Even without their internationals and their lengthy injury list the Glasgow Warriors stayed on course for a Guinness PRO14 play-off semi-final with another bonus point victory over the South African Cheetahs.
The Warriors lit up a wet and miserable night with five tries but made plenty of errors to allow the spirited South Africans to stay in the game until Henry Pyrgos’ late try in concert with man of the match Nick Grigg finally killed them off.
It means the Warriors extend their lead in Conference A from Munster – who play at Cardiff today – and are now 21 points ahead of the Cheetahs in third place.
Best for Dave Rennie was that three of his returning long-term injured all had outstanding games, with Tim Swinson, Scott Cumming and Sam Johnson all prominent. The head coach would have also been pleased with the control of Adam Hastings, who kept the Cheetahs pegged with some intelligent kicking throughout.
The tries came from Niko Matawalu, a brilliant solo score from Ruaridh Jackson, a first Scotstoun try for Suia Halanukonuka and tries for both scrum-halves, George Horne and Pyrgos.
Heavy rain sweeping Scotstoun made handling tough for both sides in the first half, with plenty ball spilled and to the profit of the South African visitors after 10 minutes.
Glasgow were attacking after a sweeping combination at pace between Grigg and Horne but Cheetahs captain Francois Venter wrenched the slippery ball from a Warrior’s grasp, counterattacked and gave the ball to his speedy wing Malcolm Jaer to race the rest of the way, Nico Marais converting.
Glasgow were behind for just three minutes, however, as Hastings’ brilliantly timed pass sprung Matawalu through a gap and the Fijian avoided the rest of the defence to aquaplane over the line for the try.
Hastings added the conversion and Glasgow’s tactic of kicking in behind the Cheetahs wings paid dividends on 20 minutes.
Ruaridh Jackson gathered a loose ball in his own half, but his chip over the defensive line found space, he cleverly sidefooted it on and then regathered as the ball bounced favourably to score a super solo try.
Hastings couldn’t convert but added a long penalty as the Warriors couldn’t quite make the best use of plenty possession and territory.
Just before half-time the Cheetahs got a gift with Matawalu’s ill-advised cross kick in his own 22 putting his team-mates under pressure to concede a penalty, converted into three points by Marais.
The stand-off then drew his side to within two points early in the second half with an impressive penalty strike from near halfway after the Warriors’ scrum splintered.
But Horne and Matawalu’s pace chasing a kick ahead forced a scrum-five for Glasgow, and after a penalty brought a lineout and a maul, prop Halanukonuka barrelled over for the try.
A fumble from the restart and a scrum penalty allowed Marais to peg the Warriors back briefly, but the bonus point try arrived swiftly with great hands releasing Johnson and Horne was at his shoulder to take the scoring pass and race under the posts, Hastings converting.
The Cheetahs wouldn’t go quietly, however, and a missed tackle in midfield allowed Blommetjies to finish, Marais converting to restore the gap to just four, only for Hastings to push the Warriors further ahead with an easy penalty.
And the Cheetahs’ resistance finally broke straight from the restart with Grigg wriggling free from his own 22, and replacement Pyrgos was in support to weave past the remaining defenders for the try.
There was a late yellow card for Cheetahs skipper Venter but no more scoring as the Warriors continued their unbeaten home record.
Glasgow: R Jackson; L Jones, N Grigg, S Johnson, N Matawalu; A Hastings, G Horne; A Allan, J Malcolm, S Halanukonuka; T Swinson, S Cummings; R Harley (capt), C Fusaro, M Fagerson.
Replacements: G Stewart for Malcolm 74, O Kebble for Allan 60, D Rae for Halanukonuka 60, M Smith for Fusaro 60, A Ashe for Swinson 70, H Pyrgos for Horne 61, B Thomson for Jackson 74, R Tagive for Jones 42.
Cheetahs: C Blommetjies; C Barry, F Venter (capt), N Lee, M Jaer; N Marais, S Venter; C Marais, T Van Jaarsveld, L de Bruin; J Basson, R Hugo; H Venter, O Mohoje, U Cassiem.
Replacements: J Du Toit for Van Jaarsveld 66, O Nche for C Marais 51, J Coetzee for de Bruin 32, C Wegner for Basson 60, P Schoeman for Mohoje 48, Z Mkhabela for S Venter 76, F Zeilinga for N Marais 73, L Obi for Blommetjies 73.
Ref: George Clancy (IRFU)