Friday night rugby returned to a frosty Firhill Stadium this weekend as current Heineken Cup holders and tournament favourites Toulouse came to Glasgow, but the visitors’ performance indicates that they are not unbeatable.
The first half saw Toulouse in the lead, 25 points to Warriors’ 16. And from their performance in the first half it was expected that they romp away in the second half. But it was not to be, Glasgow denied them the bonus point, and Skrela’s penalty mid way through the half was the only score in the second forty. For all that they had dominated in the first half, some of the intimidating aura had rubbed off during the break, and the Warriors came out determined to turn the game around.
It was during this half that Toulouse faced more of a struggle; Warriors put together some good attacks that challenged Toulouse defensively. Although these attacks did not really pose too much of a threat, they led to the Toulouse back row making several errors, and if the home side had pressed home that advantage, the result could have been different.
For all of the strengths Toulouse demonstrated in this game, something was not quite right; Toulouse did not play the way one would expect a Heineken Cup winning team to play. There was frustration when Glasgow slowed the ball down when all the visitors wanted to do was play quick rugby, and this frustration boiled over at times into physical aggression, from both sides, that would have had a less lenient referee reaching for the cards.
And this desire to play quick rugby could be the undoing of Toulouse in tight matches. Their frustration at a slower game also led to repeated infringements in the rucks – certainly Cedric Heymans received several taps and hints from officials about this throughout the game – and this is something that a better team than Glasgow could fully exploit.
There were various problems with the scrums and both teams were being given the benefit of the doubt by Welsh referee James Jones. Toulouse were driving forward before put in and snatching the ball away before fully cleared which, while it boosted their pace and started their set plays, could see them penalised heavily in future games, allowing other teams to edge ahead.
What also surprised me was how easy it was for Glasgow to creep across the line for a try. Max Evans put in a lovely chip and wing Federico Aramburu finished it off: the try for Warriors came not two minutes after Toulouse had notched up their second. For all of the pace and intimidating nature they had shown up until that point Toulouse were unable to stop Warriors from scoring. As we have seen in many many games previously, momentary lapses such as that can cost a team the game, and no doubt there are many sides out there who would take all of those chances against Toulouse.
Perhaps I am being rather harsh on them, they played well and fully deserved to win on Friday, and perhaps they felt that they did not need to try too hard against Glasgow and played differently because of it. But Friday’s performance was not that of a Heineken Cup winning team, and we may well see a different style of play from Toulouse once they emerge from the pool stages, but there is certainly plenty of hope for anyone they come up against.
By Christine Lester