The depleted Glasgow Warriors showed admirable grit, determination and skill to shrug off the loss of five key players and record an outstanding and much-deserved victory over former champions Wasps in the Heineken Cup clash at Firhill.
Minus Scotland internationals Graeme Morrison, Max Evans, John Barclay and Johnnie Beattie and Canadian wing DTH van der Merwe, Sean Lineen plugged the gaps with fringe players who all rose to the occasion as Colin Gregor’s try and Ruaridh Jackson’s four penalties and a drop goal were enough to see off the former Heineken Cup winners, who came to Firhill with a full-strength side needing a win to secure quarter-final qualification.
Glasgow’s youngsters outplayed the multi-capped likes of Serge Betsen, Joe Worsley and Simon Shaw with 21-year-old Ryan Wilson shining in the back row and winning man-of-the-match honours.
But most impressive was the way that Jackson, who has shown patchy form since taking over the stand-off berth from Dan Parks, controlled the game.
The 22-year-old, who understudies Parks in the Scotland squad, did miss three placekicks which would have underlined the Warriors’ supremacy, but had a fine game in open play both with the boot, and particularly with ball in hand.
The youthful Warriors started brightly with Gregor and Richie Vernon breaking through tackles into the Wasps 22 and securing a penalty for offside kicked by Jackson after only three minutes, but Dave Walder levelled the scores for the visitors with a long shot from near halfway despite the breeze.
But as against Toulouse earlier in the competition, after 12 minutes Glasgow’s defensive organisation was exposed off the base of a scrum near halfway, as scrum-half Joe Simpson took untidy ball and sped into a huge gap, holding off a tackle and feeding speedster Tom Varndell with a long pass for a too-easy try, Walder adding the conversion.
Jackson responded immediately with a second penalty and although Simpson’s pace continued to menace the home defence, the Warriors’ ball retention and continuity was excellent and they quickly had the upper hand in the scrummage.Warriors’ supremacyHowever Wasps’ famous rush defence and the veteran Betsen’s ability to slow the ball at the breakdown kept the home side at bay, while the Warriors’ backline, without four first-choice players, struggled to capitalise on the ground being made by the forwards.
Inevitably, once the Warriors failed to make use of their dominance of the ball it was Wasps who came closer to scoring just before the break, Walder’s penalty falling short of the posts from the same distance he had made comfortably earlier in the half.
Jackson’s third penalty after the veteran Lions giant Shaw cynically killed possession saw the Warriors draw to within a point, and then on 50 minutes Glasgow finally broke through, just as Wasps were putting together their best spell of possession of the match.
The visitors were attacking threateningly in the home half when hooker Tom Lindsay spilled the ball, allowing the home side to quickly move it wide to Colin Shaw.
The Scotland sevens wing made a telling step inside to break the drift defence, and popped up a pass for the supporting Gregor to get the try, which went unconverted.
Glasgow continued to be the better team with ball in hand and while Jackson was short with a long penalty attempt, he was on target a couple of minutes later after a high tackle on Gregor and then hit the post with a simpler chance with 10 minutes remaining.
But there was little need for panic from the home side with Wasps spilling the ball in attack again, the Glasgow locks pinching lineout ball and Al Kellock’s long kick forcing a howler of a pass by Vaughton to give up a scrum five.
From there the Warriors ran down the clock until Jackson popped over the drop goal to secure victory.