Give Glasgow Warriors the North Inch to play and they will win by a country mile (50-17), as they proved this afternoon at the Famous Grouse pre-season challenge.
The first half was close, with both teams tied on 12 points apiece until Matt Smith scored Glasgow’s third try to take a half-time lead with the clock already in the red numbers.
The second half was so one-sided that you half expected a towel to appear from the Harlequins’ corner at any moment.
With the second-half heavy traffic all headed in one direction, the Warriors added five more touchdowns, in addition to the three they scored in the first period, two of which went to man of the match Niko Matawalu.
Some of the second half handling was outstanding, with every pass, no matter how ambitious, seeming to stick.
In contrast the visiting English team managed just one try after the break, when Marcus Smith intercepted Nick Frisby’s pass just minutes after the Warriors’ brand new Wallaby had scored an interception try of his own.
As you’d expect at this stage of the season, both teams showed signs of rust in the opening exchanges, with Quins claiming the opening score thanks to the power of their big men. And if they were missing key personnel such as Mike Brown, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler and Chris Robshaw, they were not alone. Dave Rennie claimed that Glasgow had 20 internationals sidelined and the gruff Kiwi declared himself satisfied with yesterday’s performance, as well he might.
“I think it highlighted that we have a lot of depth in this squad,” said the head coach. “We are missing 20 internationals today. We worked really hard on our skill-set, and our ability to build pressure and build phases. It wasn’t perfect but there were a lot of good signs today.
“Look, it was a pre-season game, both sides missing players, but I’m really ripped with the way the guys stepped up, set-piece in the second half and late in the first was really strong, and we were able to build a bit of pressure off that. I thought the handling and a lot of the decision making was excellent.”
If Frisby had a mixed debut at nine, the three fly-halves that were used fared much better. In the first half Brandon Thomson made a wrap-around and off-load for a Paddy Kelly score that Johnny Sexton would have been proud to own.
After the break Adam Hastings stepped out of several tackles inside his own 22 and made good ground before sending a perfectly judged kick-pass towards the left wing where Matawalu collected it near the halfway line and showed everyone a clean pair of heels on the way to the first of his two tries. Ruaridh Jackson, shunted from 15 to 10, made the second for the little Fijian who is back to his best.
Several of the younger midfielders including Kelly, who grabbed Glasgow’s opening score, and Stafford McDowell also banked some credit.
“I think he’s making good shifts,” said Rennie when asked if Kelly was ready to challenge for the outside centre shirt? “It’s a pretty competitive position when you look at Sam [Johnson], Alex [Dunbar], Nick [Griggs], Huw Jones and Peter Horne. But I was very happy with both those young 12’s and it gives us confidence going forward.”
Hastings was removed from the field of play after a short cameo lasting just 20 minutes, but Rennie confirmed that the young playmaker was not injured and would likely start against Northampton Saints this Friday, along with ten of the rested Test players.
The midlanders will surely provide a far sterner test than Harlequins could manage yesterday.