Glasgow Warriors 3-13 Saracens

Glasgow Warriors were edged out by a stifling defensive performance from Saracens in their opening Heineken Champions Cup encounter, with the English champions taking a 13-3 victory at Scotstoun.Huw Jones in action against Saracens

In a high-intensity affair, Michael Rhodes scored the only try of a game from which the Warriors can feel disappointed to come away empty-handed.

Straight from kick-off, it was clear that the match was determined to live up to its pre-match billing. With Scotstoun in full voice, Dave Rennie’s men flew out of the blocks and would have opened the scoring on seven minutes, were it not for Adam Hastings pushing a penalty attempt wide of the uprights.

Instead, it was the visitors who struck first. A terrific handling move in midfield saw former Warrior Sean Maitland burst into the 22. Two phases later, and the Warriors’ scramble defence could do nothing to stop Michael Rhodes from making the most of a three-man overlap to touch down. Owen Farrell converted from out wide, and Saracens led 7-0.

Farrell added three more points to the tally on 15 minutes, the two-time British and Irish Lion striking a penalty from 40 metres after Glasgow were penalised for offside.

Hastings made amends for his earlier miss on 21 minutes, making no mistake with his second penalty attempt to narrow the deficit to 10-3.

The game became increasingly based in the middle third of the pitch, with neither side willing to give an inch to the other. Opportunities were few and far between – a rolling maul from the visitors was repelled with gusto by the Warriors pack, whilst Hastings was fingertips away from gathering a delightful chip over the top for what would have been a superb solo effort.

To the displeasure of the majority of the Scotstoun crowd, Farrell was presented with the chance to extend his side’s lead on 36 minutes, a chance that the fly-half duly took for a 13-3 advantage at the interval.

The second half began in much the same way as the first, with both sides equally determined to not make a mistake as they were to score. In contrast to the opening period, however, it was the visitors who dominated initial proceedings, with only a crucial turnover from the Warriors pack preventing a second try.

Saracens continued to press, knowing a second try could be vital in a finely-balanced encounter. Yet Glasgow’s defence was a sight to behold – countless phases of hit after hit led to a turnover, from which a clever kick from Hastings and relentless pressure from Lee Jones saw the hosts earn a lineout in the visitors’ 22, ratcheting the volume inside Scotstoun up another notch.

A tense game exploded into the final quarter, with more evidence – if any was needed – that this was a game of fine margins. Farrell’s penalty attempt on 63 minutes dropped short of the crossbar, with Glasgow opting for the quick 22. A line break from Lee Jones and support from George Horne took the home side behind the Saracens defence, and whilst frantic cover denied the Warriors a score the momentum was with the hosts.

Yet Saracens are a team that has earned their reputation of one of Europe’s heavyweights through a dogged determination to close games out, and so it was once more. Despite their best efforts, there would be no late heroics from Dave Rennie’s men, with Alex Goode punting the ball into the stands as the clock ticked over the 80-minute mark.

However, having outplayed the English champions for long periods in the game, Glasgow will know that qualification for the knockout stages is still well within their grasp. A visit to Cardiff next weekend awaits, as the Warriors look to kick-start their campaign.