more consistent basis but certainly in that last 20 on 
Saturday, the way we defended on our line and in our 22 was good.”

The reality is that if they had been able to defend with the same intensity 40 to 60 yards from their line as they showed when they were starting from the whitewash, they would have won the game at a canter.

The first La Rochelle try, to prop Dany Priso, came from sloppy defence as did several of the penalties they conceded to the boot of Jules Plisson.

The second La Rochelle try owed more to luck as Scott Cummings did the hard work stealing a lineout but the loose ball landed in the hands of home flanker Zeno Kieft.

They were also a little unlucky when two potential scores went begging, but good fortune was involved in the Niko Matawalu interception try that brought them within range after Callum Gibbins had grabbed the opening try from the back of a maul.

With Steyn’s try completing the comeback from 6-18 down, Glasgow still had plenty of work to do to stay in front but found their resilience when they needed it.