With nothing but pride to play for, Glasgow displayed heaps of the stuff, producing their best performance of this European campaign to thwart any hopes Exeter had of progressing in the Champions Cup.
Trailing by 28-7 inside the final quarter, the Chiefs looked down and out but two tries in quick succession dragged the West Country club back into this game. Stuart Hogg then hit the post with a long-range penalty but somehow Glasgow held out to claim their first European win.
“I think [we had] 30-odd per cent territory and possession in the first half and we made a lot of tackles,” said coach Dave Rennie. “It was a great effort and the ability to turn the screws after half-time was important. Exeter were probably thinking, they’ve made a lot of tackles and they’ll tire, but it was a great response and we managed to hang on in the end.”
The result was encouraging but it came at a cost to Scotland with George Turner and Alex Dunbar both lost to first-half injuries, knee and head respectively.
On the plus side of the ledger Hogg was in fine fettle, a threat all afternoon. He took just 68 seconds to score following his long injury lay off, with his first touch of the ball. Taking advantage of a turnover, their main source of possession in the first half, Tommy Seymour broke from deep and looked to the outside before feeding George Horne on his inside and, inside again, Hogg was on hand to finish from the 22.
Glasgow spent much of the opening half in dogged defence, keeping the visitors scoreless until the 38th minute of the match when Sam Simmonds drove over from close range.
It was a much improved defensive effort by the hosts. Seymour saved one certain score with a tackle
back on Ian Whitten, while Huw Jones was fended by the same man but made amends by somehow holding the ball off the ground over the line. The Glasgow forwards halted the muscular Exeter maul in its tracks.
The game was a slow burner, only really firing into life in the second half when both teams started throwing the ball about, Glasgow because they know no other way while Exeter needed a four-try bonus.
There were some deft touches from the home side. Finn Russell performed a little chip and chase, retrieving his own kick. Peter Horne kicked right into the Exeter corner from 50 yards out and Matt Fagerson was outstanding throughout, a worthy man of the match winner and a player with a huge future ahead of him.
Glasgow were constantly inventive and, if there was something fortuitous about the penalty try that Romain Poite awarded them on 51 minutes, the two tries Glasgow scored either side of the hour mark were absolute humdingers, worthy of any highlights clip and well beyond the understanding let alone the ability of their English opposition.
The match was a 7-7 draw when Poite reached for his pocket. Russell’s pass to replacement hooker Grant Stewart was deemed to have been deliberately knocked on by visiting scrum-half Nic White, who was carded, with Glasgow awarded the penalty try.
With a spring in their step Glasgow produced two more tries in the space of as many minutes, both miniature acts of brilliance and proof that Rennie’s side are right back to their inventive best. The first started with a lineout five metres from Glasgow’s own line, the ball was whipped to Seymour on the right wing and he found acres of space, swapping passes with Russell before feeding George Horne, who returned the favour for Seymour, who had come off his wing, to score.
Two minutes later Glasgow fans were celebrating again as this time Hogg sliced his way through from a lineout, fed Seymour on the switch, both Horne brothers got involved, Peter feeding George who fed Fagerson who flopped over the try line.
Going behind by three scores seemed to spark Exeter into life. Don Armand got one back for the
visitors on 65 minutes and Whitten finished off a cracker on the left wing after Seymour sold himself, attempting the interception, on 70 minutes.
Going into the final ten minutes we had a seven-point game but Glasgow were in no mood to let this one slip away.