Townsend’s sound plan fal­ters as War­riors pay the penalty for in­abil­ity to ex­e­cute his or­ders

The Herald - Herald Sport - - RUGBY UNION - AT THE SPORTS­GROUND STU­ART BATHGATE

AFTER los­ing their last match of the reg­u­lar sea­son 14-7 to Con­nacht, Glas­gow War­riors had two weeks to work out how to get the bet­ter of the Ir­ish prov­ince be­fore re­turn­ing to the Sports­ground for Satur­day’s Pro12 semi-fi­nal. The plan was sound. It was the ex­e­cu­tion that was flawed.

The emo­tional con­trol was there, at least in the sense that no-one was sent off this time, but the penalty count was still far too high. The greater ag­gres­sion was there too, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the open­ing spell of the sec­ond half, when Glas­gow briefly threat­ened to sweep Con­nacht away. Over the piece, how­ever, it was the home team who dis­played the greater fe­roc­ity.

And as for those op­por­tu­ni­ties? One or two went beg­ging – open­ings made that were not fin­ished off – but not enough were cre­ated.

No sooner had the match be­gun than it was halted again, for fully eight min­utes, to al­low Finn Rus­sell and Zan­der Fager­son to be treated after run­ning into each other. Nei­ther man was able to con­tinue, both hav­ing re­ceived head knocks, and Rus­sell had to spend the night in hos­pi­tal after sus­tain­ing what Gre­gor Townsend called “a very se­ri­ous in­jury”.

Dun­can Weir re­placed Rus­sell for his last ap­pear­ance in Glas­gow colours be­fore mov­ing to Ed­in­burgh, and he claimed his team’s first score with a 25th-minute penalty shortly after AJ MacGinty had given Con­nacht the lead with his own first at­tempt. Five min­utes be­fore half-time, how­ever, Niyi Ade­olokun col­lected a kick through from Bundee Aki to score a try which, once con­verted by MacGinty, took the score at the break to 10-3.

The War­riors upped the tempo after the restart, and were re­warded for their ex­tra ef­fort when Leone Nakarawa – also play­ing for the last time be­fore mov­ing on – touched down. An ex­cel­lent, eva­sive break from Mark Ben­nett had done the dam­age, and fast re­cy­cling gave the Fi­jian lock the open­ing he needed to score.

Weir missed the chance to draw level with the con­ver­sion, then MacGinty made it 13-8 with his sec­ond penalty. When Weir was on tar­get again, the lee­way was down to two points once more, but the War­riors’ best ef­forts could not get them close to scor­ing again.

In­stead, MacGinty put his team five points clear with another penalty. Ade­olokun then touched down again only for the score to be chalked off for ac­ci­den­tal off­side. None­the­less, it was an in­di­ca­tion that Con­nacht still held the up­per hand, and for all that Glas­gow tried to kin­dle a re­vival, they were forced into play­ing too much run­ning rugby too deep in their own half. The home team fully de­served their vic­tory, and now come to Mur­ray­field for Satur­day’s fi­nal against Le­in­ster.

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