Perhaps it was the presence of the Springboks’ coach Rassie Erasmus in the stands but something inspired the Southern Kings, who morphed from league laughing stock to world beaters in the space of 80 minutes.
To give some idea of the magnitude of yesterday’s win over Glasgow, the Kings had only won one Pro14 match before this one. Glasgow fielded 13 international players, the Kings one, yet still the visitors were schooled in the old-fashioned virtue of hunger.
With five tries, the Kings thoroughly deserved their victory even though Glasgow set some sort of record for unforced errors. The visitors were wholly unable to hold onto the ball and build any pressure in the first hour of this game. When the Kings had the ball, Glasgow’s tackling was an optional extra that far too few Warriors chose.
No one was innocent but some Warriors were more guilty than most. Peter Horne missed touch from a penalty, kicked straight out on another occasion, jammed in to give the Kings the space for their first try and missed a tackle before the hosts’ fourth.
Nick Frisby looked out of his depth, Huw Jones anonymous. Nick Grigg missed two obvious tackles, one of which led directly to the Kings’ second try. And no one showed the urgency and appetite necessary to turn the tide. One of Glasgow’s better players was subbed on 50 minutes when Callum Gibbins replaced Chris Fusaro, who had at least looked he cared about the result.
The fact that Dave Rennie went to the bench as early as 33 minutes in tells you what the coach was thinking, not that it helped much. Fraser Brown, on early for George Turner, lost the ball in contact in his second or third carry, lost a turnover and then overcooked a five-metre lineout throw.
It was at the breakdown where Glasgow were comprehensively outfought. In Europe there is a trend for players not to compete too hard for the ball but no one told the Kings, who flew into the contact area, and the tactic paid handsome dividends in terms of turnovers.
Glasgow appeared incapable of adjusting to their opponents’ aggression. Of all the worrying aspects of this performance Dave Rennie must be most concerned about the lack of leadership despite Ryan Wilson starting this game on the flank. Only in the final quarter of the match did Glasgow finally spring into life with four tries.
The Kings raced into a 21-0 lead inside the opening half hour, tries falling to Yaw Penxe, as early as the fifth minute, fly-half Martin du Toit and his half-back partner Rudi van Rooyen. And Glasgow were counting their blessings that it hadn’t been very much worse. Prop Schalk Ferreira knocked on with the line at his mercy and then the Kings had what looked like a brilliant try wiped off by the TMO who had spotted the smallest of knock-ons in the build-up.
Last weekend Glasgow made hay when the opposition were reduced to 14 men but failed to score any points when Penxe saw yellow for a tip tackle. Nick Grigg wriggled over the Kings’ line only to have his try wiped off for another knock-on.
Instead the Kings were able to extend their half-time advantage to 24-0 with a late penalty from the boot of Masixole Banda who had added all three conversions.
Glasgow needed to score first in the second half but instead the Kings claimed their bonus point with the best try of the match, a length of the field effort, rounded off with a neat chip and catch by Harlon Klaasen.
Glasgow eventually earned their first points on the hour mark, against 14 men, when Grigg barrelled his way over the line. He was followed in quick order by DTH van der Merwe, picked out with a long pass by Adam Hastings who made his mark after replacing Horne. But just when it looked like Glasgow might salvage something from the game, the Kings kicked to the corner and du Toit pounced on a bouncing ball to score his second and his side’s fifth try.
There was still time for Glasgow to grab two further tries and a bonus point in the final nine minutes, Brown getting the first from a lineout drive, the second falling to van der Merwe.