RaboDirect Pro12: Glasgow keep play-off hopes alive with Scarlets win
RaboDirect Pro12: Glasgow Warriors keep their play-off hopes alive with a 14-6 win against Scarlets
Niko Matawalu ran in the only try as Glasgow Warriors kept their RaboDirect Pro12 play-off hopes alive with a 14-6 win over the Scarlets.
In a lacklustre affair at Scotstoun Stadium, two first-half penalties from Duncan Weir gave the Warriors a platform for a hard-fought victory before the flying Fijian broke through a gap in the Scarlets defence just after the half-hour mark.
Unable to get their running game going, the Scarlets were limited to three points in either half from the boot of Olly Barkley with Weir adding a third penalty for the home side early in the second half despite breaking his nose in a head clash with Sione Timani.
Replacement centre Mark Bennett missed with a kick from distance for the Warriors just before the hour mark before Scarlets scrum-half Aled Thomas also missed with a late effort which denied his side a losing bonus point.
In what was dubbed a knock-out match for the Scarlets’ play-off hopes, the Welsh region were partly guilty of their own downfall with poor execution and ill-discipline despite recalling Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams who were instrumental in Wales’ seven-try demolition of Scotland in the Six Nations a week earlier.
The Warriors dominated both possession and territory for much of the match with man of the match Matawalu producing a typical lively performance which has endeared him to the Warrior Nation in recent seasons.
The Scarlets started well, pushing the Warriors back into their 22, but the errors quickly arrived and Weir was able to clear the danger.
Referee Alain Rolland was in no mood to let infringements slide and duly punished Scarlets tighthead Samson Lee for a high tackle on seven minutes. Weir looked assured as he slotted his first points on his return from Six Nations duty with Scotland.
Thomas, starting in place of the injured Rhys Priestland, committed his first cardinal sin of the night as he sent the restart out on the full, much to the delight of the home support.
Matawalu’s first incisive break came just before the mid-way point of the first half, but his offload to centre Richie Vernon on the right wing was kicked forward and Scarlets attempts to clear their lines was thwarted when Liam Williams was guilty of kicking out on the full.
The Warriors soon doubled their lead as former Warriors flanker John Barclay was found offside. Weir was again successful, this time from in front of the posts, and Thomas dumped the restart out on the full for a second time.
When Thomas put in a great touch finder into the 22, Dougie Hall’s lineout throw was deemed not straight and from the scrum five, the Scarlets scrummaging power showed up and provided the penalty opportunity for Barkley who put his left boot through a kick at goal on 25 minutes to half the lead, but any hope of a Welsh comeback was soon ended as the visitors again found themselves camped inside their own 22.
A catch and drive from a lineout on the half hour came close to unlocking the Scarlets defence as flanker Chris Fusaro led the charge to the line, but was held up short.
The Warriors piled in with Matawalu leading the calls for a try. Replays showed lock Tim Swinson near the line, but the TMO was unable to give a try.
It was short-lived relief for the Scarlets. The resultant attacking scrum was wheeled and scrum-half Chris Cusiter moved inside and threw a reverse pass to Matawalu coming round the corner and the Fijian burst through the gaping hole left by a defensive error from Scarlets number 8 Simone Timane to dot down.
Weir’s conversion effort drifted wide right, but the Warriors were good value for their 11-3 lead at the break.
It took just three minutes into the second half for the Scarlets to lose their discipline again and Weir added this third penalty, before Barkley also added to his personal tally with 50 minutes gone in what would be the last score of the encounter.
With Weir off the field, Bennett chanced his luck from just inside the Scarlets half to stretch the lead, but was off target with his effort.
The Warriors continued to introduce fresh legs from the bench, including a welcome return for club captain Al Kellock for the final 20 minutes and the Warriors grew in confidence with some good running from backs Matawalu, Peter Murchie and Tommy Seymour, but the Scarlets defence held out.
There was little of note from the Scarlets in the second period with Jordan William largely anonymous and Liam Williams also unable to get motoring as he had done against Scotland with the Warriors continuing to dominate territory, only a brief flurry in the final few minutes to excite the disappointed vocal Scarlets fans led by replacement scrum-half Rhodri Williams, but the best they could achieve was a penalty.
In the absence of Barkley, Thomas’ misery was compounded as he skewed his penalty two minutes from time which would have sealed the bonus point and made the journey back to West Wales slightly more enjoyable.