The Glasgow Warriors avoided a whitewash in the European campaign with a mixture of epic defence and some stunning tries to knock Exeter out of the European Champions Cup.
The Warriors had nothing to play for but pride and restored a good deal of it after a poor season in Europe, although they were definitely aided by a marginal decision by referee Romain Poite to award a penalty try against Chiefs’ Aussie scrum-half Nick White early in the second half.
The home side had been under pressure in their own half for much of the first 40 minutes but brought the Scotstoun crowd to their feet with two magnificent scores after the penalty try, Tommy Seymour and man of the match Matt Fagerson finishing off length of the field attacks in the space of four minutes.
Added to Stuart Hogg’s try after just 70 seconds, the Warriors won a bonus point but it was their defensive effort that probably won them the game, Fagerson and Rob Harley both outststanding in that area.
For Scotland coach Gregor Townsend, there was plenty of encouragment with Hogg and Seymour looking superb on their comebacks from long-term injuries, although a head knock to the other returnee Alex Dunbar and what looked like a serious knee injury to hooker George Turner will be of concern ahead of the 6 Nations.
Glasgow sliced open the Chiefs defence on their first touch of the ball and then were forced into a defensive siege due to their own indiscipline and the Chiefs’ brutal forward power.
Only 70 seconds had been played when Finn Russell attacked on the right and as the Chiefs defence looked for him to link with Huw Jones and Seymour, he off-loaded inside to George Horne who delivered another pass to Hogg to canter in under the posts untouched, Russell adding the easy conversion.
But for a full half-hour the Chiefs took control of ball and territory, yet every time Glasgow forced a turnover or a fumble and cleared their lines they fell quickly foul of Poite and were back under the cosh.
Huw Jones’ arm got under the ball to save a try when Glasgow’s defence was stretched and Ian Whitten did get over the line, but arguably the Warriors came closest to a try after Hogg’s chip and chase and Horne’s hack-on required a desperate save from Gavin Steenson.
Only after the Warriors seemed to have weathered the storm, just before half-time a loose lineout throw from replacement hooker Grant Stewart allowed Exeter another platform and Sam Simmonds squeezed over for the try, Steenson converting.
Glasgow at least got more parity of territory in the second half and after they turned over a lineout drive deep in the Exeter 22, the referee stepped in.
The Warriors had a two-man overlap as Russell tried to link wide but Chiefs scrum-half Nick White got a hand in during the tackle to knock the ball on. It looked marginal but Poite decided it was deliberate, awarded a penalty try and a yellow card to White.
That was Glasgow’s cue to take off with two stunning tries from their own 22. They stalled another Exeter lineout drive on their own line and then broke out with Hogg, Seymour, Russell and George Horne combining at pace down the touchline before Seymour was in position to finish it, Russell converting.
Straight from the kick-off Hogg motored out of his own 22 again to link with Seymour, Horne was again in support to take it into the Exeter 22 and Fagerson crowned his outstanding performance by crashing through two retreating tacklers to score.
The Chiefs wouldn’t give up and a brilliant Joe Simmonds break led to an Armand try under the posts, while Whitten finished the visitors’ best backs attack of the day, but the Devon side couldn’t find a fourth try to save their European campaign.
Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour, H Jones, A Dunbar, L Sarto; F Russell, G Horne; J Bhatti, G Turner, S Halanukonuka; R Harley, J Gray (capt); M Fagerson, M Smith, A Ashe. Replacements: G Stewart for Turner 8, A Allan for Bhatti 53, D Rae for Halanukonuka 53, G Peterson for Ashe 73, C Fusaro for Smith 34, A Price for G Horne 70, P Horne for Dunbar 13, L Jones for Sarto 58.
Exeter Chiefs: P Dollman; L Turner, H Slade, I Whitten, O Woodburn; G Steenson (c), N White; B Moon, L Cowan-Dickie, H Williams; M Lees, J Hill; D Ewers, D Armand, S Simmonds. Replacements: E Taione for Cowan-Dickie 64, M Low for Turner 64, T Francis for Williams 51, T Salmon for Lees 64, M Kvesic for Ewers 52, W Chudley for White 64, J Simmonds for Slade 64.
Ref: R Poite (FFR)