Johnny Matthews' five-try haul gives Glasgow Warriors the chance to make club history in Europe
He’s come a long way since but his eye for the line is sharper than ever. The hooker was Glasgow Warriors’ top try-scorer last season with nine but he eclipsed that total on Saturday with his five-timer in the 73-33 win over the Dragons in the last 16 of the EPCR Challenge Cup. Matthews now has 11 for the season, eight of which have come in his last two starts (he scored a hat-trick against Zebre last month).
On a record-busting evening at Scotstoun, he became the first Warriors player to score five tries in a game as Glasgow racked up both their highest ever points total and highest number of tries (11). As prolific as he is modest, the likeable Liverpudlian credits his team-mates for their hard graft, particularly at the lineout maul. Glasgow have got this move off pat and four of Matthews’ tries came via this route, as did one scored by the hooker’s replacement, George Turner. “I think the boys up front did really well, worked really hard in that maul to give the opportunities for myself and G [George Turner] to get the ball down,” said Matthews. “You look at it, and Fraz [Fraser Brown] has scored quite a few this year, and G has as well, so we do a lot of work on it and the value of that you can see with the number of tries we scored on Saturday night and last week against Munster as well. So, every time we get five metres out, we know we are in a position to score, so long as we execute the lineout like we did.”
Amid the flurry of lineout drives, there was also one pearler from Matthews. It was created by his front-row colleague Allan Dell, who burst through from his own half then slowed down to wait for support. Matthews arrived and finished it off with a lung-busting run to the line. “I don’t know what I was thinking, to be honest,” said the bemused hooker. “I don’t know how I got there.”
In truth, Matthews is pretty nimble for a big man and looks to have benefited from Franco Smith’s tough fitness regime at Scotstoun. Glasgow kept going right to the end on Saturday, with Kyle Steyn running in their 11th and final try in the dying seconds. It was the captain’s second of the night, with George Horne, Huw Jones and Cole Forbes also adding to the six scored by the hookers. Horne converted eight of them, and Domingo Miotti one, as Glasgow swept aside opponents who had their prop Aki Seiuli sent off in the first half for a head-first lunge at Horne. The Dragons made a decent fist of it and scored five tries of their own through Jordan Williams, Rio Dyer, Jared Rosser and Elliot Dee (2) but they were always chasing the game.
Glasgow’s reward is a home quarter-final against the Emirates Lions on Saturday night (8pm kick-off) and the chance make another bit of club history – they have never before reached the semis of a European competition.
Scorers: Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Horne, Matthews 5, Turner, Forbes, Jones, Steyn 2. Cons: Horne 8, Miotti.
Dragons: Tries: J Williams, Dyer, Rosser, Dee 2. Cons: Reed 4.
Red card: Seiuli (Dragons, 32min). Yellow card: Horne (Glasgow, 75min).
Glasgow Warriors: O Smith (J Dobie 65); K Steyn, H Jones, S Tuipulotu (T Jordan 76), C Forbes; D Miotti, G Horne; A Dell (N McBeth 47), J Matthews (G Turner 47), L Sordoni (S Berghan 47-67), S Cummings (JP du Preez 72), R Gray (L Bean 65), R Darge, S Vailanu (R Wilson 34), J Dempsey.
Dragons: J Williams; R Dyer, S Hughes (I Davies 15), M Clark, J Rosser (L Jones 67); W Reed, R Williams; A Seiuli, B Roberts (E Dee 40), C Coleman (L Brown 40), B Carter, G Nott (H Taylor 72), R Moriarty (B Fry 65), T Basham (R Jones 44), A Wainwright (S Lonsdale 55).
Referee: Tual Trainini (France)