Glasgow Warriors 28-21 Exeter Chiefs
Glasgow Warriors ensured that their 2017/18 European Rugby Champions Cup campaign would end on the highest of notes, as Dave Rennie’s side claimed a bonus-point 28-21 win against Exeter Chiefs.
Tries from Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour and man-of-the-match Matt Fagerson, as well as a penalty try, were backed up by a resilient defensive effort as a sold-out Scotstoun roared their side to victory.
With a tremendous effort from the ground staff having cleared the Scotstoun pitch of snow pre-game, it was Finn Russell who got proceedings underway on a crisp January afternoon.
Just 65 seconds later, the Scotstoun crowd were brought to their feet for the first score of the game. A break from Russell on halfway saw him break the defensive line before producing an offload to the supporting George Horne. The scrum-half drew the final man before passing inside to Hogg, the Scotland international touching down under the posts on his return from injury. Russell converted, and the Warriors led 7-0.
The Aviva Premiership champions responded in typical fashion, with repeat phases of possession in Glasgow territory as they searched for an immediate riposte. The Warriors defence, however, held firm, with Seymour’s superb covering tackle denying Ian Whitten a try in the corner.
The defensive effort was taking an early toll on the home side, though. Jonny Gray and Adam Ashe were amongst those bloodied and battered for their work, whilst George Turner’s early injury meant a first Scotstoun appearance for Grant Stewart.
Still the pressure came from the visitors. Once again, it took a last-ditch tackle to deny the Premiership side their first try, Huw Jones somehow holding the ball up over the try-line after Whitten had punched his way through, before a scrum won against the head allowed the Warriors to clear their lines.
Having absorbed phase after phase of pressure, Glasgow nearly provided the ultimate sucker-punch on 27 minutes. A chip over the defence on halfway from Hogg saw the ball hacked ahead into the 22, with Gareth Steenson just getting to the ball first to deny the onrushing Hogg and George Horne.
However, with just two minutes left in the half, Exeter finally found a way through the Glasgow defence. After Phil Dollman was stopped short of the line, it was eventually left to Sam Simmonds to power over from close-range. Steenson’s conversion levelled the scores, as the sides headed into the break all-square.
The second period began in frenetic fashion, with the home side determined to run the ball from anywhere. It was now Exeter’s turn to defend repeated phases inside their own territory, as the Warriors looked to regain their lead.
On 52 minutes, that lead was restored. Defending against a three-man overlap Exeter scrum-half Nic White was adjudged to have deliberately knocked Russell’s scoring pass on, with referee Romain Poite sending White to the sin-bin and awarding Glasgow a penalty try after consulting with the TMO.
The end-to-end nature of the game continued, as Exeter found themselves driven into touch from a maul five metres from the Glasgow line on the hour mark. What happened next, however, almost took the roof off of a sold-out Scotstoun.
Having secured the ball from the lineout, two passes from Russell and Hogg found Seymour in space to send the British and Irish Lion racing up the touchline. His inside ball found Russell, who in turn fed George Horne. Despite being reeled in by a despairing Olly Woodburn, Horne’s offload was timed to perfection for the supporting Seymour, who touched down for one of the tries of the season. Russell converted, and Glasgow led 21-7.
Glasgow were rampant with the man advantage, and secured the bonus-point in swashbuckling fashion. Once again, it was Hogg who provided the catalyst, with an arcing run and switch pass sending Seymour through on a half-break. George Horne, tracking inside on the perfect support line once again, took the pass to scamper into the Exeter 22, before finding Matt Fagerson. The back-row put his head down and charged over the line, with Russell once again converting for a 28-7 lead.
Restored to full-strength, Exeter sent a reminder to Scotstoun as to why they are the English champions as Don Armand drove his way over for the visitors’ second try. Steenson converted from in front of the posts, taking the score to 28-14.
The momentum had once again shifted towards the Premiership side, who scored their third try on 68 minutes. Steenson, identifying the overlap, threw a wide pass to Simmonds, with the number eight creating the two-on-one to send Whitten over for the score. The difficult conversion was added from the touchline, and the deficit was once again cut to just seven points.
Exeter were once again throwing everything at Glasgow, as they looked to keep their European hopes alive. However, once more the Warriors defensive line was up to the challenge, with the final whistle confirming that it would be the home side that took all five points.