|Guinness Pro14: Glasgow Warriors v Connacht|
|Glasgow Warriors (30) 35|
|Tries: Hogg, Dunbar, Brown, Pyrgos Cons: P Horne (3) Pens: P Horne (3)|
|Connacht (8) 15|
|Tries: Bealham, Blade + penalty try Con: CartyPen: Carty|
Glasgow Warriors secured top spot in Pro14 Conference A with an emphatic victory over Connacht.
The Irish side crossed for the opening try through Finlay Bealham before they were hit with a Warriors onslaught.
Stuart Hogg, Alex Dunbar and Fraser Brown scored as the home side established a 30-8 half-time lead.
Henry Pyrgos’ try and 15 points from the boot of Peter Horne ensured Caolin Blade’s touchdown and a penalty try proved mere consolation for Connacht.
The equation was clear for Glasgow going into this one – beat Connacht to secure top spot in the table and with it a home semi-final in the playoffs.
They made a howler of a start, however. Within 30 seconds they had fallen foul of referee Frank Murphy, and Connacht made a statement of intent by putting the eminently kickable penalty into the corner.
Their confidence was justified as the Irish side’s rolling line-out maul rumbled over the Glasgow line, with prop Bealham the man to ground.
Warriors’ response was quick and clinical.
Operating off first phase ball from a line-out, DTH Van Der Merwe came tearing into the line from his left wing and gassed Bundee Aki on the outside arc. Hogg appeared on the winger’s right shoulder and took the pass to glide over.
Horne, preferred to Finn Russell at fly-half, popped over the conversion and a couple of penalties as the home side recovered from their sloppy start.
Glasgow were attacking from deep, as is their way, and Sam Johnson made a searing break through the midfield. The Australian centre took his side deep into the Connacht half, but poor decision-making and illegal Irish work at the breakdown meant Glasgow had to make do with another three points from the boot of Horne.
Jack Carty responded with a penalty to make it 16-8, but moments later Dunbar crashed through on a beautiful short line on Horne’s pass and had the pace to beat the cover defence to the try-line.
Warriors were well on top, and Brown ensured the scoreboard provided an accurate reflection of their dominance, the hooker ploughing over from close range to give them a 30-8 half-time lead.
If the visitors were hoping for some respite after the break that notion was blown away early in the second period when Glasgow conjured a wonderful try.
The ball was shipped wide to Niko Matawalu, on for the injured Van Der Merwe, who hared up the flank before feeding Callum Gibbins. The captain took play into the Connacht half and when the ball was recycled Dunbar put Pyrgos in for the score to secure the bonus point.
The game was gone for Connacht but they continued to come at Glasgow, pinning them deep in their own territory. Warriors lost prop Alex Allan to the sin bin with their scrummage under the cosh but, impressively, they did not lose a single point during 15 minutes of incessant pressure.
Russell and Ali Price, also dropped after a below-par display in last week’s defeat by Scarlets, came off the bench to add fresh impetus to Glasgow’s play, but it was Connacht who got the try their second-half performance deserved.
Substitute Stacey IIi broke free and fed fellow replacement Blade, who showed incredible strength to shrug off the tackles of Price and Tommy Seymour to score.
The Glasgow scrum continued to creak and eventually Connacht were awarded a penalty try to give the scoreline a more respectable look.
But this was Glasgow’s 10th win from 10 home games in the Pro14 this season, and no team will relish coming to Scotstoun in the semi-final.
Glasgow Warriors: Hogg; Seymour, Dunbar, Johnson, Van der Merwe; Horne, Pyrgos; Allan, Brown, Z Fagerson, Cummings, Gray, Harley, Gibbins (capt), Fagerson.
Replacements: Stewart, Bhatti, Halanukonuka, McDonald, Fusaro, Price, Russell, Matawalu.
Connacht: Leader; Adeolokun, Aki, Robb, Healy, Carty, Marmion; Buckley, McCartney, Bealham, Dillane, Roux, Masterson, Butler (capt), McKeon.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Gavin Thornbury, John Muldoon, Caolin Blade, Tom Farrell, Stacey Ili.