If Glasgow’s goose wasn’t cooked before this, their third successive defeat in Europe, it is charred to a cinder now as Vern Cotter enjoyed a happy return to Scotland with Montpellier. The Top 14 team had three points before this match, eight after this victory and they remain in the mix.
The match started at a frantic pace and things barely slowed up all evening; perhaps the players just needed to keep warm. The match wasn’t short of tries as both teams went in search of the bonus with a total of seven on the night, four of which went to the winners and never mind that Glasgow grabbed the best of the lot.
It was an odd encounter because this match was going the way of the home team until a moment of madness, two to be exact, cost Glasgow twin yellow cards at the end of the first half. With the hosts reduced to 14 men, Montpellier filled their boots, grabbing three converted tries that effectively won this match.
Glasgow struggled to hold onto the ball for any length of time, especially in the first half, and they made a host of unexpected and unforced errors. Finn Russell was a case in point, creating magic one minute, committing hara-kiri the next. The stand-off missed touch, dropped the ball in open play and kicked straight to a Montpellier winger… twice. But the Scot also created tries for George Turner and Leo Sarto with two sublime pieces of skill.
Peter Horne personified Glasgow’s problems. He spilled a pass to concede a scrum to Montpellier then held onto the ball until the referee awarded a penalty instead. All very frustrating.
.Montpellier scored first and far too easily. A break by Aaron Cruden was followed by a long pass that found Kelian Galletier lurking on the left wing. The flanker was tackled by Russell and appeared to drop the ball before the line but the referee was in generous mood.
Thankfully for Glasgow fans he stayed that way because he had a good look at Sarto’s opening score for Warriors 12 minutes in when the leggy Italian popped up in the midfield to score under the posts after a Glasgow lineout drive had been halted in its tracks.
The home side struck again ten minutes later and it was a beauty. Another Glasgow drive went nowhere but after a few phases of play Russell ran blind where there was a two on two. The stand-off pulled both defenders onto himself before flicking a pass out the back to hooker Turner on the switch. Russell, pictured, then converted from the touchline.
At 17-5 to the good, Glasgow were in the driving seat only to crash the car with those crucial twin yellows that saw the Warriors play short-handed for 20 minutes either side of half-time and concede 21 points in the process.
The first culprit was try-scorer Turner who horsed into the back of Louis Picamoles five metres from the ball. He had only just returned to the field when Jonny Gray dropped a Montpellier maul that was marching towards the Glasgow line.
Gelletier scored his second, through the middle of the breakdown when Turner was off and the visitors were awarded a penalty try for Gray’s obvious indiscipline to give them a two-point lead at the break. Another penalty led to another attacking lineout and this time it was lock Jacques Du Plessis that carried over from short range to stretch the visitors’ lead. Gray returned to close the stable door immediately after the Montpellier horse had disappeared over the horizon.
Just when things looked hopeless Glasgow came up with another cracker of a try, kick-started by a kick-pass from Russell to Sarto on his own 22. Sarto passed to Huw Jones who needed to kick and collect before he returned the favour to the Italian for a 75-metre score to bring Glasgow to within two.
That was as close as they got. Glasgow ran out of substitutes and played the final 15 minutes with flanker Chris Fusaro on the right wing. Montpellier bossed the final quarter and Frans Steyn kicked a penalty ten minutes from time to extend Montpellier’s lead to seven.
Glasgow coach Dave Rennie admitted the yellow cards had been costly. “Yeah, the first one was dumb. It was 17-5 and we had all the momentum,” he said.
And the second one? “That was Jonny doing his best to try and stop them from scoring.
“The frustrating part is that they score 21 points when we have two guys in the bin and we lose by seven. Equally frustrating was how frivolous we were with the ball.”