Glasgow Warriors thump rivals to bag a home semi-final in Pro14
This Warriors squad played with the desperation of men possessed and they were streets ahead of their nearest rivals both in thought and deed. The home side lost the battle for territory and possession but their ability to create scoring chances from thin air meant that they won the try count by 4-1.
Their determination showed up in the stats. Glasgow made 181 tackles compared to only 86 by Edinburgh and yet the Warriors missed far fewer – 17 – compared to the 24 compiled by the visitors.
Several players have mentioned the galvanising effect of that traumatic loss to Saracens in the Champions Cup quarter-final, but coach Dave Rennie highlighted another turning point in Glasgow’s season.
“When we lost to Treviso [in January] and dropped to second in our pool, we probably knew we had to win every game from there to have a chance of getting a home semi,” said the Kiwi. It put pressure on us and I think we have made good shifts since the Saracens debacle and it has given us a bit of an edge. I think we saw that tonight. I thought we had a good edge about us and plenty of energy.”
They certainly did. The hosts scored four tries to one and even then Edinburgh’s solo score arrived at the death, Duhan van der Merwe touching down in the 78th minute after Charlie Shiel made some space for the big man. It was a poor reward for all that effort by the visitors.
Glasgow went ahead as early as the second minute, scored their opening try on seven minutes and were never seriously threatened.
It was almost too easy, so was Rennie, pictured, surprised by Edinburgh? “No,” came back the answer at the post-match press conference.
“Why not?” he was asked. “They play a certain game,” said the coach. “That still beat you twice in December,” one scribe observed.
“They are good at it,” the coach shot back, before continuing: “But we defused the high ball really well, we were clinical when we got opportunities and when you look back, when we lost to them at Murrayfield their two tries both came from intercepts and certainly one of them we should have scored off.
“We are making better decisions and building pressure and are a lot more accurate.”
While the visitors raised a head of steam either side of the break with umpteen penalties, attacking lineouts and pick-and-drives, Glasgow’s defence was outstanding, especially given some of the missing names.
Jonny Gray pulled out before the match kicked off, co-captain Callum Gibbins failed to recover from his head injury, and the giant South African loosehead Oli Kebble is struggling with a bad back.
“And Grant Stewart had back spasms just before the game,” Rennie reminded us, “So he pulled out as well. Look, we talked about before the game we have had a bit of adversity but it’s a usual week for the Warriors! It happens often, we just have to get on with it and I was really rapt with the character the boys showed.
“It was a good performance because we played without the ball a lot. We were put under a lot of pressure. I thought the defence was outstanding and we were really clinical when we got our opportunities.”
Those opportunities came in the first quarter and final 22 minutes of the match with Glasgow scoring two tries in each. Sam Johnson and Ali Price got the ball rolling early on and, after the home side had weathered Edinburgh’s fightback, wingers Niko Matawalu and Tommy Seymour added the icing somewhat against the second-half run of play.
Adam Hastings added 14 points from the boot, four conversions and two penalties, without a miss to his name.
Now Glasgow have three weeks to kick their heels, because they don’t meet the winners of next weekend’s Ulster/Connacht quarter-final until Friday, 17 May.
The break didn’t do them any favours last season when they were soundly beaten by the Scarlets at the semi-final stage, but this Warriors squad are hitting their straps at the business end of the season.
Rennie revealed that he is in talks with another club with a view to adding a friendly tie into the post-season fixture list, presumably the Ospreys who have the same wait for their Champions Cup play-off against the Scarlets.
“Once you get through to the knock-out stage everyone has a chance,” said the coach. “Connacht will throw everything at it next week against Ulster. We’re rapt to be at home against whoever it is.”