GLASGOW Warriors got their new Pro12 campaign off to a blistering start with a six-try demolition job on champions Connacht at the Sportsground.
Three months on from their loss at the same venue in last season’s semi-final, Gregor Townsend’s side scratched an itch that’s been just out of reach all summer.
Even some of our new players like Simone Favaro said losing the semi-final is the biggest disappointment that he’s feltGREGOR TOWNSEND
Apart for a scrum that struggled for the opening 30 minutes, Warriors were dominant in every facet of the game. They pilfered ball with regularity on the ground; they made a mess of Connacht’s lineout ball and executed slickly on their own; and they defended like their lives depended on it. It was the perfect start for the 2015 champions.
There was a nice moment after the game as Connacht captain John Muldoon embraced Warriors’ forwards coach Dan McFarland. The pair had battled in Connacht’s trenches for years and McFarland had written the script for many Connacht epics in the past. His fingerprints were all over this win. “Well I just gave him a little nudge in the shoulder and said: ‘Well done, I’m sure you’ll be the happiest of the coaching group’,” said Townsend of his assistant.
After last season’s final flourish at BT Murrayfield, this was supposed to be Connacht’s homecoming. In their first game since that Grand Final win it didn’t take long for an eerie flatness to descend on the 6,063 in attendance.
A couple of early chances for Connacht went unclaimed. Their scrum held the upper and and provided good platforms to attack from, but all the silky passes of last season didn’t stick this time.
Instead Glasgow, still smarting from the two losses in Galway at the end of last season, happily lapped up tackles, competed feverishly on the ground and struck efficiently when chances came their way. The hurt of last May clearly fuelled this particular fire, but that passion was well directed – other than Ryan Wilson’s ugly lunge at Jack Carty, which drew a yellow card on 29 minutes – especially at the breakdown where Warriors ruled.
“We’ll always look at the breakdown as a massive area. Especially against Connacht when they’ve got guys like Nepia Fox-Matamua. He was unlucky a few times when he got to the ball. You’ve got Bundee Aki who’s good over ball. John Muldoon’s good over ball. The players knew that because they’ve played two times before against them so that was probably the most pleasing aspect.
“We work on passing a lot. A big thing for us was getting our attack shape into the game, and we knew we had to be more accurate with the ball.”
That accuracy allowed Tommy Seymour to cross twice as Glasgow led by 13-5 at the interval, but by the hour mark they had run in another three tries from Stuart Hogg, Tim Swinson and Sila Puafisi.
At that stage it was non-stop, intense rugby by Warriors, so much so it was necessary to check the record books for Connacht’s biggest home defeat, although the rout stopped four points short of that landmark when Sean Lamont scored try No 6 nine minutes from time.
“In sport you get a nice feeling when you win and you get a horrible feeling when you lose. When you lose your last game of the season, you will stew on it,” said Townsend.
“For someone like Jonny [Gray] who just played in two finals for us, he’d never lost at the semi-final stage, it really hurt him. Even some of our new players like Simone Favaro said it’s the biggest disappointment he’s felt.
“So it shows how much they care about the club. It’s great they can go ‘New season, new feeling from the Connacht dressing room’. And they’ve earned it.”