Glasgow Warriors 18 Leinster 34
Leinster established an early stranglehold on Pool 3 of the Champions Cup on Saturday afternoon with a clinical, professional bonus-point defeat of a dangerous Glasgow Warriors side at a sold-out Scotstoun Stadium, writes Brendan O’Brien.
It marked the province’s first win at the venue since 2012 and, far more importantly, leaves them on ten points after two rounds following their first round bonus-point win against Montpellier in Dublin seven days earlier.
And this in a pool that drew winces when the draw was made.
Glasgow needed the win badly given their initial loss to Exeter Chiefs and, while they stretched the visitors with some superb, fluid play, Leinster were more physical and disciplined, their setpieces were solid and they took their chances efficiently when they came.
The Irish side faced into the tricky conditions in the first-half even if the wind and the rain that had kicked up in the hours before kick-off had dissipated by then. Conditions, though, were still slippy and they contributed to a sloppy opening.
Both sides found momentum hard to maintain thanks to individual mistakes with Jack Conan, Luke McGrath and Fergus McFadden all erring inside the first ten minutes. A robbed lineout outside the Glasgow 22 was probably the most costly of all.
Still, the visitors did claim a third minute lead with Jonathan Sexton sending over a penalty after the Warriors collapsed a well-executed maul, but Glasgow were the more dangerous of the two in that first quarter.
Stuart Hogg, back at 15 for a first appearance since last summer when injured with the Lions, lit the fuse with a blistering run down the left channel of Leinster’s defence and the scramble defence come the next phase was too quick off the mark.
Finn Russell landed the equalising penalty for an offside infringement.
Glasgow’s reputation for expansive and penetrating rugby has been well-earned and another sweeping move around the Leinster left line paid huge dividends when Hogg ran on to touch down Russell’s delicious little grubber in behind the rearguard.
The conversion, landed from near the touchline, was spot on too.
Glasgow had only themselves to blame when Leinster pegged them back, a clearing kick from outside their 22 landing straight into touch and laying the foundations for the siege that would eventually break their line.
Leo Cullen’s men had a few goes at bringing the walls down and eventually managed it when, from an ensuing penalty to touch and lineout, Conan burst through from the back of a maul and Cian Healy followed up by burrowing over.
Much better from Leinster who drew level with Sexton’s conversion and yet they were back defending their own goal line again within the blink of an eye as a failing from last week’s defeat of Montpellier came back to haunt them.
Missed tackles were a blight on a mostly impressive defeat of the French money men in the RDS and Luke McGrath had already let one slip on Hogg’s first rampage before Healy repeated the sin on the restart after his try.
Cue another concerted shift in defence for the visitors but a Noel Reid intercept inside the 22 and a wayward penalty attempt from distance by Hogg allowed the province to escape unharmed from the moment.
Ten-apiece would have been more than acceptable at the break, particularly with the wind picking up and ultimately blowing into Glasgow’s faces on the restart, but it got even better for the visitors before that.
Glasgow’s discipline hadn’t been great - six penalties conceded by the interval - and the last of them to that point allowed Sexton kick a peno to touch on the home 22 from where another superb maul ended with Healy dotting down for his second five-pointer.
A strong position was cemented further just five minutes into the second period with a brilliantly executed try that originated in Leinster territory from where scrum-half Luke McGrath made a break through the midfield.
Glasgow regrouped well and, though Leinster could have touched down with an overlap ignored by Healy, they demonstrated patience and a sense of calm to reset and Sexton finally went over on the back of a good wrap around with Scott Fardy.
One try off the bonus point, they were quickly served notice that the win had still to be secured with a Glasgow try that showcased everything that is good about their style of rugby when the pieces come together.
The highlight of a move that delivered quick hands, lovely angles of running at pace was an offload behind his back from Hogg that defied belief and it all ended with Tommy Seymour dodging the sideline chalk as he crossed over.
Russell missed the kick, leaving Leinster with a nine-point lead with half-an-hour still to negotiate, and they managed it adroitly enough despite defending for long periods and for much of that inside their own half.
One 50-metre break from centre Sam Johnson threatened to rupture their defences but, that aside, the only damage done for the next thirty or so minutes was a penalty for Russell that Sexton cancelled out within four minutes.
And there was less than five minutes to go when Noel Reid galloped through a gaping hole in the Warriors midfield to touch down under the posts for the try that made it a five-point haul for the three-time European champions.
Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour, S Johnson, P Horne,L Sarto; F Russell, A Price; J Bhatti, G Turner, Z Ferguson; T Swinson, J Gray; R Wilson, C Gibbons, A Ashe.
Replacements: R Harley for Wilson (10-23 and 26); S Cummings for Swinson (26-33) and for Ashe (62); A Allan for Bhatti and L Jones for Sarto (both 61); P MacArthur for Turner and H Pyrgos for Price (both 65); for N Grigg for Johnson (68); S Johnson for Horne and G Turner for Gibbins (both 75); D Rae for Fagerson (78).
Leinster: J Carbery; F McFadden, R Henshaw, N Reid, B Daly; J Sexton, L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, S Fardy; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan.
Replacements: D Kearney for Daly (42); J McGrath for Healy, J Tracy for Cronin and D Leavy for van der Flier (all 50): J Ryan for Frady (55); J Gibson-Park for L McGrath (62); M Bent for Furlong and R Byrne for Sexton (both 68);
Referee: J Garces (France).