Glasgow need Edinburgh favour or big improvement to qualify
Glasgow Warriors 33 Cardiff Blues 24
So near and yet still so far. Despite recording the predicted but at times horribly laboured bonuspoint win over a willing but significantly under-strength Cardiff Blues side, Glasgow Warriors could still face an agonising final Champions Cup pool fixture against Saracens on Saturday.
With Glasgow now on 19 points, if Edinburgh beat Montpellier at Murrayfield on Friday the Warriors will automatically qualify for the quarter-finals, with both Scottish sides making the knockout stages for the first time.
Although the presence of a Scottish team in the last eight is now a certainty, if Edinburgh, who are also on 19 points, fail to beat Vern Cotter’s side then (depending on points difference) Glasgow will almost certainly still need at least one bonus point to progress.
Not that there would be chance of a bonus point of any shape at Allianz Park, let alone the win that would bring a home quarter-final, if Glasgow perform as poorly as they did against Cardiff yesterday.
This was a relentlessly insipid and error-strewn performance and if Glasgow replicate this lack of intensity and accuracy at Saracens then the outcome will be ugly. To make matters worse, back-rowers Matt Fagerson and Callum Gibbins retired injured in the early minutes and are doubtful for Saturday.
“Saracens are another couple of rungs up, aren’t they?” admitted Dave Rennie, the Glasgow coach. “You’ve got to defend really well against them, so we’ll need the same sort of intensity that we played with a few months back, and be more clinical with ball in hand than we were today.
“But we’ve got it in us and we’re looking forward to it. It was always our mindset to try to win the pool, so we’ll go to London and have a decent crack at it.”
Rennie was clearly relieved to complete the bonus-point win but Glasgow look worryingly short of confidence. That translated into a defensive passivity and a lack of the brio that defines Glasgow at their best.
Indeed, had the home side not resorted to driving mauls, with Grant Stewart’s opening try and Chris Fusaro’s bonus-point score both coming from 12-man line-out drives, then they could have lost this match.
After some uncharacteristically jittery opening exchanges, it took almost half an hour for the Warriors to claim their first try, with secondrow Scott Cummings adding another soon after when he latched onto an Ali Price crash ball off the back of a ruck in Cardiff ’s 22.
From there on, though, Glasgow were outscored four tries to three by a Cardiff side who lived off scraps but threatened to pick up points every time they won frontfoot ball. In contrast to Glasgow’s forward-led tries, Owen Lane, Harri Millard and Josh Navidi all crossed over out wide after sweeping backs moves, while Lane claimed their last – making it 28-24 with 10 minutes to go – under the posts.
A George Horne score three minutes from time settled this affair but did little to salve Glasgow’s nerves.