Glasgow Warriors 35-17 Toyota Cheetahs
Five different scorers crossed the whitewash for the home side, as the Warriors made a victorious return to domestic action ahead of next weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final.
Having waited a month to see their side in action at Scotstoun, the Warrior Nation were delighted to see their team start in impressive fashion. A first visit to the Cheetahs 22 yielded the evening’s first try, as captain Callum Gibbins was driven over courtesy of a close-range maul to touch down on his return from injury. Peter Horne added the conversion, and the Warriors led 7-0 after as many minutes.
Yet with a threatening attacking arsenal at their disposal, the Cheetahs immediately set about responding in kind. After stringing together a succession of phases, the breakthrough eventually arrived on 14 minutes, as William Small-Smith collected a looping pass from Dries Swanepoel to finish well out wide. Unlike Horne, Tian Schoeman was unable to add the extras, leaving the score at 7-5 in favour of the hosts.
It took all of two minutes for the Warriors to hit back. A short pass from Horne to Kyle Steyn sent the Scotland Sevens international rampaging into the 22, before being dragged down by the cover defence. Undeterred, the centre duly picked himself up to regain his position in midfield in time to collect another pass from Horne two phases later. This time, there was to be no denying Steyn as he crashed over for his first try for Glasgow, the conversion making it 14-5 after 17 minutes.
With the front-row union asserting their dominance at the scrum, the Warriors were enjoying a prolonged period of pressure in opposition territory as the half-hour approached. Try number three was sensed by the home supporters, and it duly arrived on 28 minutes. Rory Hughes spotted a gap at the breakdown missed by the visiting defenders, allowing him to gleefully pick the ball up and race under the posts untouched. Horne’s task from the tee was a simple one, the fly-half extending the lead to 21-5 with ease.
Despite the wishes of the CDM East Stand, the bonus-point eluded Glasgow prior to half-time. Hughes was a fingernail away from changing that, however, the winger almost reeling in Stafford McDowall’s grubber kick as the clock ticked into the red.
A frantic start to the second stanza saw the visitors press for an early score, with only a diving play by McDowall preventing Rabz Maxwane from turning a kick ahead into a try after good interplay from the Cheetahs forwards.
Indeed, it was one of the visiting pack that registered the half’s first points just moments later, as replacement hooker Joseph Dweba produced an impressive turn of pace to take a pass from Tian Meyer and sprint over from 20 metres. Schoeman’s conversion was on target, meaning the score-line read 21-12 to the home side with 46 minutes on the clock.
Yet the Warriors had their eyes firmly fixed on that try bonus-point, as they continued to pressurise the Cheetahs defence. The all-important fourth try arrived on 57 minutes – with space identified out wide, some good handling from Tim Swinson and Fraser Brown allowed McDowall to feed Steyn before receiving a return pass. The big centre still had a lot to do from 15 metres, but some impressive driving of the legs and a helping shove from captain Gibbins saw him crash over for the score. Adam Hastings, on for Horne at fly-half, added the extras and Scotstoun was in full voice.
Whilst the Glasgow attack was catching the eye, the Warriors defence was also making its presence felt. Despite being pinned on their own five-metre line, combative breakdown work from substitutes Grant Stewart and Chris Fusaro ensured that there would be no way through for the Bloemfontein outfit as the game entered its final ten minutes.
Knowing they needed a score to have any hope of getting something from the match, the Cheetahs were now throwing the ball around from anywhere as they sought a gap in the Glasgow defensive line. With that ambition came opportunities for the Warriors, however, with Nick Frisby and Niko Matawalu each close to interceptions.
It was indeed to be the hosts that crossed for a fifth try in the closing stages, as Frisby’s break took Glasgow into the Cheetahs 22 once more. When the ball was recycled, Scott Cummings took full advantage of open space in front of him to crash over, with Hastings once again on target with the conversion to extend his side’s advantage.
Yet straight from the kick-off, the visitors ensured that they would have the final word. A Glasgow handling error was capitalised on by the Cheetahs, Small-Smith diving over in the corner for his second of the night. The conversion drifted wide from the boot of Schoeman, leaving the final score at 35-17 to the hosts.
A well-received bonus-point victory ensures that Rennie’s men go into Heineken Champions Cup action in rude health, as all eyes now turn to Allianz Park next weekend for Saturday’s quarter-final tie with Saracens.