Glasgow extended their winning run in the Pro14 to eight and they sent Leinster home empty handed to boot. It was scant consolation after that European defeat two weeks back but at least Glasgow showed the best of themselves in this uneven match, attacking in the first half, defending after the break. Six of the seven tries scored last night came in a hectic opening half hour.
Scotstoun hosted a brilliant display of fireworks, both on and off the field. While actual fireworks lit up the night sky around the old stadium the players responded with a flurry of early tries to keep the spectators’ attention fixed firmly on the field.
The first 40 was typical of Glasgow. The scrum was a shambles, their defence was worryingly porous and they struggled to contain the Leinster driving. However, in attack the Warriors were accurate and irresistible, a force of nature as wave after wave of black shirts pounded the Leinster defence from all angles with passing going to hand and sticking.
They scored the best try of the season, close the ballot now, sparked by George Horne and made by Niko Matawalu’s mazy run that took him from his own in goal area to within 20 metres of the Leinster line when the little Fijian selflessly and needlessly gifted the score to Nick Grigg. Glasgow had the bonus point try secured inside 25 minutes but failed to score another try thereafter.
“There was a pretty special try in there, going 100 metres which certainly brings the crowd into it,” said Glasgow coach Dave Rennie afterwards. “Obviously we are very happy, we have ourselves in a good position going into a bit of a break.”
It was a good night for the Horne brothers who were starting a professional game together for the first time. Peter kicked everything off the tee and George plays the game at breakneck pace and his speed of thought is almost as impressive. He earned a yellow card for Jordi Murphy in the first half after the flanker tackled him following a quick tap penalty. When he went to the bin the match was level. When he returned to the action Glasgow were 28-14 ahead.
Apart from George Horne’s pair Grigg also grabbed a couple of tries, the one from Matawalu and another from close range. The little centre was back to his best after an uncertain start to the season.
In the forwards Tim Swinson carried relentlessly, hooker George Turner could do a shift at outside centre at a pinch and Rob Harley was his usual industrious self. Skipper Callum Gibbins waged war against anyone in blue and white colours.
Peter Horne kicked a penalty late in the first half although Glasgow then had to endure one final onslaught on their line when Leinster, taking a leaf from the Scotland play book, placed a centre at the front of a five-metre lineout only to lose the throw.
Glasgow took a 17-point lead into the second half and they needed it because the mood music changed dramatically. From the swashbuckling attack of the first half, Glasgow were reduced to desperate last-ditch defence throughout much of the second. Thankfully their defence was much improved from the opening half.
Losing the game of running rugby, Leinster tightened things up in the second half with a driving, mauling, one-out passing game. They kicked three penalties into the corner, Scott Cummings was carded at the second and Leinster scored after the third even though the try went to right winger Adam Byrne after the Glasgow forwards held their ground. That brought Leinster to within ten points but that was how things finished. The game had lost its shape, Glasgow handling went downhill and any attempt at continuity wasn’t helped by the usual slew of substitutes which at least gave Alex Dunbar his first taste of rugby in several months. It lasted all of five minutes before the centre earned a yellow card for an infringement five yards from his own line.
Leinster were camped in the Glasgow 22 but their driving mall was turned over and stand-off Ross Byrne stuck one crossfield kick straight into touch. All of which meant that Glasgow took their ten-point advantage into the final ten minutes and with Dunbar returned to action the Warriors finally worked their way into the Leinster half.
They got nothing for their efforts but at least the Scotstoun faithful were able to enjoy the final exchanges which took place in the middle of the field.