Warriors 22 Chiefs 7
Glasgow Warriors 22
Exeter Chiefs 7
Mark Stevens at Scotstoun.
Rob Baxter insisted it’s not all ‘doom and gloom’ for his Exeter Chiefs side in Europe, despite seeing them slip to defeat against old adversaries Glasgow Warriors in the Heineken Champions Cup.
On a night when Exeter’s performance was as bleak as the thick fog that engulfed Scotstoun throughout this Round Two contest, Exeter’s commander in chief did his best to paint a positive picture moving forward post-game.
True, the Chiefs were never at their best, but equally they were not that bad either, showing many of the strong characteristics that has seen them prosper in recent weeks.
Five penalties from the boot of home fly-half Ross Thompson paved the way for Glasgow’s victory, before replacement Jonny Matthews rumbled over for a converted try in the final minute of the match.
In reply, the Chiefs countered with a second half try from Sam Simmonds, converted by Joe Simmonds, but it was sadly not enough.
Having kicked off their latest European campaign with a resounding 42-6 victory over Montpellier, Baxter saw little reason to tinker too much with his winning formula. Indeed, he made just one change to his starting line-up, handing a first-ever European start to Sam Nixon, who took over at tight-head in place of Josh Iosefa-Scott.
Nixon lined up in a Chiefs side that included former Warriors Jonny Gray and Stuart Hogg, as well as Jack Maunder who became the latest addition to the club’s list of coveted centurions.
The Warriors, meanwhile, were virtually at full-strength and paraded a glut of Scottish internationals in their starting line-up as they looked to bounce back from their opening round defeat away to La Rochelle.
With personnel in place, it was the thick fog which engulfed Scotstoun that threw up the first major challenge of the night. Both sides were consulted in the lead up to kick-off as to whether the game would in fact kick-off, but after some lengthy discussions, it was deemed playable by international referee Andrew Brace.
The early skirmishes, however, resembled a game of ‘Guess Who’ for those in attendance. With the ball nigh on impossible to see from the stands, it was credit to the players that they were at least able to front up and play some kind of rugby.
It was, though, the Warriors who offered the greater threat during the opening quarter and they deservedly took the lead in the 13th minutes as Thompson stroked over a simple penalty from in front of the Chiefs posts.
Baxter’s Chiefs looked to respond immediately as they attempted to work their way through a string of attacking phases. Glasgow, though, were standing firm and with their defence in miserly mood, it was the visitors who failed to prosper.
As the half ticked by, so the game continued to be a battle of attrition with the respective packs continuing to tear into one another, whilst behind the backs did their best to try and fashion some form of attacking rugby.
Chances were certainly at a premium, although the Chiefs did have a great opportunity on 36 minutes when, from a five-metre line-out, the visiting forwards looked to shunt their way to the try-line. A series of close-range raids got them some decent momentum but, just as they looked poised to pounce, Maunder knocked on at the base of a ruck.
The Warriors made the most of the let-off to propel themselves back down field where, from a line-out drive of their own, hooker George Turner came within a whisker of claiming the game’s opening try.
The Chiefs rallied well in defence to deny him, before then turning over a Glasgow line-out to bring the end to a fairly uneventful first 40 minutes.
HALF TIME: GLASGOW WARRIORS 3 EXETER CHIEFS 0
Just as they had done in the first period, the Warriors came out on the offensive, dominating the opening five minutes with a plethora of raids deep behind enemy lines.
By and large, the Chiefs were able to soak up the early pressure without too much hassle. That was until they transgressed midway in their own 22, gifting Thompson another shot at the target.
Strangely, Thompson failed to convert the chance, striking the ball against the left post. However, he made amends just a moment later with a much tougher effort from 40 metres out.
The penalty count was rising against the Chiefs, allowing the Warriors to not only glean decent territory without too much fuss but, more importantly, add to their tally of points as Thompson plundered a third penalty after the visitors were undone at a scrum midway inside their own half.
Baxter’s men certainly needed a pick-me-up of sorts, but they were struggling to find it. Indeed, when they did have the ball in the Glasgow half, they were again guilty of coughing up possession against the sprightly line-speed of the hosts.
As the mistakes continued to mount for the Chiefs, so the Warriors – and their legion of supporters on the sidelines – intensified their battle cry.
Baxter had seen enough and started to empty his bench in a bid to ignite some life into his side’s cause. However, it was the Scotsmen who extended their lead on the hour mark with a fourth Thompson penalty.
Glasgow’s scrum continued to give them the platform from which to build as the game moved into the final quarter. It was tough for the Chiefs who were desperate for a solution, which was sadly not forthcoming.
The Warriors continued to press hard in every area, pinning their rivals back at every opportunity. It was smart, yet highly effective, rugby from Danny Wilson’s side.
To their credit, the Chiefs were not going quietly and in a spirited showing they at last started to make decent inroads into the Glasgow red zone. Jannes Kirsten was at the heart of the matter with some bulldozing carries.
And it was from the South African’s charge that the Chiefs were able squeeze over for the game’s opening try, less than ten minutes from time. Using the tried-and-trusted, pick-and-go moves, it was Sam Simmonds, who emerged from a mass of bodies to take the acclaim for the score, converted by younger brother Joe.
No sooner though had the Chiefs got back in touching distance, they leaked another penalty which Thompson slotted to inch his side eight points clear with less than four minutes remaining.
Up against it, the Chiefs looked to rally once more, but Glasgow were having none of it. Instead, it was the home who combined in the final minute to propel Matthews over from a close-range line-out, Duncan Weir plundering the conversion to cap the night off for the Scotsmen.
Warriors: J McKay; K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, S Johnson, C Forbes; R Thompson (D Weir 78), A Price (capt, G Horne 78); J Bhatti (O Keeble), G Turner (J Matthews), Z Fagerson (E Pieretto 66); S Cummings, R Gray (K McDonald 58); M Fagerson (R Harley 74), R Darge (T Gordon 72), J Dempsey.
Try - Matthews; Conversion - Weir; Penalties – Thompson (5)
Chiefs: S Hogg; J Nowell, H Slade, I Whitten (T Hendrickson 59), T O’Flaherty; J Simmonds, J Maunder (S Maunder 59); A Hepburn (B Moon 59), L Cowan-Dickie (capt, J Yeandle 66), S Nixon (P Schickerling 49); J Gray (D Armand 66), J Hill (J Kirsten 59); D Ewers, S Skinner, S Simmonds. Replacement (not used): H Skinner.
Try – S Simmonds; Conversion – J Simmonds
Referee: A Brace