Glasgow Warriors 22 Scarlets 7: Gregor Townsend hails best win since Bath
Warriors head coach pleased to get back to winning ways ahead of crucial European Champions Cup double header
Gregor Townsend was delighted with the manner of Glasgow Warriors’ 22-7 win over the Scarlets as they returned to winning ways in the Guinness PRO12.
After a disappointing 20-8 defeat at rivals Edinburgh last week saw last season’s PRO12 finalists cede the 1872 Cup for the first time since 2009, the Warriors head coach was pleased with the response in blustery conditions at Scotstoun Stadium.
We chose to play into the wind. We won that game by how we played in the first half and we did very well.
The Warriors dominated the first half, despite playing into strong cross-field wind and rain, but went in at the break 7-5 down after a late Liam Williams try cancelled out Alex Dunbar’s earlier effort.
Yet the home side upped their game in the second half as the wind dropped, scoring two tries as scrum-half Niko Matawalu and his half-back partner Finn Russell pulled the strings to get Peter Murchie and DTH van der Merwe over the tryline to put the game beyond the Welsh region.
“I think the first eight minutes was probably the best we’ve played since Bath [in October] and a different game as well; we had to play into the wind and rain,” Townsend said.
“We chose to play into the wind. We won that game by how we played in the first half and we did very well.
“Even though we went two points down at half-time, we’d worked them really well, shown what we could do and you did get the advantage of the wind behind, so it told in the end.
“Not only was it great to win after last week, but I think that’s the best we’ve played for a number of weeks, certainly the last five or six weeks probably looking back to the Bath game.
“It’s great you know the players are capable of that after a tough loss last week.”
Their victory was made easier by the Scarlets’ dismal away record that stretches back to March 2014, with the West Walians’ depleted pack also far from their best against a pack that had struggled in recent weeks.
While Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac had to field two academy hookers and a third- and fourth-choice tighthead prop due to their front-row injury crisis, his counterpart had the considerable luxury of rotating his props at the interval.
We had the edge on the opposition at the scrums in the first half…it’s good when you’ve got two props who can play a half and another two who can play a second half.
Warriors starting props Jerry Yanuyanutawa and Mike Cusack have had limited game time this season, with Cusack making his first home start since 2012, but both performed admirably in the difficult conditions before Townsend deployed Scotland and British and Irish Lions duo Ryan Grant and Euan Murray for the final 40 minutes.
And the former Scotland international was delighted to see Scotland-qualified tighthead Cusack return after a difficult couple of seasons hampered by injury and illness.
“I think it was an ideal game for him,” Townsend added.
“There were a lot of scrums, and Mike worked really hard. He maybe didn’t get to carry as much as the other guys on the park, but he cleared out rucks.
“We had the edge on the opposition at the scrums in the first half.
“Jerry was outstanding, Ryan Grant had two great ball carries in the first two minutes into the second half and Euan Murray put in a lot of work; a lot of tackles and ruck clearing, so it’s good when you’ve got two props who can play a half and another two who can play a second half.”
The Warriors players were criticised for showing arrogance and a lack of desire as they succumbed to Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield to begin 2015, but looked to be close to their best as they reignited their push to finish in the top two again this season.
With attentions turning to the European Champions Cup double header with Montpellier and Bath in the coming fortnight, Townsend was pleased with the effort even if they failed to get a try-scoring bonus point.
“When you get three tries, [a bonus point] is something you consider,” Townsend said.
“I thought it’d be lucky if any team scored a try in that weather, so to have four tries on the board and for us to get three tries we’re very pleased.
“We were playing a very good opponent and we had to play very well to beat them.
“We had to make a few changes with the effort put in by both teams, but the amount of carries and tackles the guys had we’re really pleased to get the second and third tries and, at the end, pushing for a fourth try.
“The conditions were very tough, then at half-time they walked out the wind dropped and there was no rain. I thought ‘what’s happening here?’ I told them the wind was going to get stronger and stronger.
“It was was tough; it’s very hard for passes to stick. You have a more of a limited game plan and defence will be set, so you have to run really hard.
“That’s what we got from the pack and from Niko especially.
“I thought he brought players into the game really well, and the backs stepped up too.”