GLASGOW Warriors may have been without a host of internationals but they still put a superb display together in the west of Ireland to run out deserved six tries to two winners at the Sportsground in Galway.
They were on top for long periods but, reversing the trend which saw them get 65% of their scores before the break up to this in the current campaign, didn’t pull away until the second-half.
Warriors were on top in the set-piece and full of running throughout, much to the delight of attack and backs coach Nigel Carolan, back at the venue where he served as a player, academy manager and coach.
“He said that in the changing room after the game, when you come back to your home whether you’re a player or part of the staff it’s a big day for all of us,” said head coach Danny Wilson.
“I thought we controlled the breakdown much better this week than it was last week. On top of that, what was more pleasing was the likes of Ollie Smith who I thought was outstanding amongst other players. For such a young 15 to start in a game like this, I thought we did really well.
“I thought we controlled the game well. We attacked well, our set-piece was good and we put a lot of pressure on their lineout,” added Wilson.
Glasgow led 17-10 at the end of a good opening half where both sides had periods of dominance but Connacht’s lineout woes proved costly as they coughed up four of their own throws. Glasgow targeted that area from the outset throughout Richie Gray and Kiran McDonald and it paid a high dividend.
But Glasgow, with former Connacht backs coach Nigel Carolan now on board, also targeted out wide and their ability to spread it quickly had Andy Friend’s men on the back foot for long periods.
Glasgow kept the ball in had playing into the fresh breeze on a dry, sunny day in Galway and they got a foothold early on when they worked it through the phases after a penalty to the right corner and it ended on the other wing with Rufus McClean ruining Tiernan O’Halloran’s 200th appearance for Connacht when he squeezed under him to score. Duncan Weir was unable to add the difficult conversion.
A yellow card to Gray for a tip-tackle on Eoghan Masterson was punished by Connacht. They managed to build the phases and a penalty to the left corner was recycled across before scrum-half Kieran Marmion fed his debutant partner Cathal Forde and he drew the cover before sending Sammy Arnold in for a good try, which the 20-year old out-half converted to edge Connacht 7-5 in front after 12 minutes.
Glasgow, though, managed the remaining period well before Gray returned and they hit the front not long after his return when another well-worked move off a lineout with George Horne and Sione Tuipulotu combining to send Kyle Steyn through and he handed off Tom Farrell before scoring near the posts. Weir added the extras to lead 12-7 at the end of the opening quarter.
It got better for Warriors four minutes from the break when sustained pressure and good patience was rewarded after a good turnover by Tom Gordon led to a penalty to the corner. Connacht defended the initial drive but hooker Dave Heffernan was pinged for not rolling away and this time Warriors got the drive and skipper Fraser Brown got the touchdown.
Weir was again unable to convert from the left and Connacht cut the gap just before the break when Forde landed a penalty from 35 metres to leave seven between them at the interval.
Connacht got on top after the restart and got back on level terms inside four minutes. They were patient in attack inside the 22 and while captain Jarrad Butler was held up just short, his No.8 Paul Boyle picked and squeezed over. Forde converted to leval after 44 minutes.
Weir hit back with a penalty in front of the posts to restore Glasgow’s lead but Forde cancelled that after 51 minutes.
But then the Warriors pressure finally paid off. Boyle was binned as Connacht coughed up penalties. Warriors opted not to kick in front of the posts and while Connacht defended that drive, they turned the screw and scored 12 points with the extra man.
Both McClean and Steyn got their second tries to lead 32-20 after 63 minutes as their strong running, led by the superb Sione Tuipulotu, cut the home cover to shreds with some magnificent rugby.
Connacht were unable to rally and after Weir put three scores between them with a penalty, they completed the rout when replacement hooker Jonny Matthews scored in the final play to keep hot on Edinburgh’s heels at the top of the table.