Glasgow Warriors secured their first win of the new Guinness PRO14 season but what should have been a canter at an empty Scotstoun turned into a bit of a struggle in the end.
20-0 ahead and a man up after Sam Lousi was red-carded for the Scarlets, the home side lost the initiative, conceded a try, a torrent of penalties and two yellow cards, and they were very fortunate that the Scarlets’ didn’t at least get within a score as time was running down.
Instead Adam Hastings’ interception near his own line as the Scarlets pressed for a try eventually helped stem the tide.
It was the Warriors’ first home game for 232 days and all the canned noise from the Scotstoun sound system couldn’t make up for the absence of their noisy support.
The home side only really dominated the middle half hour of the game, but that was enough to build a decisive lead through forward grunt rather than the usual pyrotechnics the Warriors fans love.
In the end, a decision to kick a penalty rather than go for the jugular allowed the Scarlets to go for broke in the final quarter when they probably should have been already buried, but the points were secured in the end.
Mistakes and referee Frank Murphy’s super-strict interpretation at the breakdown initially made for a fairly featureless game to go with the absence of atmosphere but the Warriors were to find their rhythm after half an hour of sparring.
Neither side could take the ball into contact with any confidence it seemed, Josh MacLeod targeting the ball successfully for Scarlets while Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson and Matt Fagerson pirated ball for the Warriors.
Adam Hastings missed the only penalty chance of the opening 20 minutes from around 40 metres, but when given an opportunity from slightly longer after Ratu Tagive had stretched the Welshmen’s defence, he made light of the wind to land it for the first score.
Within two minutes he had another chance from the same range, but although the wind caught it this time the Scarlets invited Tagive to counter with effect and the Warriors’ attack at last got into synch.
Huw Jones’ neat footwork and Oli Kebble’s brute power took them close to the line, and although it required patience they eventually worked through phases to open a gap for Kebble to crash over for the try, Hastings converting.
Llanelli’s hopes of a revival took a huge blow just two minutes into the second half when Tagive was laid out with a shoulder to the head by Lousi after taking a high ball, and the Scarlets lock was rightly red-carded.
The resultant penalty gave Glasgow a platform inside the Scarlets’ 22, and after three penalties Glasgow chose to tap, Ryan Wilson squeezed over from point blank range near the posts, Hastings stretching the lead to 17-0.
A man light in the scrum, the Scarlets were shoved off the next two, the second of them allowing Hastings to boot a second penalty from 30 metres for a 20-0 Glasgow lead.
But that allowed the Scarlets out of their 22 for the first time since half-time and the 14 men opted to kick to the corner for prop Samson Lee – in his 150th appearance – to dive over on the hour, Leigh Halfpenny converting.
That put the wind in the visitors’ sails, and a succession of Glasgow penalties gave them the ball close to the Warriors’ line while replacement Richie Gray was yellow-carded to bring the sides level in personnel.
However Scarlets tried a quick tap penalty and spilled it in contact, allowing the Warriors to pounce and scramble the ball clear, but in the next phase a late tackle by Nick Grigg meant Glasgow were suddenly and shockingly down to 13 men for the final ten minutes.
Fortunately for Glasgow in quick succession the Scarlets blew a maul, then a lineout, then Steff Evans fumbled reaching to score in the corner before Hastings snatched an audacious interception to preserve the Warriors’ lead.
Glasgow: Huw Jones; Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg, Stafford McDowall, Ratu Tagive; Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson; Scott Cummings, Rob Harley; Ryan Wilson, Tom Gordon, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: George Turner for Brown 68, Aki Seuili for Kebble 62, Richie Gray for Wilson 62, Chris Fusaro for Gordon 71, George Horne for Price 67, Niko Matavalu for Tagive 42.
Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny; Tom Rogers, Jonathan Davies, Johnny Williams, Steff Evans; Dan Jones, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Samson Lee; Jake Ball, Sam Lousi; Blade Thomson, Josh MacLeod, Sione Kalamafoni.
Replacements: Ken Owens for Elias 56, Phil Price for W Jones 56, Javan Sebastian for Lee 68, Lewis Rawlins for Thomson 46, James Davies for MacLeod 35, Kieran Hardy for G Davies 55, Rhys Patchell for D Jones 42, Steff Hughes for Williams 69.
Ref: F Murphy (IRFU)