Glasgow travelled looking to consolidate their position in the top four. With fixtures to Leinster and Munster to come, Sean Lineen needed his second string Glasgow side to do the business against a Connacht side needing to take advantage of a Warriors outfit shorn of some 10 frontline players on international duty.
Instead both sides were forced to settle for an unsatisfactory draw. Connacht, having fought their way back into contention and taken a 70th minute lead, failed to put the game away, conceding a try at the death. Ultimately Connacht should consider themselves lucky. Had replacement out-half Colin Gregor converted Eddie James’ effort, it would been a truly dispiriting day for the home side.
Referee James Jones played a major role with 15 penalties awarded in the opening half – six to the visitors in the opening 26 minutes.
Connacht continually pinged at the breakdown, struggled to build momentum when they did get their hands on the ball. Nor did they help themselves with an erratic line-out and unforced errors. With a Warriors side that continued to test the offside rule, they finally conceded a kickable penalty which Keatley struck from 35 metres after 23 minutes.
Glasgow, with a solid lineout, enjoyed the majority of possession. No. 8 Richie Vernon impressed, but their attacks lacked potency and Connacht’s defence was well able for anything the visitors could throw at them. They too were forced to rely on out-half Ruaridh Jackson for their scores, opening with a 12th minute effort and a second 14 minutes later.
It did not get any better for the home side after the break. George Naoupu’s knock-on directly from the kick-off handed Glasgow the initiative and Jackson extended the lead, and he should have added a fourth just two minutes later when Mike McCarthy was sinbinned.
There were few moments for the home support to cheer. Fionn Carr provided some hope but his double kick was touched down by Van deer Merwe, but when the Canadian international got through the cover on the left wing, it looked all over for the home side.
Amazingly they fought their way back with a Keatley penalty after 51 minutes and had Keith Matthews spotted Carr in support after a superb break through the middle, the recovery would have come earlier. The reward, however, was a third Keatley penalty before Gavin Duffy finished off a strong forward surge with a 70th minute try. The Irish A fullback did well to weave through the cover to touch down under the posts, and Keatley’s conversion put them in front for the first time.
With the Warriors flanker Calum Forrester sinbinned, Connacht, holding the initiative, should have closed out the game. Instead they opted for a 77th minute penalty kick which Keatley converted, but once again from the kick-off Glasgow produced a final attack with James crossing in the left corner. It was scant reward for either side.
Yellow Cards: M McCarthy 42m; Glasgow, C Forrester 75m.
CONNACHT: G Duffy, T Nathan, K Matthews, A Wynne, F Carr, I Keatley, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, S Cronin, R Morris, M Swift, M McCarthy, J Muldoon (cpt), J O’Connor, G Naoupu. Replacements: R Morris for Hagan (ht) B Upton for Swift (57m), M McComish for O’Connor (60m).
GLASGOW: B Stortini, C Shaw, P Murchie, P Horne, DTH Van der Merwe, R Jackson, M McMillian, J Welsh, D Hall, E Kalman, T Barker, D Turner, E James, C Forrester, R Vernon.
Replacements: R Gray for T Barker and K Tkachuk for Kalman (both 52m), C Gregor for Jackson and H O’Hare for Van der Merwe (both 64m).
Referee: James Jones (WRU).