Northampton Saints v Glasgow Warriors
Glasgow Warriors were left to reflect on what might have been in this Heineken Cup Pool 4 clash, as a fantastic opening spell gave way to a much more challenging second half and ultimately a narrow Round 1 defeat.
Gregor Townsend's men looked well set to push on and claim their first ever away Heineken Cup win over an English team, their play in the first 30 minutes pulsating with ambition, accuracy and power and allowing them to establish a 15-0 lead over the Premiership pace-setters.
However, a couple of maddeningly preventable scores immediately before half-time, and a slew of injuries to backs Ruaridh Jackson (hip), Stuart Hogg (leg) and Sean Lamont (cheekbone), contrived to make life considerably tougher for the Warriors. All three players will be subject to further assessment.
That they didn't even end up with a bonus point was harsh on Glasgow, who contributed heavily to a thoroughly entertaining encounter. Given their initial dominance, it goes down as a missed opportunity, and makes Friday's Scotstoun battle with Ulster even more significant.
Townsend told www.glasgowwarriors.org: "We"re all massively disappointed not to have won the game. We put ourselves in a position to do so with some great work in the first 30 minutes, where we took them on in their areas of strength and really had the edge.
"In every game, and especially away from home in the Heineken Cup, you need to play for 80 minutes, and we know we didn't do that. Our defending off a couple of their set-pieces wasn't as good as we'd expect, and at a time when we should really have been looking to press home our advantage, we ended up being up against it.
'those first 30 minutes are what we"re all about, and if we can produce that over the piece against Ulster, we know we"re more than capable of securing the victory we need."
The Warriors blasted out of the blocks and silenced the usually vocal Franklin's Gardens crowd by racing into an emphatic early lead. Peter Horne got things going, landing a 19th minute penalty after the Saints front row collapsed a scrum.
Four minutes later, Glasgow nailed the first game's first score. Lamont, a bundle of energy and purpose throughout, made the initial incision with a characteristically powerful break, and as the support arrived promptly, the visitors recycled possession. The big men carried on the move, and it was Josh Strauss who got the ball down for his first points in a Warriors jersey.
On the half-hour mark, the Warriors got themselves over the whitewash again. This time it was Lamont who claimed the dot, back on one of his old stomping grounds. Praise should also go to the great hands of Jackson and the hard running of Tommy Seymour, both of which played a big part in creating the score.
Northampton's attacking threat up until this point had been limited to a Ken Pisi break for the line, where the TMO rightly ruled that, under pressure from Lamont, his foot had brushed the flag before he got the ball down.
Sadly for Glasgow, however, luck was on the Saints" side. After a huge Courtney Lawes break, Seymour's alert defending seemed to have snuffed out the danger as Northampton moved the ball left. The ball broke kindly for George Pisi, though, and the centre duly dotted down.
Right on the stroke of half-time, things went from bad to worse for the Warriors. Ken Pisi fired straight up the middle, drawing the cover and creating space for George Pisi to canter over the line.
HALF-TIME: NORTHAMPTON SAINTS 12-15 GLASGOW WARRIORS
Glasgow, who had already lost Hogg to a bump to his leg, were forced to replace Jackson at the interval. Niko Matawalu came onto the wing, Peter Horne moved to stand-off and Lamont switched to inside centre.
Four minutes after the restart, fly-half Stephen Myler went over for Northampton's third score on the back of some untypically soft defending from the visitors, who shortly afterwards saw Lamont leave the fray after taking a blow to his face.
With no backs left on the bench, hooker Finlay Gillies moved into the centres. Winger Vasily Artemyev landed the bonus point try for the hosts with nine minutes left on the clock, dancing in at the left-hand corner.
Minutes before, Dylan Hartley thought he'd crossed at the opposite corner, but video replays confirmed that substitute Peter Murchie had completed a quite extraordinary defensive mission, putting in a decisive hit on one side of the pitch before materialising at the other to persuade the England hooker into touch.
Matawalu almost sneaked in for a last-gasp third try for the Warriors, but the Saints held on. An ultimately frustrating day after so much promise.
Northampton Saints: 15 James WILSON; 14 Ken PISI, 13 George PISI, 12 Dom WALDOUCK, 11 Vasily ARTEMYEV; 10 Stephen MYLER, 9 Lee DICKSON; 1 Soane TONGA'UIHA, 2 Dylan HARTLEY (Captain), 3 Brian MUJATI, 4 Samu MANOA, 5 Courtney LAWES, 6 Phil DOWSON, 7 Tom WOOD, 8 Rhys OAKLEY
Substitutes: 16 Mike HAYWOOD, 17 Alex WALLER, 18 Paul DORAN JONES, 19 Mark SORENSON, 20 GJ VAN VELZE, 21 Martin ROBERTS, 22 Ryan LAMB, 23 Tom MAY
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart HOGG; 14 Tommy SEYMOUR, 13 Alex DUNBAR, 12 Peter HORNE, 11 Sean LAMONT; 10 Ruaridh JACKSON, 9 Henry PYRGOS; 1 Ryan GRANT, 2 Dougie HALL, 3 Mike CUSACK, 4 Tim SWINSON, 5 Al KELLOCK (Captain), 6 Josh STRAUSS, 7 John BARCLAY, 8 Ryan WILSON
Substitutes: 16 Finlay GILLIES, 17 Ofa FAINGA"ANUKU, 18 Gordon REID, 19 Tom RYDER, 20 Chris FUSARO, 21 James EDDIE, 22 Niko MATAWALU, 23 Peter MURCHIE
Referee: R Poite (FFR