• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Glasgow 23 Harlequins 24: Close encounter, of the friendly kind

PRE-SEASON games are funny things.

DTH van der Merwe flings himself over the line to score.  The Canadian impressed for Glasgow after coming on as a replacement. Picture: SNS Group/SRU
DTH van der Merwe flings himself over the line to score. The Canadian impressed for Glasgow after coming on as a replacement. Picture: SNS Group/SRU

In a couple of weeks, nothing will matter except the result and coaches will talk about the benefits of "winning ugly". At the moment, it is the other way round; pretty rugby and quality are all that matter.

This was a case in point. In all 53 players were used and the big message to the home players as they surrendered a nine-point lead in the final eight minutes was to reinforce the familiar message about playing to the end rather than setting any alarm bells ringing.

Gregor Townsend, the head coach, said he was reasonably satisfied with everything he had seen. After all, Harlequins had opened the match with their first-choice XV, while the Warriors had opted to hold back a number of players and instead give most of the club's summer signings a first run out. Yet they had still matched one of the teams expected to challenge for the Aviva Premiership title in England this season.

In the end, Harlequins shaded the try count four to three, and therefore probably justified the result, but when Glasgow brought on the more experienced cavalry in the second half - with the likes of Niko Matawalu, DTH van der Merwe, Rob Harley and Chris Fusaro joining the fray - they swamped Harlequins. By the time the match swung back neither side was recognisable from those which had started the game.

Of those players introduced from the bench, Matawalu grabbed the glory with a couple of quick-fire tries. However, it was really Van der Merwe who caught the eye, with a trademark burst down the wing to set up Matawalu for his second touchdown, before making an interception on his own line to outpace Marland Yarde, in the England international side for his speed on the wing, to touch down at the other end.

"I knew if I didn't catch it, he was going to score; I don't usually go for these interceptions," Van der Merwe admitted. "My first thought was to get the first 10 metres because Yarde is really quick and then I wasn't sure where he was. I guess my speed paid off. I just wanted to get to the line as quickly as I could, it felt as though I was running with a sled behind me.

"I don't know if I even made a tackle, the game was all one big blur, but it was good to get a good few carries, it is always good to build the confidence. We will take a lot out of that game, they were playing with their first team and we didn't.

"We were a bit frustrated in the first half when we were one point down with the wind. We should have done better but the second half showed that we can play with the ball in hand and can play with the best in Europe. They are a quality side and that shows how much work Glasgow has done in the last few years."

It was his first Glasgow appearance of the year after damaging a shoulder in training during January. It needed surgery which kept him out of action until the summer, when he did manage some international appearances for Canada - two off the bench and one start - but after another frustrating end of season, he was just delighted to be back in action.

In many ways there was a lot of familiar stuff in the Glasgow performance, both on the positive and negative sides. They had taken an early lead with a Duncan Weir penalty but could not handle a Harlequins rolling maul and went behind when they pushed one over the line and Joe Marler, the captain and prop, touched down.

The signs were there that Glasgow had the better of the game, with players breaking through the visitors' defence on several occasions. Yet they were unable to find the scoring pass - a flaw which could hurt when the serious stuff starts - and in the end Warriors had to be satisfied with a second Weir penalty to peg the deficit back.

A complete howler of a line out early in the second half gifted Kyle Sinckler, the other Harlequins prop, their second try before the home reinforcements sparked a purple patch for the home side. Matawalu did brilliantly to chip over the last defender and claim the first try but it had been set up by James Eddie on a rumble down the touchline.

Then Van der Merwe took a hand, breaking from his own 22 and again Matawalu was the right position to take the scoring pass, though the run-in was made more interesting when he fell, got up again and only just made the line.

Van der Merwe's interception opened the gap to nine points but Ollie Lindsay Hague and Yarde both ran in late scores to snatch the result as Glasgow's organisation fell apart. Nobody seemed too concerned - it was only a friendly after all.

Contextual targeting label: 
Football

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

256999