|Glasgow Warriors (14) 26|
|Tries: McLean, H Jones, Cancelliere, penalty Cons: Weir 2|
|Perpignan (5) 18|
|Tries: McIntyre, Dubois Con: Laborde Pens: Laborde 2|
Glasgow Warriors survived a Perpignan comeback to win their European Challenge Cup tie at Murrayfield.
Franco Smith’s team had moved into a deserved lead thanks to converted tries by Rufus McLean and Huw Jones.
The French Top 14 team replied before the break through Jake McIntyre’s try, but a penalty and a Lucas Dubois score then put the visitors a point in front.
However, a penalty try and a Sebastian Cancelliere score earned a bonus-point win as yellow cards cost the French.
Glasgow led 14-5 at the break but it was the most ludicrously one-sided 14-5 in the long and glorious history of 40-minute Challenge Cup 14-5s.
In other words, Glasgow should have been home-free halfway through. On five separate occasions while it was still scoreless they exploded into Perpignan’s 22, threatened and then got turned over. It was as if the game was happening on a loop. Perpignan only existed as a defensive unit. Their wingers may as well have taken a stroll into town to look at the Christmas lights.
Eventually, the home team – if you can call Glasgow that while playing in the emergency venue of Murrayfield – made their possession pay. They were mad keen to get hands on ball, utterly determined to play at a rapid tempo but exuberance brought a lack of accuracy and it dogged them. When they became clinical they got the job done at last, McLean being put away in the right corner.
Weir converted. The smattering of Glasgow fans raised as much noise as they could and then raised it again soon after when more pressure culminated with Sione Tuipulotu grubbering for Jones to touch down.
A healthy lead now, 14 points being the least they deserved. Perpignan gave away eight penalties in the opening 25 minutes, coughed up some line-outs and never gave the slightest impression of a team that could do damage. Sitting second from bottom in the Top 14 and having lost their opening game in this competition last week, you expected Glasgow to skate away.
Then Perpignan scored. Of course they did. One of the big takeaways that Glasgow learned from studying them was how good they can be off turnover ball. Sure enough, they turned over ball and went from their own half to score.
Mathieu Acebes, the wing, made the initial burst and when Perpignan moved it left they did it at pace and with precision. McIntyre got the score that nobody saw coming.
Dorian Laborde’s penalty made it 14-8 just before the hour mark to increase the fear among the Glasgow fans that the visitors might somehow win this. Smith’s team had become ragged and unthreatening. They needed to find something.
Somebody found it, but it wasn’t Glasgow. Not yet. From the base of a ruck Perpignan scrum-half Tom Ecochard broke down the short side, dummied Ali Price and went. He fed Dubois who fended off Price, keen to make amends, and ran away to score.
Laborde’s conversion made it 15 consecutive points to Perpignan and – remarkably – the lead. It turned again – and how. With 14 minutes to play, and with Perpignan infringing like crazy to protect their line, their big lock Piula Faasalele was binned.
From the resultant penalty and line-out, Perpignan collapsed a Glasgow maul destined for the tryline. Penalty try and a second yellow for the visitors, this one for Posolo Tuilagi, another lock who was having an impact since he came off the bench. Glasgow would have been glad to see the back of him.
Glasgow had a six-point lead again and time to add a fourth try and with it a bonus point. They did, but they had to sweat first. Perpignan milked a penalty at the scrum – eight versus six but the referee bought a piece of canniness from the six – and Laborde made it a three-point game.
That fourth try came three minutes from the end. Penalty advantage, quick ball, width and over went Cancelliere. A relief for the Warriors. Five lovely points banked. Another victory in an improving season.
Glasgow Warriors: McKay, Cancelliere, Tuipulotu, H Jones, McLean, Weir, G Horne; Bhatti, Turner, Walker, Bean, R Gray, Fagerson, Vailanu, Dempsey.
Replacements: Matthews, McBeth, Berghan, J du Preez, Manjezi, Ferrie, Price, Jordan.
Perpignan: Tedder, Tilsley, Taumoepeau, Laborde, Acebes, McIntyre, Ecochard; Tetrashvili, Lam, Halanukonuka, Faasalele, Labouteley, Velarte, Galletier, Mamea-Lemalu.
Replacements: Tadjer, Chiocci, Joly, Tuilagi, Bachelier, Deghmache, Dubois, Goutard.
Glasgow head coach Franco Smith told Viaplay: “Lots of the players haven’t played that much after the Autumn Nations series. It was always difficult to blend the guys back in. I’m very excited that we’ve got the five points.
“We tried to slow it down regarding our set-piece. We just overplayed, our DNA says we want to play – sometimes the best way to resolve things is by playing less.
“I felt the first 20 minutes, we played them off their feet – that was the plan, to get their tight five tired. We started giving away soft penalties. Evenings like that are to keep learning and to grow from it.
“We’ve built an understanding of what we want to do, now it’s just about becoming more accurate and having more control.”