Wednesday 12 December 2018

Warriors land hammer blow on Exeter's Euro dreams

Glasgow 28 Exeter 21

Michael Aylwin

The unsettling pattern of the English clubs' experience in Europe this season was continued in Glasgow where the English champions, no less, were taught a lesson in precision and wit by their hosts from the Pro14. Glasgow's interest in this competition had long since expired but they welcomed back a host of international-calibre backs who tormented the visitors with a fraction of the ball hogged by Exeter.

Hogg was the word, Scotland's full-back Stuart returning to announce his fitness for the Six Nations. Glasgow, like Scotland, are labouring under something of an injury crisis and lost two more, with George Turner and Alex Dunbar off in the first quarter. But this did not disrupt.

In the bun-fight to qualify for Europe's quarter-finals Exeter, realistically, needed to win with a bonus point. It is a dangerous directive for any side but particularly one having to travel the length of these isles to the frozen north.

Exeter's mission was further complicated by a classic quicksilver raid by Glasgow after a minute, Finn Russell's footwork breaching the first line, whereupon the ball was worked smartly via George Horne to Hogg. Seven points.

But Exeter are nothing if not patient, working phases like few others. Patient but strangely careless too, coughing up the ball time and again, although much credit should go to the lighter Glasgow forwards, so quick over the ball to ruffle the Chiefs' composure. The pattern was set, the visitors' advantage in possession and territory overwhelming.

Ian Whitten was inches away from touching down, held up by Huw Jones, but it was not until just before the break that Exeter battered over for their first try. Turner's replacement, young Grant Stewart, overthrew a line-out, which Luke Cowan-Dickie swooped on, setting in motion another set of phases. This one was completed by the power of Exeter's back row, where Sam Simmonds drove over to draw Exeter level.

The game turned in the third quarter. At first no one had noticed when Russell's pass scudded into touch with two front-row forwards outside him. Nic White's tackle had seemed innocuous but the replays piqued the interest of the referee, who decided that White's arm batted the ball into touch deliberately.

It was a delicate call, but once made the punishments cascaded - penalty try and a yellow card for White. To describe what followed as further consequence would be churlish indeed. Glasgow took the bonus point with two tries in as many minutes. If Exeter had had 16 on the field they would surely have been confounded.

On the hour Tommy Seymour, another returning international, was released from his 22 and the support running of Glasgow's three-quarters was unanswerable, with Russell, Hogg and George Horne combining to send Seymour over.

Astounding, but the Warriors were not finished. From the next play Hogg broke and support - from Seymour and both Hornes, Rob and George - put Matt Fagerson in for Glasgow's fourth and a 28-7 lead.

That it wasn't the end of the story is of some consolation to the English and their champions, who responded with two tries before the last 10 minutes to give themselves a glimmer. Don Armand finished after a break by Joe Simmonds before Ian Whitten completed a flowing move to pull the Chiefs back to within seven.

They did not threaten again. Overwhelming possession had yielded precious little as they were undone by opponents who needed but a few morsels with which to work their magic. It felt like an apt summary of English travails in Europe.

Observer

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