Glasgow Warriors stun noisy Scarlets crowd to reach first ever European final

No Scottish team have lifted one of European club rugby’s two trophies but Glasgow Warriors are now within touching distance.

Their 35-17 win over the Scarlets in Llanelli catapulted them into the final of the EPCR Challenge Cup in Dublin on May 19 where they will face either Toulon or Benetton who meet in Sunday’s second semi-final. It was a victory founded on defensive excellence and a gritty second-half performance which saw them turn round a 7-14 deficit to win by 18 points, limiting their opponents to just three points in the second period.

Franco Smith’s side had to overcome a partisan home support and the loss of Richie Gray, who was ruled out on the eve of the match and replaced by JP du Preez. The Glasgow lineout creaked in Gray’s absence but solidified as the game wore on and their pack put in a huge shift to secure a place in a European final for the first time in the club’s history. Stafford McDowall started and finished the scoring for the Warriors, and there were three other tries in between, from George Horne, Johnny Matthews and Rory Darge. Horne converted all five. The Scarlets kept the scoreboard ticking over with four penalties from Sam Costelow but they scored only one try, though Steff Evans.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

McDowall ensured the visitors made the perfect start with a try after two minutes and 43 seconds. Jack Dempsey, outstanding throughout, made the early running before McDowall took a pass from Kyle Steyn, brushed off a couple of attempted tackles, shaped to pass and then powered his way to the line. It was defensively poor from the Scarlets and had a deflating effect on the home support who had been noisily expectant. Horne’s conversion made it 7-0 and the Welsh side suffered further blows with the loss to injuries of prop Javan Sebastian and centre Johnny Williams in the opening minutes.

Glasgow had the early momentum but the Scarlets rode the storm and gradually began to wrest back control, with some smart kicking pinning the Warriors back in their own half. A couple of penalties from Costelow on 24 and 27 minutes brought them within touching distance before Evans crossed for a try after an error-strewn passage of play. Costelow was off target with the conversion but the home side were 11-7 ahead and had their tails up. Gray’s absence was being keenly felt in the Glasgow lineout and Scarlets extended their lead just before the break with another Costelow penalty.

Glasgow needed a quick response and they got it. The second half was only three minutes old when Horne scored their second try after a fine break from du Preez and a neat step from Cummings. Horne’s conversion tied things up at 14-14 and the Warriors’ cause was helped further by a yellow card for Scarlets’ Sam Wainwright for a high tackle on Rory Darge. Despite being short-handed, the Scarlets edged ahead again through Costelow’s fourth penalty. But Glasgow sensed a shift in the balance of the game. Matthews, the replacement hooker, brought fresh energy. He had one great run before scoring with a trademark try from a lineout drive, his 13th of the season, a club record. The Warriors’ main men were stepping up, with Sione Tuipulotu, Dempsey and Cummings all thriving. And after the latter went close, Darge followed up for Glasgow’s fourth try. Horne made it four from four off the tee to put them 28-17 ahead as the game moved towards its final quarter.

The Scarlets came thundering back and only the combined efforts of Horne and Cancelliere stopped Ken Owens going over in the corner. The crowd was growing restless and a skirmish broke out in the stands. Things got even more heated when Ollie Smith intercepted a pass by Johnny McNicholl and the home fans cried foul, believing the Glasgow full-back had not made a realistic attempt to catch the ball. “Off, off, off,” they shouted, followed by “cheat, cheat, cheat” when referee Mathieu Raynal reviewed the incident and ruled in favour of Smith. Glasgow were defending with remarkable courage, keeping the Scarlets at bay and finally drawing the sting from their attack. They marched their opponents all the way back up the pitch and scored a fifth and final try through McDowall off the back of a last-minute lineout. Next stop, Dublin.

Scorers: Scarlets: Try: Evans. Pens: Costelow 4.

Stafford McDowall got Glasgow Warriors up and running with an early try. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)Stafford McDowall got Glasgow Warriors up and running with an early try. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Stafford McDowall got Glasgow Warriors up and running with an early try. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Glasgow Warriors: Tries: McDowall 2, Horne, Matthews, Darge. Cons: Horne 5.

Yellow card: Wainwright (Scarlets, 43min).

Scarlets: J McNicholl; S Evans, J Roberts, J Williams (I Nicholas 7), R Conbeer; S Costelow, G Davies (K Hardy 54); W Jones (K Mathias 54), K Owens (S Evans 72), J Sebastian (S Wainwright 4), M Jones (C Tuipulotu 35), S Lousi, J Macleod, D Davis, V Fifita (I Rees 48). Replacement: Dan Jones.

Glasgow Warriors: O Smith; S Cancelliere (A Price 72), S Tuipulotu, S McDowell, K Steyn; T Jordan (D Weir 79), G Horne; J Bhatti (N McBeth 46), G Turner (J Matthews 46), Z Fagerson (S Berghan 72), S Cummings (R Wilson 79, JP du Preez, R Darge, S Vailanu (M Fagerson 52), J Dempsey (L Bean 72).

Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France).

Attendance: 13,071.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.