Glasgow’s European Rugby Champions Cup campaign fizzled out at Scotstoun with two crucial yellow cards when they were in control of the game against Montpellier as they crashed to a third successive and decisive defeat.
Cards for George Turner and Jonny Gray in the first half saw a massive momentum change from 17-5 ahead to 26-17 behind in the 20 minutes the Warriors were down a man, and they were always struggling to keep pace after that.
Too many lost lineouts and difficulty dealing with the French team’s power mauling game – a staple failing in Europe this year – left Glasgow with just a losing bonus point for their first three games in this season’s competition and definitely out of the quarter-final hunt.
The key yellow card was that of Turner for an off-the-ball, blindside hit on Montpellier skipper Louis Picamoles, only picked up after a TMO consultation. The Scotland hooker had just scored a try to put his side 17-5 ahead and apparently about to seize complete control of the tie.
Instead Montpellier had a crucial foothold, forced a second yellow card and apart from one breakout try from Leonardo Sarto to add to his first-half counter, were barely under pressure after they seized the lead just before half time.
An early Finn Russell penalty reflected Montpellier’s initial discomfort on the fast pitch even if they scored the opening try when Aaron Cruden ghosted through a gap and threw a fine wide pass for Kelian Galletier to fight off tackles and get the ball down in the corner.
But the conversion was missed and it took Glasgow just two minutes to respond, Ali Price darting off the back of a maul to send Sarto smashing through under the posts, Russell converting.
Another solid maul after 23 minutes produced a second score, Price and Sarto again making ground before Russell’s delicious backhand pass allowed Turner to go over on the angle.
Russell converted and Glasgow had Montpellier on the rack again in their own 22 only for Turner’s pointless hit in the back of Picamoles demanding a yellow card after ref Matt Carley had seen the TMO replays.
Glasgow seemed to be coping defensively until a thunderous run by Nico van Rensburg set them up and Galletier suddenly sprinted clear from a gap in a ruck under the posts foir his second try.
Frans Steyn converted and just before half-time Glasgow conceded two penalties in either 22, Montpellier’s maul thundered to the line and Carley handed the Warriors the double whammy, a penalty try and a yellow card to Gray for hauling down the maul.
Glasgow seemed to have survived the second ten minutes down a man until a fumble, a penalty at the resulting scrum and another big lineout drive by the Montpellier pack took full toll again, lock Jacques du Plessis credited with the bonus point try, converted by Steyn.
The Warriors needed a lift and got it with a coast-to-coast try on 56 minutes, Scott Cummings winning a turnover in his own 22, Sarto and Huw Jones escaping down the touchline and the centre nearly getting away himself but finding his wing inside him to finish it off.
But Glasgow couldn’t get any further momentum going and a Steyn penalty took the lead out to seven points again.
The Warriors increasingly desperate efforts to turn the game in the final minutes proved fruitless leaving them out of Europe halfway through their pool campaign.
Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; L Sarto, H Jones, S Johnson, T Seymour; F Russell, A Price; J Bhatti, G Turner, Z Fagerson; S Cummings, J Gray; R Wilson (capt), M Smith, S Vunisa. Replacements: J Malcolm for Turner 44, A Allan for Bhatti 72, S Halanukonuka for Fagerson 57, K McDonald for Cummings 72, C Fusaro for Sarto 66, G Horne for Price 57, P Horne for Johnson 5, N Matawalu for Jackson 59.
Montpellier: J Mogg; B Fall, F Steyn, J Serfontein, N Nadolo; A Cruden, E Sanga; M Nariashvili, B Du Plessis, J Jonker; N Van Rensburg, J Du Plessis; K Galletier, J Bardy, L Picamoles (capt). Replacements: M Haouas for Jonker 68, K Mikautadze for Du Plessis 74, F Ouedraogo for Bardy 62, B Paillaugue for Sanga 46, G N’gandebe for Fall 50, H Immelman for Mogg 57.
Ref: M Carley (RFU)