Glasgow Warriors 40-15 Cardiff Blues
Niko Matawalu marked his 100th appearance in a Glasgow Warriors shirt in style, scoring a brace of tries in his side’s convincing 40-15 win over Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun.
Dave Rennie’s side were good value for the result, running in six tries in total to consolidate their position at the top of Conference A in the Guinness Pro14.
The visitors were the first to trouble the scorers under the Friday night lights, with Jarrod Evans making no mistake with a penalty after just five minutes.
Yet the hosts responded in the best possible way, by scoring the game’s first try with 10 minutes on the clock. Despite Cardiff clearing their lines after an incisive break from Nick Grigg, the Warriors took full advantage of a disorganised Blues defence. Good handling from Matt Fagerson freed Ruaridh Jackson, with the full-back offloading to the supporting Adam Ashe for the simplest of finishes. Peter Horne added the extras, and the home side led 7-3.
It was then time for the man of the hour to get in on the act, to the delight of the Warrior Nation. A ball in behind from Ali Price saw Matawalu scamper through the gap, before producing a trademark sidestep to beat the last defender and dive over for the try. Horne’s conversion was on target, with the Scotstoun crowd chanting the name of their latest centurion.
The Warriors almost had a third try before the half-hour mark, as Horne sliced his way through the Blues defensive line on half way before feeding Price on his outside. The scrum-half’s attempted pass back inside to George Turner was disrupted, however, and the chance went begging.
Rennie’s men were not kept waiting for long though. After winning a penalty on their own 22, Price’s quick tap allowed Stafford McDowall to burst on to the ball at pace. The former Ayr man’s basketball-style pass back inside found Jackson, who flicked a pass out the back to Grigg. He in turn fed captain Callum Gibbins, with the flanker having just enough pace and strength to make the try-line. Once again, Horne added the extras, and the Warriors led 21-3 as the game passed the half-hour mark.
The home side were thoroughly dominant as the half drew to a close, with some slick handling and strong running lines constantly testing the Blues defence. Horne had the chance to extend the lead yet further with a penalty on 34 minutes, but saw his attempt ricochet wide off the post.
Undeterred, the Warriors simply dusted themselves off and scored another sensational score to secure the bonus-point before the break. Tommy Seymour’s quick pass saw Grigg race up the touchline, with the centre duly sprinting 60 metres before returning the ball to the Scotland winger to finish the job. The conversion successful, the hosts held a commanding 28-3 lead at the interval.
Cardiff served a reminder as to their capabilities just moments after the restart, though, as a rolling maul from five metres saw Kristian Dacey rumble over the line to touch down. Evans was off target from the tee, leaving the score at 28-8 in favour of the hosts.
That score was quickly cancelled out by the Warriors, however. With an advantage in his back pocket, Price’s stabbed kick through was gathered by substitute Rory Hughes, who simply had to gather and slide over in the corner. Horne’s first missed conversion of the night meant the score read 33-8 with 54 minutes played.
The Blues hit back themselves just five minutes later, as Evans broke an attempted tackle to cross from 15 metres. The fly-half then converted his own score, making it 33-15 to the Warriors as the game entered the final quarter.
With Cardiff enjoying arguably their strongest period of the game, Matawalu once again decided it was time for him to intervene. The Fijian flyer picked off a pass from Blues replacement Steven Shingler and sprinted home from fully 80 metres, dotting down beneath the posts to give Horne the simplest of conversions and bring the crowd to their feet once more.
Matawalu almost secured his hat-trick in the most memorable of fashions with five minutes remaining, with an effort that had the stadium on its feet. Set free by McDowall, the winger raced clear, chipping over one defender before a second kick ahead dribbled agonisingly into touch, much to the crowd’s disappointment.
Instead, the Warrior Nation had to be content with just the brace for their latest centurion; not that anyone inside Scotstoun was complaining, as a bonus-point victory over their conference rivals ensured the home fans were smiling on their journey home.