Glasgow maintained their lead as the front runners in Pro14 Conference A with this regulation, bonus point win over the Cheetahs. The Warriors’ first try came after just five minutes on their first visit to the Cheetahs red zone and the home team finished with five all told.
It was poor preparation for what Saracens will throw at them next weekend in the Champions Cup quarter-final but at least the Warriors will travel in good spirits.
Glasgow enjoyed the territorial advantage and most of the possession and they used both to give the Cheetahs some schooling in direct, effective brutal finishing. The home team looked better when they were a little more direct.
The Cheetahs bring an abundance of pace and they used it to good effect from time to time. William Small-Smith grabbed one early score and another at the death. The first came directly from an attacking lineout when he rounded Ruaridh Jackson like the Glasgow full-back was glued to the spot.
Sadly, the visitors’ defence was unable to match their occasional brilliance with the ball in hand. Glasgow broke the defensive outposts (line is too strong a word) almost at will with a succession of black jerseys going into contact and emerging almost unscathed.
Glasgow fielded two South Africans in their starting XV and both excelled against their fellow countrymen. Oli Kebble dominated the set scrums, with ample help from Zander Fagerson, earning a yellow card for one opposition prop.
Meanwhile, Kyle Steyn showed why Gregor Townsend whistled him into the Scotland training squad during the Six Nations.
Steyn was paired with 6ft 3in Stafford MacDowall in the Glasgow centres and they both brought muscular go-forward to a team that is more used to running around the opposition rather than through them. Both men used their strength to good effect, each claiming a try, Steyn before the break, MacDowall after it.
This result, at least, was never really in doubt although the home side went to sleep at the start of the second half.
The match was just four minutes old with no score on the board when Glasgow signalled their intentions by kicking a penalty to touch and captain Callum Gibbins scored from the driving maul.
Small-Smith got one back for the visitors but normal service was quickly resumed. Steyn broke the defensive line and then finished off the move a few phases later by muscling his way over the Cheetahs’ try line for Glasgow’s second score and Rory Hughes grabbed the third by simply picking and driving through the unguarded middle of a five-metre breakdown.
All that happened in the first 30 minutes and, just when you imagined things couldn’t get any worse for the visitors, prop forward Charles Marais was binned for persistently dropping the scrum. Hughes knocked on trying to collect MacDowall’s canny grubber and the half ended 21-5 in Glasgow’s favour.
The Cheetahs opened the second half with their second try when replacement Joseph Dweba picked a nice line to find a gaping hole in the Glasgow defence.
At 21-12 early in the second half, had the Cheetahs scored again we would have had a game on our hands. It didn’t happen.
Instead MacDowall grabbed the fourth, bonus point try on 56 minutes after the best handling move of the match up the left flank. Glasgow lost the ball but it bobbled out of the breakdown and the leggy centre was first to react, scooping it up and driving for the line from 15 yards out with Gibbins adding his weight.
The score arrived just ahead of the hour mark but with the bonus banked any urgency from the home side seemed to dissipate into the cold March air and much of the final 20 minutes was played out in the Glasgow half with the usual slew of substitutions.
Still there was some drama left in this game with two late tries inside the final five minutes.
The first fell to Glasgow lock Scott Cummings after good approach work by Nick Frisby, and then Small-Smith grabbed his second in the right-hand corner as Glasgow were still celebrating.
Warriors coach Dave Rennie has some interesting decisions ahead of that Sarries game, not least whether to start Adam Hastings or Peter Horne at stand-off. The veteran made a decent fist of things but his distribution is still poor for a ten.
The younger man challenges the defence far more than the veteran but he too passed to thin air after replacing Horne and his kicking game is a work in progress.
It is a tough call to make but Rennie’s choice at ten for Saturday’s match may define Glasgow’s season.