Going into this game it was only to be expected that Racing 92 were favourites. Undefeated for their last 8 home games, at the summit of the Top 14 after beating Clermont away from home, playing some of their best rugby yet and orchestrated by Dan Carter, you can understand why Glasgow came into the game as under dogs. They sit 8th in the PRO12 at present. Despite this, many who have followed the Warriors over the last few seasons knew this game wasn’t a foregone conclusion. With the likes of Stuart Hogg, Taquele Naiyarovoro and Sean Lamont making up the back three, this game had the potential to produce a result for last years PRO12 champions.
However, on the day it was not to be. When Glasgow’s first line out misfired within the opening minutes, it seemed ominous. Racing were playing in the right area of the field very early on and many thought it was only a matter of time before they found the line. This didn’t happen in the opening stages and Glasgow played with intent. For the remainder of the half they strung together some promising phases of play and looked threatening at times.
Unfortunately, it was another day where the ball just wouldn’t stick. Opportunities were squandered, notably a Glasgow overlap where Stuart Hogg decided to cut inside, only to knock the ball on in contact. It was a different story for Racing. They took their first try on 29 minutes excellently by running a poor Glasgow kick back at the disjointed line, exploiting the open nature of the field, an area in which Glasgow have thrived in previous seasons. Combine this try with two missed Glasgow penalties and Racing went into half time 13-3 to the good.
This is where my report struggles for specific detail. Unfortunately, watching from abroad on a live stream means that at times the game got difficult to follow with the connection dropping or the picturing becoming delayed and broken. However, to state the obvious, Glasgow’s opening 10-15 minutes of the second half were abysmal. Before the game everyone had acknowledged the strength of the Racing pack and that certainly showed. Glasgow simply could not cope with the driving maul, a running theme when you look at Scottish rugby as a whole over the past 12 months. The momentum did later shift back in Glasgow’s favour, but the damage was done with the score at 27-3. The TV pundits put the momentum down to the exit of Dan Carter, but I also want to acknowledge the Glasgow bench, who made a positive impact too. Alex Allen did well when he came on and I have no criticism for Lee Jones from what I could see. The fresh legs seemed to boost the team.
Things look up for a sustained part of the second half for Glasgow, especially after a brilliant line out move to use the long levers of the Fijian giant, Leone Nakarawa to get over the line for Glasgow’s first try of the game. Unfortunately, as is the story of their season, Glasgow couldn’t find the last few passes for the rest of the game and this was to be their final score of the day. The game closed emphasising the strength of the Racing pack with a huge maul to the line with backs involved too, giving them the much deserved bonus point win.
Call me an optimist, but I genuinely felt this was largely a more promising game for the Warriors than some of recent. Hogg looked to run the ball and exploit the slightest of gaps. Youngsters Ali Price and Zander Fagerson both had good games, with Price playing good heads up rugby, with quick ball and Fagerson making some good hits. Russell’s first start at 12 in a while saw him throw some excellent passes. Chris Fusaro also looks hungry to get noticed by Vern Cotter and showed excellent skill and balance to stay in field 5 metres out from the Racing line to keep an exciting period of Glasgow play alive. I genuinely believe if things click next week, Glasgow can beat Northampton at the Gardens and at very least give Racing 92 a run for their money the following week. This all depends on Glasgow shaking off their demons and getting down to business however.
Let’s also hope that Mark Bennett is alright and that Glasgow have no more injuries too as we are looking thin on the ground at a number of positions. Any comments appreciated.
The Scribbler, January 9th 2016