Glasgow Warriors were all about breaking records and claiming top spot in the RaboDirect PRO12 this evening with a five try thriller against visitors Cardiff Blues.
Boosted by the return of several players from the Scotland squad, and tries from Peter Horne, Duncan Weir and Niko Matawalu (2), Glasgow came from behind to finish the match in style, overtaking the league leaders Ulster on points difference.
Both sides felt the benefit of the referee’s whistle in the opening minutes of the game, with two free kicks and a penalty coming from the early scrums, with both packs fighting hard for dominance. But Glasgow were unable to convert this into points, as Duncan Weir missed his first shot at the posts.
The first half proved to be a real battle of the packs, with big hits coming in from Jon Welsh, Gordon Reid, and Josh Strauss. In an early blow, however Tim Swinson was replaced early on by Tom Ryder after Swinson, a try scorer last time out, came off worst after a big hit on one of the visitors.
With the home side on the hunt for another bonus point win; it was all about breaking through a Cardiff defence that was resilient to the last. Scrum half Niko Matawalu kept harassing the base of the rucks, and treated the home crowd to several impressive breaks and moments of ‘Flying Fijian’ magic.
Pete Horne got the Warriors off the mark with a try reminiscent of his fine effort against Northampton Saints in late January. A 'show and go' saw him break inside his man and several Blues defenders before handing off the last man to scramble across the line. It hadn't looked on until the mercurial Matawalu fed Weir who moved the ball swiftly to the inside centre. Weir neatly slotted the conversion between the posts. (7-0)
The Cardiff pack withstood a sustained period of Warriors attack, with Blues number 8, Luke Hamilton causing the home side real trouble at the breakdown, with his forceful and determined play. Cardiff eased the pressure on themselves by scoring a try of their own, with openside Josh Navidi taking the plaudits. (7-7)
In a bizarre passage of play, loosehead prop Gordon Reid was replaced by Ofa Fainga’anuku after being knocked out by a ball kicked by Warriors teammate Pete Horne.
Warriors discipline cost them towards the end of the first half as Cardiff were able to take the lead on the stroke of half time with Rhys Patchell, the hugely impressive young Welsh fly-half, on form with his kicking to take the scores to 10-13.
No doubt after a few stern words at half-time, the Warriors returned to the start of the second half with an intensity perhaps lacking from the first forty minutes.
Gregor Townsend's decision to make changes early in the second half paid off handsomely as Pyrgos slotted into the number 9 position and Matawalu moving out to the position vacated by Byron McGuigan. Three minutes later Matawalu had the crowd on their feet again as his raw pace saw him pounce on his own chip and chase and touch down to put the Warriors back in front.
Duncan Weir was next on the score sheet as he rounded off several phases of play to make his mark under the posts, and slotted his third conversion.`
Matawalu added another score to his tally and helped the Warriors achieve that record-breaking bonus point win when again his talent for spotting a gap and his pace took him clear beyond the Cardiff try-line.
Many had thought that Ulster were untouchable at the top of the table, but with seven wins in a row, the Warriors have reeled them in and taken over at the top of the PRO12 on points difference.
There are just two points separating the top three with a visit to the RDS and Leinster coming for the Warriors in three weeks time, a match which could go a long way to deciding who will host a home semi-final.
Glasgow Warriors: Murchie, McGuigan, Dunbar, Horne, van der Merwe, Weir, Matawalu, Reid, MacArthur, Welsh, Swinson, Kellock, Strauss, Barclay, Wilson.
Replacements: Pyrgos for McGuigan (54), Morrison for Horne (56), Wight for Weir (61), Fainga'anuku for Reid (38), Brown for MacArthur (76), Low for Welsh (40), Ryder for Swinson (10), Eddie for Kellock (60).
Cardiff Blues: Czekaj, O. Williams, Smith, Evans, Robinson, Patchell, Walker, Hamilton, Navidi, Watts-Jones, Down, Reed, Bourrust, Dacey, Filise.
Replacements: G. Davies for Czekaj (67), Allen for Robinson (76), L. Williams for Walker (48), Young for Navidi (67), Cook for Down (48), Hobbs for Bourrust (40), Breeze for Dacey (48). Not Used: Tamba.