Glasgow were left with an uphill battle to get to the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals as they lost a crucial home game to La Rochelle on a freezing wet night at Scotstoun.
The Warriors thought they had rescued at least a draw after a scoreless second half in biting wind and rain when Scott Cummings went over for the line at the end of a thrilling move in the final minute, but Matt Fagerson was red-carded for leading with the forearm against a defender’s head in the build-up and home side’s frustrations were underlined.
They felt that referee Wayne Barnes didn’t punish the French sufficiently for seven penalties in an eight minute spell in the second half but the Warriors really had only themselves to blame for the loss, playing far too loosely in difficult handling conditions.
They made little impact with the wind behind them and spent long periods in the La Rochelle 22 in the second half, but the play was too frenetic and impatient and they ended up with just a losing bonus point.
It means that the pool most likely can’t be won and a runners-up quarter-final place is dependent on them beating both Exeter and Sale, probably with try bonus points attached.
Glasgow took the icy wind at their backs in the first half, but the big La Rochelle pack dominated the last 20 minutes of the half to take a deserved lead.
Two quick breaks by Huw Jones promised something for Glasgow before the rain really started to fall, and the Warriors took a more prosaic route the line in 15 minutes.
They’d forced two driving mauls inside the French team’s 5 metre line but had been unable to force their way to score, until when they tried a third time with Jones and even Ali Price joining the push, Fraser Brown got the score, Hastings converting.
But for the remainder of the half it was all La Rochelle, although their first try came from strange circumstances.
Veteran stand-off Brock James was short with a penalty attempt, but the ball bounced wickedly back into the visitors’ hands and after hammering at the line, centre Brieuc Plessis’s perfectly judged kick allowed Jules Favre to score an unconverted try at the corner flag.
And five minutes before half-time Glasgow had a chance to relieve pressure, but a free-kick by Hastings was run back by full back Murimurivalu and their other Fijian Lepani Botia was twice involved, once opening the defence with an offload and the second time scoring at the posts in support of scrum-half Alexis Bales’ break.
James converted for a 12-7 leads at half-time, the French adapting to the difficult conditions far better than the home side.
Two early penalties with ball in hand against their side didn’t lighten the mood of the disgruntled Scotstoun crowd at the start of the second half but a smart kick from Ali Price nearly sprung Niko Matawalu only for Murimurivalu to tackle his fellow Fijian into touch.
The French were finding playing with the wind as difficult as Glasgow did and growing pressure led to a succession of penalties for the home side, but referee Wayne Barnes seemed uncharacteristically reticent about showing a yellow card.
Finally Bales was spotted kicking the ball out of a scrum as the Glasgow pack started to get control, and got to sit for ten minutes for his trouble.
But the Warriors had three lineouts and three scrums in a 12-minute spell within reaching distance of the La Rochelle line and came away with nothing for their efforts, even when Bales was in the bin.
Just as the Warriors looked out of ideas, they went 70 yards in 15 phases for Scott Cummings to rumble over the line in the very last minute, but the crowd’s cheers died as Barnes called for a TV check.
The TMO spotted Fagerson leading with the arm to the head of replacement prop Priso as part of the move. That meant a straight red card for the young No 8, and the try was disallowed.
Glasgow: T Seymour; N Matawalu, H Jones, S McDowall, K Steyn; A Hastings, A Price; A Sieuli, F Brown, Z Fagerson; S Cummings, J Gray; R Wilson, C Gibbins (capt), M Fagerson.
Replacements: G Turner for Brown 68, A Allan for Sieuli 70, R Harley for Wilson 68, T Gordon for Gibbins 74, G Horne for A Price 51, N Grigg for McDowall 50.
La Rochelle: K Murimurivalu; J Favre, B Plessis, L Botia, M Andreu; B James, A Bales; R Wardi, F Bosch, S Puafisi; T Lavault, M Tanguy; K Gourdon, P Boudehent, G Alldritt.
Replacements: B Lebrun for Bosch 73, D Priso for Wardi 62, V Pelo for Puafisi 68, R Leroux for Tanguy 70, Z Kieft for Alldritt 10, P Aguillon for Botia 70.
Ref: W Barnes (RFU)