IN what was billed as a RaboDirect Pro12 play-off eliminator Glasgow Warriors brushed Cardiff Blues aside while registering what could be a vital four-try bonus point at Firhill last night.
It was a win which came at some cost as Graeme Morrison, Ryan Wilson and John Barclay all left the field with worrying injuries. However, the spirit that has been developed in this Warriors camp by outgoing head coach Sean Lineen was summed up when Wilson, scorer of his side’s first two tries, reappeared on crutches to applaud his teammates off the field, then take a bow with them in front of those who had formed the bulk of the 4224 crowd.
The Blues had been forced into a reshuffle when their captain, Xavier Rush, withdrew from their side because of the birth of his son which meant he did not make the trip. The XV Glasgow had selected did not last much longer as they, too, lost a major figure when Morrison had to be assisted from the field.
Ma’ama Molitika, the Blues No.8, also had to leave the field early to have stitches inserted into a wound above his eye amidst fiercely physical opening exchanges during which the home team seemed to be gaining some early advantage in the scrummages, earning two free kicks and a penalty at the first three of them.
When the Blues did finally scrummage legally, Glasgow set up the first meaningful attack, repeatedly probing down the right as they took play from halfway into the Blues 22 before shifting the ball left where Stuart Hogg’s deep pass created an overlap but Duncan Weir’s potential scoring pass proved just too hot for Colin Shaw to handle.
The try was delayed only briefly. From the resultant scrum Lloyd Williams was hit hard and spilled the ball as he tried to gain ground and after a couple of rucks Chris Cusiter fed Wilson who realised he had been given just enough space to generate the pace to force his way over the line under the posts.
The decision was handed over to the replay official but after a few moments the No.8 was duly credited with his first try for the club which Weir converted. That came with 16 minutes on the clock and for the next 15 the Blues had more of the ball but they were kept in check by some thunderous tackling until Glasgow countered.
When they did it was almost lethal as they generated another overlap on the right only for Chris Fusaro to fail to make use of Freddie Aramburu’s support. Still they pressed and after the Blues encroached offside at a ruck in front of their own posts Weir took the penalty chance to extend the advantage to double figures at half-time.
Glasgow picked up where they left off as the game resumed building an attack with intensity and accuracy. After they forced their way deep into the Cardiff 22 Al Kellock made the first break for the line and after he was held up short Ryan Grant was next to go for it.
The prop thought he had scored but play was allowed to continue and there was no doubt at all when the same combination as found the way through in the first half did the same again Cusiter feeding Wilson who again carried men over the line for a try converted from wide on the right by Weir.
The Blues finally registered points through a Leigh Halfpenny penalty but the result was secured with 17 minutes remaining with another fine Glasgow try. Kellock made the initial inroads, setting up a ruck from which the ball was recycled quickly allowing Alex Dunbar, who was putting in his best performance in a Glasgow shirt, to make the break and Fusaro was on his shoulder to take the scoring pass, Jackson converting.
That left the pursuit of a bonus point as the last target, which was all the more impor- tant with play-off rivals Ulster already having registered one against Aironi.
Their bid was interrupted by yet another serious looking injury, Barclay making a similarly unhappy exit to the man he had replaced.
However there was no way they were going to be denied and they got there in fine fashion. After another injection of pace by Dunbar it was Cusiter, nominally playing in the backrow as a result of the injuries, who sprinted clear and this time Shaw was alongside to provide the finish.