Glasgow Warriors tonight secured a five try win over reigning RaboDirect PRO12 champions Ospreys, in a thrilling final home league match of the season, which saw them secure a play-off spot.
With John Barclay celebrating his 150th appearance for the club, and Graeme Morrison marking the end of his 10th season at Glasgow, there was a party atmosphere amid the air of expectation as a record home crowd gathered in the evening sunshine.
The first half saw the Ospreys dominate in terms of possession, but they were unable to convert this dominance into points, whilst the Warriors exploited every opportunity and ran in three tries. The second half saw a more concerted fight back from the Welsh visitors who ran in two tries of their own, but despite this, they were no match for the Warriors, who are keeping their playoff hopes alive going into the final league match against Connacht in two weeks time.
It was a nervy start for both teams, with play coming in fits and starts. It was the Warriors who looked to challenge early, with Niko Matawalu showing his characteristic flair. The home side were also the first to have the opportunity for points three minutes in, however Duncan Weir put the ball just wide of the posts.
Minutes later as the Ospreys won a penalty from the scrum, Dan Biggar did not miss with his boot, giving the Welsh side a three point lead. Weir missed with his second attempt as the Warriors had the chance to equalise. Not disheartened though and buoyed by the support of a vocal crowd the Warriors continued to fight.
There were joyous scenes as newly returned from injury Alex Dunbar broke through the Ospreys line and went darting downfield, as the Ospreys defence scrambled Dunbar was able to offload to Barclay who crashed over the line. There was a tense wait as the TMO was called in to judge whether or not the try was scored and there was disappointment as the TMO declared the ball was held up.
Two minutes later there was no doubt, as driving forward from the scrum Ryan Grant crossed the whitewash. Weir did not miss with his conversion, and the Warriors were leading after a thrilling opening fifteen minutes.
From here the Ospreys were forceful and determined in their play, enjoying the majority of possession. It is testament to the defensive effort of the Warriors that no points were scored by the visitors for the remainder of the half; not even the brute strength of Welsh International Alan Wyn Jones could break the line.
Try number two came courtesy of some Fijian magic, as Niko Matawalu executed a perfectly placed box kick, which Sean Maitland was able to chase down and ground, despite the best efforts of Ospreys full back Richard Fussell. The conversion was not quite true, but the Warriors had a nine point lead.
On the half hour mark, Ryan Grant claimed try number two for his tally and try number three for the Warriors, finishing off a solid effort that started with a break from Matawalu. Going through the hands of Moray Low, and Morrison who both gained yards, it was down to Grant to finish the play off in style. With Weir accurate once again the Warriors were building a strong lead as the half played out.
Tensions that had been bubbling under the surface threatened to boil over in the dying minutes of the first half, as Glasgow won the penalty from a scrum. Weir made it three from seven on the stroke of half time and the Warriors went in the clear leaders.
The second half got underway, with a blow for both sides as try scoring forward Ryan Grant, and Ospreys prop Adam Jones were sent to the sin bin two minutes in. Both sides made tactical substitutions so that the scrums could continue uncontested.
It was Ospreys who benefitted from the binning though as replacement prop Cai Griffiths drove over the line for the visitors’ first try of the evening, Biggar did not miss with his second attempt at the posts, and the Ospreys reduced their deficit to 12 points.
The Ospreys continued to build the pressure on Glasgow, with winger Ross Jones collecting Matawalu’s box kick, and spotting centre Thomas Isaacs in space on the far wing and sent a floating pass to his teammate, but Isaacs was brought down before he could make too much ground.
The Warriors fought back with real intent, as the Ospreys knocked on five metres from the tryline. Josh Strauss breaking from the base of the scrum to gain some ground, before the ball came back to Duncan Weir who booted the ball downfield to touch, easing the pressure on the homeside.
As the Warriors won the lineout they drove forward before the visitors were penalised. Before you had time to blink Niko had taken the quick tap, sprinting forward and over the line to the bemusement of Ospreys winger Ross Jones who had no time to gather a defence.
The reigning champions were determined not to go down without a fight, and it was Isaacs again who looked the most dangerous, eating up the ground between the try line and himself, it looked as though he was certain to score before Ryan Wilson leapt into the tackle and halted the Ospreys’ progress.
There were worrying scenes for the Warriors as Duncan Weir emerged from a ruck injured. The clock was stopped as he received treatment, and he was stretchered off to a standing ovation as replacement fly half Peter Horne came onto the field.
Still reeling from the extended break in play the home side could only watch as Sam Lewis crossed the line for the second try of the night for the visitors as the game clock ticked over the hour mark. Biggar did not fail with his conversion and the Ospreys had closed the gap.
Boosted by the fresh bodies that a wave of substitutes brought the Warriors were pushing for try number five, DTH had an immediate impact off of the bench throwing himself into the attack and Horne added points to the tally with a penalty.
As the game entered the final minutes Warriors were throwing everything at it, Niko and Morrison coming oh so close to the line, but it came down to the final minute and DTH collecting a loose pass, intended for Ospreys winger Ross Jones, and sprinting to line unimpeded to equal the largest try haul from a Warrior. Horne missed the conversion, which was the final play of the match, and the Warriors were victorious.