Glasgow Warriors 31-31 Exeter Chiefs

Glasgow Warriors kept their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup alive in front of a sold-out Scotstoun, as they played out a pulsating 31-31 draw with Exeter Chiefs on a dreich January afternoon.

Both sides ran in four tries to add a bonus-point to the two gained from a drawn game, with Dave Rennie’s side throwing everything at the English Premiership leaders.

With the rain teeming down in Glasgow’s west end, observers may have been expecting a game for the purists. It took all of 57 seconds for Glasgow to dispel that thought; on his first European start, Glenn Bryce’s offload out of the tackle allowed Fraser Brown to ship the ball on to Tommy Seymour in open space. The winger duly regathered his own chip ahead to dot down in the corner, Adam Hastings converting for an early 7-0 lead.

Visiting captain Joe Simmonds was on target with a fourth-minute penalty to get his team on the board, but with the early momentum with Glasgow it was the home side that immediately struck back for a second try inside the opening ten minutes. Great work from Seymour and Scott Cummings at the restart won the Warriors a scrum, from which Rennie’s men went to work. A clever maul in midfield from the pack allowed Sam Johnson and Bryce to combine to send Huw Jones over for a well-worked score. Hastings added the extras, and Glasgow led 14-3 after just nine minutes.

Out of nothing, the visitors responded with a score of their own with 12 minutes on the clock. A loose ball in midfield saw Nic White pick up and race clear, with the Australian just having enough pace to evade the chasing Hastings to score under the posts. Simmonds made no mistake from in front of the posts, narrowing the gap to just four points.

Hastings nullified his opposite number’s earlier penalty with a strike of his own, but with Callum Gibbins in the sin-bin Exeter began to exert sustained pressure inside the Glasgow 22. Matt Kvesic was the first to take advantage as the England international barged over from close range on 27 minutes, Simmonds’ conversion levelling the scores.

Despite a physical defensive effort, Glasgow were hit with a sucker punch just before Gibbins was restored to the action. A break from Jack Nowell on the wing took the visitors in behind the Warriors defensive line, and just a couple of phases later Jacques Vermeulen was driven over from a couple of metres out. The conversion was successful, and Exeter led for the first time in the match.

Yet Glasgow would not go into the interval trailing. With the clock past 40 minutes, a lineout on halfway was the spark for the home side’s third try of the half. After the ball was whipped wide to Seymour, Hastings snaked his way through a stretched Exeter defence. Faced with the last defender, his simple pass inside to the support George Horne saw the scrum-half show great pace and strength to race over under the posts. The conversion was successful, and the scores were tied at the break.

With a packed Scotstoun still re-taking their seats following the break, there was almost a dream start to the second stanza for the Warriors. A superb take from Kyle Steyn saw the winger break into acres of space, before grubbering ahead for Jones to chase. Yet the ball just wouldn’t sit up for the centre, and the chance went astray.

With the match on the line, Exeter resorted to their strengths. Relentless pressure from the pack inside the Glasgow 22 drew a couple of penalties in quick succession from referee Romain Poite, the last of which also saw Fraser Brown dispatched to the sin-bin.

It took just three minutes for the Englishmen to take advantage; after repeatedly hammering away at the Glasgow try-line, it was eventually Kvesic who crashed over for his second – and Exeter’s fourth – try of the afternoon as the rain intensified. Simmonds was on target once again, and the visitors led 31-24.

Yet with 64 minutes played, Glasgow showed that they could play Exeter at their own game. A penalty kicked to the corner saw replacement hooker George Turner find Ryan Wilson, and from seven metres out the maul proved unstoppable. It was eventually Niko Matawalu that emerged from a pile of players with ball in hand, with Hastings converting with aplomb from the touchline to level the scores at 3-131 heading into the final 10 minutes.

It was a closing period in which both sides thought they’d struck the crucial blow. Glasgow were first to be denied a match-winning score on 71 minutes; with the majority of a capacity crowd celebrating as Sam Johnson crossed in the corner, referee Poite and his TMO ruled that there was a forward pass in the build-up, chalking off the score to the dismay of the Warrior Nation.

With the clock in the red at the end of the match, a penalty from 60 metres gave Stuart Hogg the chance to win the match against his former side. The full-back put everything into the kick, only to see it cannon clear off the crossbar. The Warriors looked to launch a counter-attack from deep, but a last-gasp tackle on Chris Fusaro saw the flanker dragged into touch and the final whistle sound.

The spoils shared at Scotstoun, then; with three points from a draw and a try bonus-point, Glasgow go to the AJ Bell next weekend knowing that a bonus-point win – and some favours from around Europe – is required to reach the final eight in Europe’s premier club competition.

live commentary 3:15 PM Saturday 11 Jan 2020

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Kick-off 3:15 PM

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