It was a long way from a perfect 10, but the Glasgow Warriors still managed to ring up six tries and 40 points against Cardiff Blues in winning their tenth successive game in the Guinness PRO14.
Two tries in the last five minutes padded out the score and unquestionably the key moment of the game was the sending off of Taufa’ao Filise, the Blues’ veteran Tongan prop, eight minutes before half-time.
The Welshmen were ahead 13-7 when the tight-head drove into Warriors’ George Turner, and only after successive replays did referee Nigel Owens see that Filise had led with the shoulder to the Scotland hooker’s head.
It seemed a harsh decision in real time but there’s no question that under the letter of the law that Owens had no choice but to show the red card.
Cardiff defended tenaciously throughout but eventually they gave up too many penalties and a yellow card for Ollie Robinson midway through the second half weakened their resolve. Two quick tries followed from Ruaridh Jackson and Italian international Sami Vunisa turned the match in the Warriors’ favour.
Jackson, who played on successive days for Scotland and the Warriors last weekend, was man of the match.
“It was a tough game, the Blues have really improved after a slow start in the league and they asked many questions of us,” said the full-back. “The sending off was unfortunate for them but we eventually got control of the game and scored some good tries.”
The Warriors found the Blues a much tougher task than many had expected until Filise’s red card changed the contest.
The home side could hardly have had a worse start, penalised trying to exit the kick-off allowing Jarrod Evans, the best percentage placekicker in the PRO14, an easy three points.
Leo Sarto’s barnstorming run through the middle promised much for the Warriors but the chance was fumbled away and instead the Blues were getting some space out wide.
First wing Owen Lane got away down the touchline and when they got into the Glasgow 22 they drew in defenders and deftly worked space for lock Macaulay Cook to squeeze into the corner for the opening try.
Evans converted and at 10-0 down the Scotstoun crowd were audibly stunned, even more so as the Warriors then kicked three successive penalties to the corner and came away with nothing.
But Peter Horne’s brilliantly judged cross-kick on 20 minutes found acres of space on the left touchline for Sam Johnson to swat off two tackles and score the home team’s opening try.
Horne converted and although Evans kicked a long penalty to stretch the Blues advantage, then came the controversy.
Turner clearly took a hit to the head in what looked like a routine collision but when referee Owens took a detailed look at the replays at the behest of the TMO he spotted Filise leading with the shoulder into the Scotland hooker’s head, and had no option but to show the red card.
And it was a double blow for the Welsh as they chose to take off key man Nick Williams for their replacement tight-head, thereby losing their two most experienced forwards at one stroke.
Within two minutes Horne’s long pass stretched the Blues defence, Gibbins looped a pass inside and Dunbar twisted across the line, the stand-off adding the two points from the touchline to take the Warriors 14-13 ahead at the break.
Evans kicked the Blues back ahead with a penalty just after the break, but a fine change of direction from Jackson caught the Blues defence light and although replacement Sami Vunisa was held up, a series of penalties saw Robinson yellow carded and the Blues down to 13 men.
Inevitably the home side made use of the gap and after pummelling at the Cardiff line another well-judged miss pass from Horne found Jackson for the try, the stand-off converting again.
And the bonus try came through more relentless attack from the Warriors, replacement scrum-half George Horne a constant problem for the Blues before Vunisa squeezed over at point blank range for the score, Peter Horne converting again.
In the dying minutes the Warriors gave the scoreline a more lopsided look when sub Adam Hastings’ little grubber kick was touched down by Sarto just in time for a fifth unconverted try.
And there was just enough time for a little solo magic from Scotstoun’s Fijian favourite Niko Matawalu. The replacement picked up a loose ball in his own half, chipped into space, darted through to regather at pace and sprint 40 metres under the posts to complete the victory.
Glasgow: R Jackson; L Masaga, A Dunbar, S Johnson, L Sarto; P Horne, H Pyrgos; A Allan, G Turner, S Halanukonuka; K McDonald, S Cummings; C Gibbins (capt), M Smith, R Wilson. Replacements: J Malcolm for Turner 29, J Bhatti for Allan 62, D Rae for Halanukonuka 62, H Burr for Cummings 76, S Vunisa for Smith 33, G Horne for Pyrgos 54, A Hastings for Johnson 68, N Matawalu for Masaga 54.
Blues: G Anscombe (capt); O Lane, G Smith, W Halaholo, B Scully; J Evans, T Williams; B Thyer, K Myhill, T Filise; G Earle, M Cook; J Turnbull, O Robinson, N Williams. Replacements: E Lewis for Myhill 68, C Dinachowski for Thyer 59, A Peikrishvili for Williams 30, J Down for Earle 68, D Welch for Cook 75, D Blacker for Williams 75, R Lee-Lo for Halaholo 59, T James for Evans 56.
Ref: N Owens (WRU)