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