Glasgow send Saints packing
January 19, 2013
Glasgow's Ryan Wilson and Pat MacArthur tackle Northampton Saints' Dylan Hartley
© PA Photos
Glasgow clinched a dramatic 27-20 victory over Northampton in their Heineken Cup clash at Scotstoun Stadium.
The hosts ended the Saints' hopes of a quarter-final place thanks to Peter Horne's last-gasp try that means the Premiership side are also likely to miss out on a place in the last eight of the Amlin Challenge Cup.
In a game that marked Soane Tonga'uiha's 200th appearance for the Northampton, Gregor Townsend's players achieved the Warriors' first win in this season's tournament against their head coach's former club. But the match will be remembered for the wonderful final-minute try from Horne who ran half the length of the pitch before touching down.
For Glasgow the match provided only pride to be gained. Already unable to progress in the Heineken Cup after collating a miserable two points from their first five matches, Townsend made 10 changes to his squad following their match at Ravenhill against Ulster last week, including the return of Stuart Hogg at fullback.
The squad rotation suggests the priorities of the Warriors in the coming months, with the Glasgow side second in the RaboDirect PRO12. For Northampton, who needed a bonus-point victory to keep their hopes of qualification alive, the same 15 players who narrowly defeated Castres at Franklin's Gardens last week started the match.
Despite the lunchtime kick-off the floodlights were, unlike the temporary stands behind either set of posts, at full capacity. Northampton were looking for a good start, but Courtney Lawes gave away a penalty after 30 seconds which Ruaridh Jackson duly booted between the posts to give Glasgow an early three-point advantage.
Despite pressure from the visitors, the home side's was doubled thanks to Jackson's right boot 10 minutes later. Stephen Myler pulled it back to 6-3 with a simple penalty for Saints moments later, before Northampton almost secured the first of the four tries they would have needed for a bonus-point victory. Jamie Elliott dashed to the left corner, only to be blocked off within touching distance of the line.
Despite Northampton's dominance in the early stages, it brought them little reward. Niko Matawalu's tenacity at scrum-half epitomised Glasgow's spirit. Northampton eventually broke through after 30 minutes when a charging run from Dom Waldouck opened up the Glasgow defence and he scored under the posts, with Myler converting with ease.
With Jackson injured for Glasgow, replacement fly-half Scott Wight's first involvement was a difficult penalty attempt from 40 yards which failed to find the target. By that stage the home crowd was growing increasingly frustrated by Welsh referee Leighton Hodges' reluctance to play advantage, and the 10-6 lead at half-time for Northampton hardly helped to temper the frustration.
Glasgow started the second half rejuvenated, taking the lead after 46 minutes through a try from Josh Strauss. The South African flanker's raw power saw him overcome three opponents to reach the Northampton try-line, much as he did in the reverse fixture between the two teams at Franklin's Gardens in October, and give Glasgow a 13-10 lead.
The lead was to last until the hour mark as the quick feet of Samoan George Pisi, Northampton's top try-scorer this season, side-stepped tackles to find his way to the right corner of Glasgow's try-line. The unconverted try was Pisi's sixth of the season, and his third against the Warriors.
Glasgow's Matawalu stole the lead yet again from Northampton however. The Fijian pinched possession and then ran the 30 yards required to score under the posts, leaving Wight with an easy conversion with 13 minutes left to play.
A late try from Northampton winger Ben Foden brought the scores level at 20-20, despite pleas of obstruction from the crowd. It would be Glasgow that had the final say though thanks to an outstanding solo effort from Horne. Overcoming several tackles from Saints players, Horne powered through to score arguably the best try of his career before booting the conversion himself.
Saints boss Jim Mallinder accepted his side were simply not good enough to progress. "We showed that when we want to we can get performances; the win at Ulster away - the only visiting team to win at Ravenhill this season - was magnificent for us," he said. "But to win these competitions you need to be more consistent.
"We won three games and lost three games and that isn't good enough. We came up here to try and get to the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup. We knew it was an outside chance, we needed four tries. We were close, but we weren't close enough."
His Glasgow counterpart Gregor Townsend was delighted after seeing his side finally deliver a complete performance. "We've shown what we can do at times in every game," he said. "We went down to Northampton - who were Premiership leaders at the time - and we were 15-0 up. We were leading for 75 minutes over at Castres, so we've shown it, we just haven't had the 80 minutes and the winning performance until now."
Northampton's Ben Foden is tackled by Glasgow's Ruaridh Jackson © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"Some people have it from day one and Brian did." Tom Hamilton talks to the two players who made their Ireland debuts alongside Brian O'Driscoll back in June 1999
Despite having lost all four of their 2014 Six Nations games, the future of Italian rugby is bright with the team showing a new youthful core, argues Enrico Borra
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column