So often written off as a decent team by casual observers, Gregor Townsend’s Glasgow Warriors sent out a strong message on a pulsating day of European rugby with the biggest win of the day and, to some, the biggest upset of the day in the European Rugby Champions Cup, despite being favourites to win. The latter is perhaps unfair. Aside from defeat in Ulster last week – their first of the season – the Warriors have been one of the form teams in the Guinness PRO12 and reached last season’s league final, where they lost to their nemesis Leinster. That’s two competitive two defeats since February and their last competitive defeat at Scotstoun Stadium was to European champions Toulon in January, thanks largely to the boot of the now-retired Jonny Wilkinson. A fortress Scotstoun certainly is and, with a capacity crowd of 6,700 (after the erection of a new temporary stand), the home support more than played their part as the Warriors ran in five tries, which could very well have been more but for some determined defending and the occasional handling error through over exuberance. It wasn’t quite a complete performance by the Scots, but it was easily their most impressive win of the season against a team riding high in the Aviva Premiership and tipped by many to win Pool 4. Ahead of tough away trips to Montpellier and Toulouse, it was the perfect start to their European campaign as they smashed through Bath’s defence at will. It was humiliating men against boys stuff in a competition supposedly containing the 20 best clubs in Europe. This result, more than any other this weekend, will have tongues wagging.
The West Country club’s back row problems were one of the biggest talking points going into the game and it turned out to be a massive factor in the match as well. Regardless of the on-off signing of Toulon flanker and current European player of the yaer Steffon Armitage, it is clear that director of rugby Mike Ford needs to get someone (probably more than one) in quick. Ford has been looking at other options away from Armitage and someone may be heading through the doors soon – at least registered by Tuesday lunchtime, if they are to play a part in next week’s European clash with Toulouse at The Rec. Just five minutes into the final quarter, the Warriors had the result locked up through Niko Matawalu’s brilliant solo try and Bath had five locks on the field. To make matters worse, they’d lost star centre Kyle Eastmond to injury late in the first half, the England international believed to have a rib problem. The prognosis is still to come, but anything more than a couple of days out will be a further blow to the English club’s chances in Europe.
Coming into the match, it was Bath’s backline which was supposed to be feared. From one of the in-form centre partnerships in the UK and Ireland in Eastmond and Jonathan Joseph to menacing wingers Anthony Watson and Semesa Rokoduguni [the Fiji-born former tank driver in the British Army’s Royal Scots Dragoon Guards], all bossed by outside-half George Ford, a shoo-in for the England squad next week. Even Wales international Gavin Henson was getting praise for his performances, at full-back. As it turned out, it was the Warriors backline which caused all the damage, led by captain and scrum-half Henry Pyrgos – who was rightly declared man of the match by former Bath, Glasgow and Scotland scrum-half Andy Nicol. There were only glimpses of the damage that Ford and co could do. Even their try through Joseph was a gift from Warriors full-back Stuart Hogg as he lost a high ball in swirling wind. A game-ending knee injury to left wing Tommy Seymour as he scored the Warriors’ third try just before half-time couldn’t derail their charge as record try-scorer DTH van der Merwe took over and was as effective with his marauding runs in the second 40, as Sean Maitland was all match down the right as the three wingers combined to make 186 metres. It would be difficult to forget the Warriors midfield partnership of Peter Horne and Mark Bennett, the former making 11 tackles and bringing his team-mates into good attacking positions, while the latter went over twice with some strong running, and was in support of Matawalu for a typically crowd-pleasing score three minutes after the Fijian came off the bench. Collectively, the Warriors were more fluid in attack, as they have been all season and took most of their chances when they arrived.
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge