Glasgow’s winning streak remains intact but Dave Rennie’s men were plum ordinary for long stretches of this match; rarely has a six tries to one victory looked to laboured.
While heralding a remarkable record tenth successive victory in the Guinness Pro14 the coach must be concerned at how his side struggled to impose themselves on a Cardiff team who played the final hour of the game with 14 men after prop Taufaao Filise was shown red, and ten minutes of the second half with just 13.
“It was a slow start but we fought our way back in,” said Rennie.
“We had a lot of territory and possession in both halves. The red card had a little bit of an influence, obviously tough on them but I almost felt like we thought it was going to be a little bit easier and we lacked that real edge that has been on display the last few outings so that was disappointing.”
Glasgow struggled to cope with the line speed that Cardiff’s defence utilised to good effect throughout and there was a lack or urgency and accuracy amongst the home team. When the Glasgow forwards rolled up their sleeves and attempted to get their driving game into gear they went backwards. The home team lost three lineouts and four times in the opening half hour Glasgow players lost the ball in contact.
On the upside Ruaridh Jackson continues impress in the No 15 jersey, new prop signing Sio Halanukonuka threw his considerable weight around to good effect and Peter Horne’s long passes (or kick pass) created the first three Glasgow tries, with the stand-off nailing every conversion bar the second from last.
The visitors were left short-handed in an incident that ended George Turner’s participation in the match. The Glasgow hooker carried the ball into the Cardiff line and was caught in the head by the shoulder of Filise in the contact. After numerous replays on the big screen referee Nigel Owens flashed a red card at the Cardiff prop, leaving the visitors played the final hour with 14 men and it told.
The home side had got off to a terrible start, conceding ten points in the opening eight minutes. In only the second contact of the evening Glasgow were pinged for holding on and Blues No 10 Jarrod Evans wasn’t going to miss from under the crossbar. The Warriors then were stripped of the ball in midfield, which gave Cardiff high field position. A simple training move, Evans out the back door to Willis Halaholo running the unders line, created space on the wing for lock Macauley Cook to score.
Rugby’s equivalent of a slap in the face seemed to have the desired effect with the home side setting up camp inside the Blues’ red zone until Sam Johnson found himself on the end of a perfectly judged kick pass from the boot of Horne, the outside centre fending off one tackle to score.
Filise was sent to the sidelines and, two minutes later, Glasgow scored their second of the evening. Horne’s long miss pass found Callum Gibbens on the right wing and the Warriors captain threw a speculative inside pass which fell nicely for Alex Dunbar, who still had work to do.
If Glasgow thought the second half was going to be plain sailing, they were quickly put right, Evans kicking his third penalty seven minutes into the half to regain the lead.
Glasgow thought they had hit back almost immediately when Samuel Vunisa went over from short range only for Olly Robinson – son of former Scotland coach Andy – who is on loan at Cardiff from Bristol, to wriggle his body under the ball.
The flanker got himself a yellow card a little later to make his team’s already precarious position wholly untenable. Jackson then snatched Horne’s floating pass to score Glasgow’s third try on the right wing.
Glasgow continued to frustrate themselves as much as anything, On the left wing Leo Sarto chose not to make a simple scoring pass to Dunbar and on the right Niko Matawalu spilled Jackson’s cross-field kick.
With Robinson restored to the action, Vunisa rumbled over for the bonus points try for Glasgow on 67 minutes and, three minutes from time, Sarto got onto the end of Adam Hastings’ clever kick for Glasgow’s fifth. There was still time for Matawalu to collect his own chip kick and run in Glasgow’s sixth try from the half way line.
Jackson, Glasgow’s man of the match, acknowledged the red card helped his side but was unsure whether it was merited. “I don’t know, it’s up to the referee,” he said “It was similar to the [Australia v] Scotland one... very much accidental I am sure but it’s shoulder to the head, I think.
“It’s up to the refs to make the decision,it helped us at the end of the day but it’s a shame for Cardiff.”