The Guinness Pro14 week that falls immediately after the November Tests and the resumption of European action can often feel like a bit of a dead duck but Glasgow’s second string grasped their chance to shine with as good a performance seen at Scotstoun in some time.
Against a strong Scarlets team, led by Lions centre Jonathan Davies, the Warriors absorbed the blow of a 19th-minute red card to prop Alex Allan before unleashing a scintillating performance of dogged character, spirit and no little skill to leave the Welsh side who have been champions and runners-up in the past two seasons quite stunned.
The match had been a cagey affair, with Glasgow’s stand-in stand-off Brandon Thomson trading early points with the boot before Allan’s dismissal lit the touch paper to an absolute crackerjack of a game.
Rather than buckle, Glasgow grew in stature as the magnificent Oli Kebble came off the bench to drive an awesome display of scrummaging that visibly shook the Scarlets, who were temporarily down to 14 men too when Lewis Rollins was sin-binned, as Glasgow remarkably extended their lead to go in at the break 13-3 up after Thomson added a try.
The former South Africa Under-20 stand-off went on to finish the game with 24 points and confessed that it was the first time he had ever had a team-mate red-carded in a game.
“It was more a wake-up call than being worried,” he said of the incident which saw Allan correctly sent off for a shoulder to the jaw of Jake Ball. It was not a malicious act by the loosehead by any means but the letter of the law meant he had to take an early bath.
“The boys knew they had to then step up and give that extra 10 per cent and I think they did,” added 23-year-old Thomson. “It’s strange, you often see that when a team gets a red card, they unify and work harder to get the job done.”
Despite not making early inroads on the 14 men and suffering that yellow of their own, Scarlets must have been confident when they ran back out that they would grind Glasgow down in time.
“Coming out in the second half we knew they would come out firing but we did well with a couple of kick-off receipts, got back in their half and almost got two tries,” explained Thomson. They did get one try as Nick Grigg finished off a thrilling counter-attack and raised the Scotstoun roof with a magnificent sweeping move finished off by young wing Robbie Nairn on his first start for the club. Unfortunately, that was to be correctly ruled out by the TMO due to a forward pass by Scott Cummings in the dashing build-up.
Scarlets talisman Davies hit back with a try but Thomson’s boot kept the board ticking and the advantage healthy enough. It never felt truly safe though, and this stunner of a match rose to a fitting crescendo as Scarlets hit back with two brilliant tries finished off by Steff Evans and Clayton Blommetjies, while also losing another man to the sin bin for a Tom Phillips hit on the magnificent Tim Swinson, which should arguably have led to the same fate as Allan.
The Welsh drew within a converted score at one point but the boot of Thomson edged Glasgow home for a win which coach Dave Rennie must reflect on with as much if not more satisfaction than any of his time in Scotland so far.
The Kiwi coach admitted that the performance of some of those viewed as fringe men had given him a genuine selection headache ahead of this weekend’s trip to face Lyon in the Heineken Champions Cup.
It is likely that Adam Hastings will be back in the No 10 jersey in France, but Thomson said he hoped performances like Saturday’s can mark him out as a genuine option for the first-choice XV.
“I like to think so,” he said. “Game time gives you momentum and I’d like to keep up the form, but I’m sure they will come back and we’ll push each other to be better.”