|Glasgow Warriors (10) 10|
|Tries: Jackson 2|
|Leinster (17) 23|
|Tries: Kelleher 2 Cons: R Byrne 2 Pens: R Byrne 3|
Unbeaten Leinster moved eight points clear at the Pro14 Conference A summit by inflicting Glasgow Warriors’ fourth loss in seven league games.
Two Ruaridh Jackson tries had Glasgow 10-3 up, but the home lead evaporated when Cian Kelleher crossed twice in three minutes before half-time.
While Warriors’ Pete Horne missed all three place kicks, Ross Byrne booted 13 points for the champions.
Glasgow remain fourth, six points adrift of the play-off berths.
Leo Cullen’s Leinster have won all seven of their Pro14 matches and both European Champions Cup fixtures this term, and are now 18 points ahead of Warriors.
‘Contentious calls and squandered sitters’
For two stellar clubs with bundles of Test-match quality in their ranks, this wasn’t the occasion it might have been. Such is life when big game follows big game and your box-office players are given a much-needed breather before going into their next rugby war.
Glasgow made a heap of changes from the side that lost to Exeter Chiefs – they will all return for the trip to La Rochelle next weekend – but at least a few front-liners were left in place. The visitors changed all 15 from their victory over Lyon a week ago.
This was a huge result for Leinster and a desperate blow for Glasgow. A home semi-final already looks beyond them. They’ll need to get a move on if they are to secure a play-off place.
For the opening half-hour, it looked like Leinster were about to pay a price for resting their main men as Glasgow went into a 10-3 lead courtesy of two Jackson tries. Two would have been three had Niko Matawalu not dropped the ball with the line at his mercy in between those two scores from the full-back.
Rennie’s team were well on top aided by the yellow card given to Leinster full-back Hugo Keenan after just a handful of minutes. Keenan walked when he shoved Huw Jones as the centre tried to get on the end of Sam Johnson’s chip through. The home crowd called for a penalty try but they didn’t get it. Jones was a few metres from the line but the ball looked to be marginally behind him.
No certainty of a score, then – but Keenan departed nonetheless. Referee Craig Evans thought Keenan’s offence was sufficiently serious for a sin-binning but not serious enough for a penalty try. Odd. It wasn’t the last time that Evans delivered a contentious call.
Leinster were punished for their reduction in numbers when Glasgow piled the pressure on, and sucked in enough defenders to open up space out wide. Ryan Wilson’s carry into contact was key. When they moved it right, Jackson went over. Horne missed the conversion. He let Leinster off the hook with two of his three misses.
Having scored early, Glasgow should have scored again when Matawalu coughed it up while bearing down on the line. It was the kind of wastefulness that’s seriously unwise when Leinster are the opposition. The visitors would have had cause for anger had the chance been converted, however.
Seconds earlier, Josh Murphy went into contact and didn’t seem to stir for a few worrying minutes. Play was allowed to carry on when it should have been halted. How Evans and his officials allowed that to happen was bizarre. Murphy was helped off the field moments later.
Horne missed his second shot at goal – a relative sitter – but Byrne didn’t make a similar error when given the chance. At 5-3, Glasgow had scant reward for their possession and territory. Jackson’s second try altered that somewhat. They turned the screw in the Leinster 22, showed patience and control and when it was on, Ali Price threw a long pass to Jackson for a deserved score. Horne missed kick number three straight after.
‘Different players, similar story’
Leinster had done nothing – and then they did everything. They ran in two tries in three minutes around the half-hour when Glasgow suddenly became passive and sloppy. They switched off and Leinster took advantage. Again, there was controversy. Conor O’Brien did wonderfully to put Kelleher over for the try but in the preamble it looked suspiciously like a Devin Toner knock-on that the officials didn’t spot.
Byrne’s conversion made it 10-10 and in the blink of an eye Leinster were over again. Playing with pace and accuracy and winning quick ball, they did Glasgow on the right wing in the same way as before. Same dynamism, same scorer, same beautifully struck conversion. Having trailed by seven, they now led by seven.
And then the gap was 10 when Byrne put over another penalty awarded at the scrum. Glasgow won two penalties from the Leinster scrum in the opening 40 but now Leinster were getting all those decisions. They put Glasgow under so much pressure in the second half that the hosts hardly raised a gallop.
The game was played down Glasgow’s end. They couldn’t get out of there. Leinster’s suffocation was too much for them. It was like watching a re-run of the Pro14 final from last season – an early Glasgow lead, a Leinster comeback and then the shutting down of the game. Different players at Scotstoun but a very similar story.
Another Byrne penalty made it 23-10 with 10 minutes left. Scotstoun waited for Glasgow to break out and set up a dramatic finale and Matawalu threatened to provide it when he scampered free. Glasgow, at last, had Leinster on the back foot.
They got to the five-metre line and spun it wide, Jackson looking briefly like he’d scored his hat-trick only to lose possession inches from the line. Glasgow thought he’d been taken high but Evans waved it away.
They went again. Leinster came up offside repeatedly but they got lucky. Eventually Jonny Gray crashed over the line but no grounding could be detected.
Back they went in pursuit not of a victory – it was far too late – but a losing bonus point. They’d didn’t get either. Leinster established their lead on the back of two clinical finishes and protected it with the excellence of their defence.
Glasgow Warriors: Jackson; Seymour, Jones, Johnson, Matawalu; P Horne, Price; Kebble, Turner, Rae, Swinson, Gray, Harley, Fusaro, Wilson.
Replacements: Stewart, Seiuli, Nicol, McDonald, Ashe, Frisby, McDowall, Steyn.
Leinster: Keenan; A Byrne, J O’Brien, C O’Brien, Kelleher; R Byrne, Gibson-Park; Dooley, Tracy, Bent, Molony, Toner, Murphy, Connors, Doris.
Replacements: B Byrne, E Byrne, Aungier, Dowling, Penny, O’Sullivan, Frawley, McFadden.