Connacht get a rude awakening
Connacht 5 Glasgow 41
Published 04/09/2016 | 02:30
Of all the intros to Connacht's opening argument in the defence of their Guinness Pro 12 title, the last we expected to be making was that they had just suffered their heaviest home defeat in 14 years. Hands up who remembers Pontypridd featuring in the earliest days of Celtic rugby? Well it was the Welsh who came to Galway and stuck 40 points on the home team that day in 2002. Not a great start then for the champions.
If you include the tail end of last season this was the third meeting in four games between these sides - the Pro12s own mini saga. A crowd of 6,063 at the Sportsground were served up another very good first half, influenced by the strong wind blowing into the College Road end.
What they got in the second was a different movie in a different theatre. It could have been shot in Glasgow on a training day when pretty much everything was following the script to the letter. A scoreline of 13-5 in the visitors' favour - they had the wind at their backs in the first period - in a hotly contested 40 minutes offered the prospect of a cracking second half.
Then another rock was pulled from Connacht's foundation and the whole house came down: two tries conceded into the wind, another four with it. By the hour mark the turnover stat was 14-7 in Glasgow's favour. Hard to win any game if you're coughing up that amount of ball.
Glasgow grew in confidence with every ball stripped in the tackle or poached at the breakdown. The Clan Stand, so raucous and valuable for so much of last season, were shuffling their feet long before the finish. Their team was scoreless after the break. They were cut adrift long before the end, and those closing scenes were dominated by the sight of Peter Robb being stretchered off. Thankfully he was up and walking around afterwards.
"We were off our game, obviously," Pat Lam said afterwards. "We prided ourselves the last time we played them on how we kept the ball. But that wasn't the case today."
The good news was that there were glimpses of cleverness in the first half in the way Connacht opened the Glasgow defence; Niyi Adeolokun's first half try was the perfect example.
The bad news was the speed with which they collapsed. Stuart Hogg's try six minutes into the second period, when he drifted out the back off a scrum and cruised over, will make for a painful review for Connacht tomorrow.
"Everyone's hungry to beat us," Lam said. "And what you saw ultimately was how hungry Glasgow were to beat us."
It didn't seem like the Scots were super-charged, rather they were really effective in dislodging ball in the tackle; their scrum was rock solid which gave them a perfect restart every time; and adept at the breakdown as well.
They could never have planned it would be so good: a bonus point secured well inside the hour mark? And another two tries to tack on to that as they ran through their patterns without having to try too hard.
Their hardest work had come before the break, in the way they got Tommy Seymour over for two tries. Their only setback had been the loss to the bin of Ryan Wilson on 29 minutes. The No 8 was only back on the field from a blood injury when he clobbered Jack Carty late.
Referee Ian Davies took an age to make up his mind, and settled for yellow when it could easily have been red. Just because it wasn't high didn't mean it wasn't very dangerous.
Glasgow conceded to Adeolokun in that period, but that would be the end of them going backwards. They exploded out of the traps in the third quarter and never looked back.
The consistent message from the Connacht camp afterwards was that all that went wrong was "fixable."
The Ospreys will be here next weekend, hoping that Connacht don't manage to put enough right in the short time available.
That Monday morning feeling is something they haven't felt around these parts in quite a while.
Scorers - Connacht: Adeolokun try. Glasgow: Seymour 2 tries, Hogg, Swinson, Puafisi, Lamont try each; Pyrgos pen, 3 cons, Clegg con
Connacht: C Kelleher; N Adeolokun, E Griffin (P Robb 55), B Aki, M Healy; J Carty (S O'Leary 66), C Blade (K Marmion 48); D Buckley (R Loughney 50), T McCartney (D Heffernan 63), F Bealham (JP Cooney 59), U Dillane (L Stevenson 63), D Qualter, E McKeon, J Muldoon (capt)(J Connolly 73), N Fox-Matamua.
Glasgow: S Hogg (S Lamont 59); L Sarto, A Dunbar, S Johnson, T Seymour; P Horne (R Clegg 64) H Pyrgos (A Price 69) ; G Reid (C Flynn 50), P MacArthur (R Grant 50), Z Ferguson (S Puafisi 50), T Swinson, J Gray (capt)(T Uanivi 69), R Harley, R Wilson (yc 29-39), S Favaro (L Wynne 64).
Referee: I Davies (Wales).
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