Glasgow Warriors survived the sin-binning of Adam Hastings and a late penalty attempt from Craig Ronaldson to open their PRO14 campaign with a win after a pulsating clash at the Sportsground.
The home side looked likeliest winners after Jack Carty kicked them into a nine-point lead but a try from Adam Ashe 16 minutes from time was followed up by a drop goal from Stuart Hogg, which sealed the victory for Dave Rennie’s side.
“That was a cracking game,” said Hogg. “We thoroughly enjoyed that but we didn’t make it easy on ourselves at times. But credit to the boys we held on to win.
“The boys will tell you I miss most of those kicks in training. I saw the opportunity as a shot to nothing more than anything. The boys got me into that position to kick it.”
Warriors could hardly have hoped to have got off to a better start when they crossed for their first try of the season after 63 seconds when Hogg chipped through for Seymour to score in the right corner.
Despite the early setback, Connacht soon settled and Carty got them on the board after 12 minutes when a Connacht maul was collapsed. Carty’s crossfield kick sent Cian Kelleher in for the lead try after 15 minutes, but Warriors’ defence at the side of their ruck disappeared to allow Turner to canter over for the try, which Horne converted.
Warriors will question their own defence that led to Connacht’s second try in the 22nd minute when Finlay Bealham waltzed through the gap to score as Connacht reclaimed the lead. Jonny Gray was denied a try when the TMO judged he hadn’t grounded the ball but the try finally came when co-captain Ryan Wilson crossed. Horne missed the simple conversion after a Connacht player rushed his kick, which left the game tied at 17-17.
But Warriors were left to rue the final six minutes of the half , the concession of silly penalties from Rob Harley and an offside allowing Carty to land two penalties for a 23-17 interval lead.
Carty has often been accused of being a streaky kicker for the home side, but he showed he was on song two minutes after the break as he punished another offside penalty with his sixth successful kick to stretch Connacht’s lead to 26-17.
Both teams had the chance to add to their tally from attacking lineouts, but a misfire from Rennie’s side and then some good maul defence from the Scottish outfit meant Connacht maintained their nine-point lead.
It didn’t take the Warriors coach long to call for Australian international scrum-half Nick Frisby for his debut and he brought his experience and impressive box kicking to the fray. But it was his partner at half-back, Hastings, that drew the attention of the home supporters after 58 minutes when his high tackle on Caolin Blade earned him a yellow card, although Carty was off target for the first time from the penalty.
Only an overcooked pass form Kelleher to Kyle Godwin denied the Aussie a try on his Sportsground debut after the hour mark, but even reduced to 14 players Warriors hit back. A stunning long penalty kick from Hogg pinned Connacht back on their own line, and at the second attempt replacement Adam Ashe scored off the maul and Hogg converted to make it 26-24.
It looked as if the home side would hold on to win after they repelled 28 phases of Glasgow pressure, but Hogg’s drop goal six minutes from time and Ronaldson’s penalty, which hit the woodwork, sealed the win for the visitors.