Things could hardly have gone better for Glasgow Warriors on Saturday, as they opened their European Champions Cup campaign with a five try demolition of Bath at Scotstoun. The home side, currently second in the Guinness Pro12 dominated a game that promised to be much closer on paper and secured maximum points from the first round; winning comfortably 37-10.
Coming into the match, the Glasgow management could have been forgiven for being a little cautious after last weekend’s 29-9 loss to Ulster in the Pro12. But there were no signs of this in the opening forty minutes. Tries from centre Mark Bennett and wingers Sean Maitland and Tommy Seymour set the ball rolling with such momentum from which it never seemed likely Bath would recover.
The visitors did rally in parts, and briefly took the lead early in the first half. Centre Jonathan Joseph capitalised on a fumble from an up-and-under from Glasgow full back Stuart Hogg to run in unopposed under the posts. But despite pressurising the hosts’ line on several occasions, the Glasgow defence held firm and Bath were resigned to the ten points gifted to them.
Bath opened the scoring after seven minutes through George Ford. The young England fly half had a tricky game however as the omnipresent Glasgow defence proved unbreakable for large portions of the encounter. Ford found himself more often on the ground, scuffling with opposite number Duncan Weir.
Glasgow have been nothing but clinical this season and their reactions to slipping behind on the score board were no different. No sooner had Ford slotted the penalty goal were Glasgow back on the front foot and hammering at the visitors’ defence. Centre Mark Bennett went over the line after a neat switch between himself and Weir. And despite conceding a try barely one minute later, the second response was even fiercer and more clinical than the first. Weir slotted two penalties before the ubiquitous Bennett and Hogg combined beautifully to feed Sean Maitland, who slewed through defenders to crash over in the far corner.
Confidence now high, they scored a third try before the half time break. The creator this time was Pyrgos, whose spontaneity in taking a quick free kick caught Bath off guard. Even referee Jerôme Garcès was beaten as Pyrgos fed Hogg who, in turn, put Seymour in at the corner. The winger however was injured in the act of scoring and would last until the break before being replaced by DTH van der Merwe.
Bath looked strong for parts of the game, but never looked like mounting a serious challenge. Fighting back from a 23-10 half time deficit was always a mountain to climb, even for the fourth best placed team in the Aviva Premiership. Glasgow’s defence was severely challenged at the beginning of the second half however, but it remained staunch. A combination of handling errors and indiscipline at the breakdown ensured Bath would not add to their points tally.
Glasgow looked to go for the jugular once the pressure was relieved and they scored two more tries. In doing so, they captured the bonus point in the sixty seventh minute. Crowd favourite Niko Matawalu replaced Pyrgos at scrum half and instantly made an impact. The Fijian dummied from a Glasgow turnover before stabbing a chip forward for Maitland and van der Merwe to chase. In a free for all, the Bath defence could not control the bouncing ball and it was Matawalu himself who re-gathered to stroll over in the corner. Weir converted from the touchline to extend the lead and make the result – which was all but guaranteed – secure.
Bath now looked dejected and searched only to salvage something from an otherwise disappointing performance. Lacking composure in the key areas, their attack was rebutted time and time again from a ferocious and ultimately dominating Glasgow pack. The crowd was sent into raptures one final time with eight minutes to go. Van der Merwe’s sumptuous inside ball put Bennett into acres of space down the middle of the field. Passing back and forward to each other, the Canadian international kicked through for Bennett to touch down. It was the icing on the cake as Glasgow miraculously opened up a twenty seven point winning margin.