Glasgow Warriors 21 - 10 Lyon: Warriors claim scrappy win

In atrocious, freezing, wet and windy conditions that would have tested the resolve of a rugby-playing polar bear, Glasgow struggled to a scrappy win over a scratch Lyon side thanks to a brace of tries from Niko Matawalu and three penalties from the boot of Adam Hastings. However the Warriors played only fitfully and they may yet rue the lack of a bonus point come the final totting up at the end of the pool stages.

Glasgow Warriors' Matt Fagerson and Niko Matawalu celebrate. Pic: SNS/SRU/Gary Hutchison

This was an odd topsy-turvy type of game. Glasgow scored the opening try after 44 seconds and raced into a 18-0 lead immediately after the twenty minute mark. And just when this match looked like being a walk in the park, “Les Loups” (the Wolves) bared their teeth.

The visitors bossed the middle of this match, either side of half time, with the power of their forwards making Glasgow look a little ordinary. If you wondered how Dave Rennie’s running rugby would fare in the wind and wet the answer is...not terribly well.

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It was a bad tempered, error strewn affair with both sets of players taking every opportunity to blow a mole hill into a mountain of grievance. There was a yellow for Callum Gibbins in the first half but Lyon’s lock Etienne Oosthuizen saw red in the final quarter for a brazen, illegal and ugly attack on Hastings’ face.

What was largely Lyon’s reserves held the whip hand at the set scrum and Glasgow’s lineout unravelled with several attacking chances lost due to wayward arrows. The wind didn’t help but it was the same for both sides.

Lyon’s big men muscled the ball over the Glasgow line twice at the end of the first forty without grounding it to the officials’ satisfaction. Stuart Hogg prevented a sure try with a first half tackle on centre Thibaut Regard and Nico Matawalu did the same on Carl Fears after the break. This was an ugly arm wrestle and an uncomfortable one at that.

If there was a key moment in this game it came in the 35th minute when Glasgow, with skipper Callum Gibbins in the bin, were defending a five metre scrum with seven forwards. The Warriors played their get out of jail card, awarded a free kick for an early shove by an over-eager Lyon eight.

Jean-Marc Doussain still grabbed a penalty with the last kick of the first half but that represented a win for Glasgow given the pressure they had soaked up.

Glasgow were first out the blocks. Needing to make good use of the first half wind, they did exactly that, Niko Matawalu scoring the first of his two tries with the stadium clock showing 44 seconds. He had Hastings to thank for the five points.

The flyhalf collected a loose Lyon clearance kick around his own ten metre line, he broke the less-than-organised Lyon defensive line with ease and his diagonal run wasn’t stopped until he was well inside the opposition twenty-two. One recycle later Stuart Hogg’s grubber kick sat up perfectly for Matawalu to score.

Hastings missed the conversion but added a couple of penalties to keep the board ticking over until Matawalu popped up with a training field move to claim his second try of the match on 21 minutes. The ball went out to Hastings, in to Hogg and out again to the winger who raced round to dot down under the posts. Hastings made no mistake this time.

Just when it looked like Lyon would fold the French showed their mettle by bouncing off the canvas to boss great swathes of this match. They finished with 55% of possession and territory although three points in the first half was a poor return for all that domination.

They were finally rewarded after the half time break when Glasgow errors, attempting to run the ball out of defence, gifted the visitors the high attacking opportunity. A stray pass was hacked ahead by right winger Xavier Mignot, Hogg failed to secure the slippery ball and once Mignot had recovered possession, centre Pierre-Louis Barassi dived over in the corner.

Doussain kicked the touchline conversion, Hastings kicked the restart straight into touch and the match had turned on its head with Glasgow hanging on to what they had rather than worrying about that elusive bonus point. A penalty on 66 minutes, Hastings’ third of the evening, afforded Glasgow a little breathing space.

The red card incident ensured that Glasgow dominated the final ten minutes of this match. Rennie’s side huffed and puffed but Lyon had their dander up and the home team never looked like scoring the two tries they needed for that elusive bonus point.