Glasgow Warriors V Cardiff Blues
Glasgow Warriors ran in six tries to set a new club record of ten consecutive league wins, claiming a 40-16 victory over 14-man Cardiff Blues.
Six different Warriors touched down on a crisp winter’s night, with Ruaridh Jackson adding the man-of-the-match honours to his try-scoring efforts in front of a sold-out Scotstoun.
With just 90 seconds on the clock, it was the visitors who grabbed the early lead, as fly-half Jarrod Evans made no mistake with a penalty from in front of the posts.
Both sides were looking to run the ball in the early stages, on a perfect night for rugby. Leonardo Sarto’s break up the middle brought the Warriors into the Cardiff 22 for the first time, whilst USA international Blaine Scully was causing problems for the Glasgow defence.
Indeed, it was a break from Scully that produced the field position for the game’s first try. Willis Halaholo’s long pass found Macauley Cook on the touchline, with the second row strolling over from close range. Evans converted from the touchline, and the Blues led 10-0 after eight minutes.
The home side responded by building phases in Cardiff territory, with eye-catching carries from Callum Gibbins and Siua Halanukonuka met with the approval of the Scotstoun crowd. The pressure eventually told on 19 minutes, as Peter Horne’s cross-field kick was gathered on the run by Sam Johnson, with the Australian fending off the last defender to score. Horne added the extras, taking the score to 10-7 in the visitors’ favour.
Evans extended his side’s lead to six points just moments later, as referee Nigel Owens penalised Glasgow at the breakdown.
However, the game’s big talking point came on the half-hour mark, as Cardiff tight-head Taufa’ao Filise was shown a straight red card for a shoulder to the head of George Turner in the tackle. The Tongan was given his marching orders on the advice of the TMO, handing Glasgow the numerical advantage.
Almost immediately, the home side made it count. Horne’s cutout pass found captain Gibbins in the wide channels, with the former Hurricane charging for the line. Despite being dragged towards touch just two metres out, his off-load found the supporting Alex Dunbar, with the centre showing great strength to touch down. Horne added a superb conversion from the touchline, and the Warriors led 14-13.
It was a lead they would maintain until the break, with the visitors resisting further Warriors pressure to keep the gap at a single point.
Just like the first-half, it was Cardiff who made the stronger start after the break, and were rewarded with the first points of the second-half as Evans’ 47th minute penalty put the Blues back in front.
However, straight from the kick-off, it was the home side who threatened to cross the whitewash. Good interplay between Ruaridh Jackson and Sarto saw the Warriors to within five metres of the line, before Samu Vunisa was held up over the try line.
Glasgow continued to pile on the pressure, with only frantic scramble defence from the visitors keeping them at bay. Olly Robinson found himself on the wrong side of the referee, with the Cardiff flanker earning a yellow card for an infringement close to the line with 54 minutes played.
Niko Matawalu scored the last try of the eveningWith both field position and a two-man advantage, Glasgow’s dominance eventually paid off. Another looping pass from Horne put Jackson over in the corner for the home side’s third try, with Horne adding another conversion from the touchline to take the score to 21-16, with over a quarter of the game remaining.
Dave Rennie’s men were on the hunt for the bonus point, as they looked to further stamp their authority on the game. Sarto was unable to find Jackson on a supporting line in the Cardiff 22, whilst Niko Matawalu was just a fingertip away from gathering a cross-field kick just moments before Robinson returned to the field of play.
The crucial fourth try wasn’t to be long in arriving, though. With the Warriors pack hammering away at the try line, it was left to Vunisa to crash over from all of a yard out for his first try for the club, with Horne supplying the conversion from in front of the posts to extend the lead to 28-16.
There was still time for more, however. With three minutes remaining, replacement Adam Hastings’s grubber kick into the in-goal area was touched down by Sarto, the Italian just grounding the ball in time to record Glasgow’s fifth try. Horne was wayward from the tee for the first time, but the result was secured.
One final moment of magic was in store for the Warrior Nation, as the clock ticked over to 80 minutes. A loose ball in midfield was gathered by the enigmatic Matawalu on his own ten-metre line, with broken field in front of him. The Fijian duly chipped over the top, gathered his own kick and galloped home for a highly popular try, Horne’s conversion taking the final score to 40-16.
A tenth successive Guinness PRO14 victory means Rennie’s side return to European Rugby Champions Cup action full of confidence, as they prepare for the visit of French giants Montpellier next Friday.