This wasn’t a classic. Far from it. On a wet and windy night at Scotstoun, both teams struggled to control the ball, and had to rely on their goal-kickers for all the points – but Warriors head coach Dave Rennie, who was watching the game from his native New Zealand on the morning of his son’s wedding, will take solace from the fact that his team found a way to win ugly.
“It was a tough game,” said stand-in gaffer Kenny Murray. “The weather was difficult. We won the toss and I spoke to the nines and tens about what they wanted to do. We felt because they kick so much, if we could defend well and defuse their kicking game until half-time, they would then have to play from deep against a wind and if they can’t kick what do they do?”
In that sense, it went according to plan. But Murray wasn’t kidding anyone that this was exactly what he has been looking for.
“In the second half, we felt that if we could get a bit of territory and keep hold of the ball we’d eventually turn them over, but they defended well with a two-man tackle strategy, and the biggest thing was the support to breakdown in the first 20 minutes of the second half – we were a wee bit slow to get there, so that made things harder than they needed to be,” he explained.
After a scrappy start, in which both teams coughed up more possession inside 15 minutes than they would ordinarily deem acceptable in a full match, it was the visitors who briefly sparked this game into life when Sam Cross burst through midfield before feeding Tom Habberfield, and it took a last-gasp Nick Frisby tackle to halt what looked like being a certain score. Ospreys kept the pressure on for a few more minutes, aided by a Matt Smith fumble after a Niko Matawalu interception, but the Welshmen were ultimately just as ham-fisted as the hosts, so it came to nothing.
Sam Davies missed a 30-yard shot at goal from a ruck penalty with 22 minutes played but was on the money nine minutes later to finally break the deadlock, and he had a chance to double the away team’s lead just before the break with another long-range penalty, but he shanked it.
With the wind at their backs, Warriors came out and did what they needed to do after the break, earning a penalty inside three minutes of the restart which Brandon Thomson had no problem turning into three points.
After a hold-up in play while visiting loose-head Gareth Thomas was taken from the field with an ankle injury, Thomson stepped up again to double his and his team’s account on the hour mark, and then buoyed on by that score he opted to go for the posts again only two minutes later, this time from inside his own half. He gave the ball an almighty wallop and it sailed home to make it 9-3.
A moment of madness by Matawalu, when he appeared from an offside position at the back of a ruck and slapped the ball from visiting scrum-half Tom Habberfield’s hands, resulted in a fully justified yellow card, and with a man advantage the Ospreys dominated the final ten minutes. But Warriors held on for the win.