Glasgow centre Peter Horne admits it will be “a big blow” if Tim Swinson is suspended for the club’s historic first-ever European Champions Cup quarter-final at Saracens on Sunday.
The in-form lock was red carded for what looked to be a swinging arm on replacement hooker Dave Heffernan in the 65th minute of this compelling 35-24 win over champions Connacht which kept the Warriors alive in the Guinness Pro12 play-off hunt.
Warriors coach Gregor Townsend strongly indicated there would be an appeal this week, arguing that his player was aiming to dislodge the ball at the ruck and the Welsh referee Ian Davies flashed the card without examining the incident from multiple angles.
“We’ll wait and see what happens,” said Horne after the game. “Swinno’s been on fire this whole season, to be honest; he’s been brilliant. It will be a real big blow if he misses out, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed and see what happens.”
Swinson’s sending off was the only downside to what was otherwise an almost perfect tune up for that massive meeting with the European champions at Allianz Park at the weekend. On a glorious evening, the Warriors got their groove back with a fine bonus-point victory over an enterprising Irish side who contributed hugely to an excellent match.
The reigning champions, whose back-to-back wins over Glasgow at the end of last season opened the door to their surprise title triumph, utterly dominated possession in the first half but only led 15-13 at the break.
Niyi Adeolokun and John Muldoon crossed for the visitors but Finn Russell’s boot and a try for home hooker Corey Flynn kept Glasgow in it.
With more ball to play with after the break the momentum gradually shifted and tries by Russell, man of the match Ali Price, pictured, and veteran wing Sean Lamont, in the week he announced he would be retiring at the end of the season, sent the Scotstoun crowd home happy.
The electric Price also pulled off a match-defining try-saving tackle on Adeolokun in the final quarter as Glasgow showed admirable resolve to push on for the bonus despite the setback of losing Swinson.
With ten points still separating them from fourth-placed Ulster, the Warriors’ hopes of reaching the play-offs for a sixth successive season remain touch and go with no room for error and a testing trip to Munster next up.
For now, though, all focus turns to Saracens and Townsend was happy a number of internationals got a good run-out, with the likes of Jonny Gray, who was rested, and the injured Tommy Seymour, Zander Fagerson and Ryan Wilson all hopeful of being available.
“The type of rugby that Connacht play is very different to Saracens,” said Townsend. “We’ve got to prepare for different opponents, look at ways we can impose our game and ways that we can stop the Saracens’ game.
“There were a lot of positives against Connacht but also areas where we have to get better. Just to have Finn and [Stuart] Hoggy and other guys playing again is really good mechanism for us to give feedback on the things we have to work on, so the calls become second nature again. Another week of preparation will help us a lot.”
As well as the cloud over Swinson, prop Gordon Reid is now in the head injury assessment protocols, though Townsend said “he seems okay”. As for Horne, who started at centre and moved in to finish the game at stand-off when Russell was replaced by Alex Dunbar on the hour mark, he admitted this Saracens match took on huge significance in his comeback from injury as it became clear that playing a part in the Six Nations was looking unlikely.
“I said that when I got injured. We kind of ruled out the Six Nations, but I said my goal was to try and get back involved for this quarter-final,” said the 27-year-old. “Every day of my rehab it was in the back of my mind.
“We’re getting there. That’s me had four games in a row now – four 80 minutes for the first time since last season. I’m feeling better. Every week I’m improving. I’ll be looking to work my nuts off this week and put my hand up for selection again.”