Glasgow breathed life into their European Cup campaign with this commanding six-tries-to nil bonus-point victory over the Pro12 league leaders.
Five of those tries didn’t appear until the second half and three of them went to the giant Fijian winger Taqele Naiyaravoro, who left a trail of destruction behind him whenever he had the ball in hand.
There were any number of outstanding individual performances to set beside that of Naiyaravoro even if none of the others produced a hat -trick of tries. Italian flanker Simone Favaro was as good in defence, his coach suggested, as the winger was in attack, flying into the Scarlets’ backline with malice aforethought, like they had insulted his auntie.
Jonny Gray and Adam Ashe, the latter happily returned to form after missing out on the World Cup, did most of the heavy lifting in the forward pack, picking and driving through the middle of the breakdown when the Scarlets’ defence fanned out too quickly. And the apprentice hooker James Malcolm did enough to suggest that he will hear “you’re hired” before too long.
One lineout throw went awry but Malcolm quickly made amends by burrowing over the Scarlets’ line from the very next lineout. Dad Walter was an excellent, physical flanker who captained Glasgow District in the amateur era and Junior seems to have inherited most of those competitive genes even if he was only included as a “medical joker” following Glasgow’s injury crisis at hooker. Once the other hookers are fully fit – and Fraser Brown should be there next weekend – Malcolm will drop back down into the club game. “It was a brilliant learning experience,” said Gregor Townsend when asked about the youngster’s contribution. “He came off the bench against Treviso and played very well and then he came off the bench for five minutes against Cardiff. He will now go back to Ayr and work on things in the Academy. The next time he gets this opportunity he will be even better.
“He is tough. He puts in low tackles, he runs hard and he is physically good. He was converted from a prop so he can handle himself pretty well in the scrums. Our best scrummaging performance was against Treviso and James was at the heart of that as well.”
The match was an odd one in which Glasgow held the whip hand throughout but, despite coming agonisingly close on numerous occasions, the only try of the entire first 40 fell to Duncan Weir after just seven minutes when the stand-off took an outside line and took advantage of some sloppy tackling to score.
Glasgow took a 10-3 lead into the half-time break but the Scarlets enjoyed a rare period of front-foot rugby immediately after the restart and, when Steven Shingler kicked his second penalty around the 45-minute mark, we suddenly had a four-point game and the prospect of the least likely comeback since Lazarus sat up and asked for a cup of tea.
It was not to be. Instead, Glasgow knuckled down to the task and scored five tries, the first three of which went to Naiyaravoro in just 16 minutes. The second was the best of bunch, coming from a Finn Russell cross-field kick that allowed the big man to collect the ball and score almost without breaking his stride.
And that was the other main positive on the day for the home fans – Russell looking like he was back to his best after a couple of shaky performances, even if his appearance off the substitutes’ bench just before the hour coincided with a period of total Glasgow dominance. In addition to the beautifully judged kick, he also made a typical show-and-go outside break as if to prove that the rugby doldrums had never dented his confidence. If there was any negative about a 6-0 drubbing it is that Glasgow still don’t have a turnover specialist. Like John Hardie, Favaro is a destructive seven, a hit man, and the Scarlets have two poachers in the form of John Barclay and James Davies (Jon’s little brother). If one or both are selected next weekend, the return match will be a lot harder.
“It will be difficult,” Townsend conceded. “They will watch the video review and say they will have to be better defensively. They will know what they expect from Glasgow and they will be more up to speed with things that we do. There are guys there who we know are fit and are good players – DTH van der Merwe, Hadleigh Parkes, John Barclay. They have been excellent at home for a good while now.”