Glasgow Warriors 8 - 23 Dragons: Glasgow lose out

Glasgow Warriors debutant Leone Nakarawa takes on the Dragons defence. Picture: SNS
Glasgow Warriors debutant Leone Nakarawa takes on the Dragons defence. Picture: SNS
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Glasgow racked up 60 points the last time these two teams met, but there was never any danger of a rerun at Scotstoun on Friday night.

SCORERS: Glasgow; Try - Matawalu; Penalty - Pyrgos. Dragons; Tries - Tovey, Harries; Conversions - Tovey (2); Penalties - Tovey (2); Drop goal - Tovey

Firstly, the freezing conditions mitigated against Barbarian-style running rugby and, secondly, Glasgow are a dramatically different side to the one that ripped up the turf at the tail end of last season.

The Dragons are also a changed team and much better for it. They were worthy of their win especially since they played much of this match short-handed with three of the visitors doing time in the sin bin.

“What do I think of that?” mused a stone-faced Gregor Townsend afterwards. “I think it won’t happen again. I think that wasn’t us out there. I think we got what we deserved given the way we played and the way we worked off the ball.

“We came up against a team out there that was very much together and that defended very well.”

Glasgow made countless mistakes but the Welsh side won chiefly because in flyhalf Jason Tovey they boasted the class act of the evening. He may be well down the rankings in Wales but he was streets ahead of anyone else last night and Scotland would snap him up in a nanosecond if it was remotely possible.

The fly-half scored every one of his team’s points except for one try which came directly from his cross-field kick.

Fullback Stuart Hogg returned to action for Glasgow and proved he has lost none of his pace while recovering from that injured wrist.

Hogg delivered the first scoring pass of the evening but he was beaten to the high balls a little too easily and kicked one counter-attack away when he might have been better served to keep the ball in hand.

Glasgow got off to a dream start as Dragons’ centre Patrick Leach left the field when the match was less than a minute old. The Welshman was guilty of a tip tackle on Rob Harley and the fact that the Glasgow flanker landed on his side rather than his head meant that Leach saw yellow rather than red.

One minute after that, Niko Matawalu was diving over in the left-hand corner after good approach work by DTH van der Merwe and Hogg sent the little Fijian scampering up the wing.

Perhaps Glasgow thought the entire evening was going to be just as easy since the Dragons set up camp inside the home half and Tovey stepped up to kick two penalties from the exact same spot, 45 yards out.

The first half was a bit aimless with neither side able to boss proceedings long enough to trouble the scoreboard after that early flurry.

Pyrgos hit the post with a longish penalty for the home side. Dragons’ scrumhalf Richie Rees intercepted a pass but never looked like going the length.

Netani Talei, another Edinburgh alumni, hit Scott Wight with the best tackle of the season never mind the match. Some enmities are obviously build to last.

As the match meandered its way towards half-time it desperately needed a score and it got one in the most bizarre circumstances with Matawalu shape-shifting from hero to villain; a little too clever for his own good.

Tovey aimed a hopeful kick towards the Glasgow line but Matawalu had time enough to do his hair and clear the danger. The Fijian swept the ball off the floor, dummied to go left, fooled two attackers but instead of hoofing the ball into the stands he turned to pass and, facing his own line, somehow contrived to grubber the ball backwards over his own tryline where Tovey was first to dive on it.

The Welsh fly-half then converted the extras and the visitors went into the shedat half-time with a handy 13-5 lead.

With a hurry up from Gregor Townsend ringing in their ears Glasgow won an early second-half penalty for Pyrgos to narrow the deficit by three. Townsend then rang the changes, throwing on Leone Nakarawa for Al Kellock and Mark Bennett for Pyrgos with Matawalu moved to scrum-half.

It had an immediate effect...the Dragons almost scored. Byron McGuigan missed a tackle but Hogg got back to save the day as the Dragons kicked on literally and metaphorically.

With one winger, Mathew Pewtner, in the sin bin, it was left to the other, William Harries, to collect Tovey’s neat cross-kick to the left-hand corner and the fly-half converted from the tryline.

As if to give their hosts a helping hand, the Dragons then went down to just 13 players for a few minutes as Talei joined Pewtner on the sidelines for some misdemeanour that only the touchie noted.

Glasgow piled on the pressure in the final ten minutes but a series of comical handling errors and some brave defence kept the Dragon’s line intact until they were back to 14.

As if to underline Glasgow’s woes Hogg fluffed a simple looking penalty, Matawalu fluffed a pass at a breakdown on the Dragons’ line, thanksto an unsighted Dragon’shand, and Fraser Brown overcooked his throw at a five metre lineout.

The visitors’ victory means there has been a 72-point turnaround between these two teams in a matter of months, which must be a worry.

Tovey ended the scoring with a late drop goal and a Dragons’ substitute named “Screech” entered the fray. Townsend knows just how he feels.

Glasgow: Hogg, McGuigan, Van der Merwe, Russell, Matawalu; Wight (Steele 72 min), Pyrgos (Bennett 53 min); Reid, Hall (Brown 67 minb), Kalman (welsh 58 min), Ryder, Kellock (Nakarawa 53 min), Harley (Eddie 67 min), Vernon, Fusaro (Srtauss 58 min).

Dragons: D Evans, Harries, Leach, Wardle, Pewtner; Tovey, Rees; O Evans (Way 67 min), Parry, Chaparro (Elliot 67 min), Hill, Sidoli (Screech 74 min), L Evans, Cudd, Talei.