January 16, 2004

Glasgow Warriors 33 - 5 Saracens

Parker Pen Challenge Cup match played at Hughenden on Friday January 16th 2004 | No comments
Glasgow almost climbed the mountain in front of them in the second leg of this Parker Pen Challenge Cup second-round match when they fell an agonising four points short of a famous victory in must rank as was one of the best performances ever by a Scottish side in European rugby.

Saracens, supremely confident with last Sunday’s 37-6 victory in the bag, made five changes to their winning team, resting England scrum-half Kyran Bracken, French hooker Raphael Ibanez, and former All Black Taine Randell.

But the arrogance of the team selection almost backfired dramatically as Glasgow played with a single-minded ferocity that rocked Saracens back on their heels and almost created the miracle that hardly anyone had expected.

Glasgow scored three tries but it was the one the they conceded just before half time from Saracens’ first incursion beyond their 22 that ultimately proved to be the difference between victory and defeat. It was all the more hard to take because Saracens seldom threatened throughout the 80 minutes and regularly resorted to cynical professional fouls to prevent Glasgow recycling quick ball.

Glasgow stand-off Dan Parks missed an early 30-metre penalty but when an easier penalty was awarded inside the opposition 22 five minutes later Parks kicked for the corner instead. Glasgow won the line-out and although Saracens defence held firm three times, centre Andy Henderson finally twisted his way through to stretch over and score. Parks converted.

When Saracens won their own lineout on halfway the tap back bounced awkwardly and Cameron Mather snapped up possession to set up an attack that was briefly relieved by Thomas Castaignede’s punt upfield but the ball went straight back and, when another penalty was awarded inside the 22, Parks kicked for the corner again. This time it didn’t work but Glasgow took another three points from the next penalty when Saracens handled in a ruck.

Flanker Donnie Macfadyen broke through and when he was tackled by full back Richard Haughton Saracens went over the top to stop the ball being recycled and it was yet another penalty inside the 22. Parks kicked for the corner and the lineout set up position the Glasgow backs to come within a metre of the line.

Prop Steve Sparks was sin-binned for preventing release right under the posts. Parks chose to kick a simple penalty and the home team were suddenly almost halfway there with just over a quarter of the game gone.

With the half drawing to a close the visitors relieved the pressure when the Saracens forwards drove to the line for the first time and scrum half Morgan Williams got the touch down. The conversion came back off the post. A minute later Williams was yellow carded for preventing release at the other end, reducing Saracens to 13 men.

Glasgow wasted a penalty opportunity when backchat from the forwards convinced the referee to reverse his decision. Then Canstaignede ran 20 metres through midfield and kicked the ball another 50 so that the half ended at 13-5.

Hope was rekindled when Parks added another penalty within minutes of the restart and then full back Rory Kerr went over on the right wing after Henderson had made the space for him. Parks conversion made it 23-5 and the mountain didn’t look quite so intimidating for a brief moment.

But Saracens were not panicking. Restored to full strength, their forwards wrapped up the ball and slowed down the game. Castaignede kicked a penalty for touch when he might easily have gone for goal just to demonstrate how high their confidence remained. If it was calculated to demoralise Glasgow it backfired completely.

Calvin Howarth replaced Parks to try and re-energise Glasgow. Within minutes Skipper Cameron Mather was handing off a weak defensive tackle to score on the left and, suddenly, when Howarth converted, Glasgow were within two scores of turning round the tie and there were still 20 minutes to go.

Saracens were panicking now. Passes started to go astray and anxiety set in with a vengeance. Glasgow’s territorial advantage was bringing sweat to the brows of the English team as they realised they were in danger of being severely embarrassed.

A Glasgow lineout on the Saracens 22 resulted in penalty award when the maul was pulled down. Howarth’s kick was good and Glasgow were trailing by only three points over the two legs and victory was a real possibility.

However, with Saracens having scored five tries in the first match the three points from a penalty would have seen Glasgow as gallant losers. So Glasgow chose the scrum when a penalty was awarded ten metres out with five minutes to go but Saracens somehow scrambled it clear.

As the game went into injury time Glasgow mounted a last-ditch assault but anxiety was affecting them too and a knock-on gave Saracens possession and allowed them to stay in the relative comfort zone of the Glasgow half.

Ultimately it was not to be for Glasgow but when the game ended, the crowd rewarded them with a standing ovation.

Report from William Paul of The Scotsman.

Referee D Mene (FRA)
Attendance 2,645
Man of the Match Andy Henderson
Euan Murray
Gordon Bulloch
Lee Harrison
Andy Hall
Nathan Ross
Cammy Mather
Donnie Macfadyen
Jon Petrie
Graeme Beveridge
Dan Parks
Sean Lamont
Andrew Henderson
Graeme Morrison
Gareth Maclure
Rory Kerr
Scott Lawson
Andrew Kelly
Rory Mackay
Roly Reid
Sam Pinder
Calvin Howarth
Stuart Moffat
Match Substitutions
Off On
Dan Parks Calvin Howarth
Off On
Graeme Morrison Stuart Moffat
Off On
Andy Hall Rory Mackay
Off On
Lee Harrison Andrew Kelly
Andy Henderson Try 
Dan Parks Conversion
Dan Parks Penalty
Dan Parks Penalty
Dan Parks Penalty
Rory Kerr Try 
Dan Parks Conversion
Cammy Mather Try 
Calvin Howarth Conversion
Calvin Howarth Penalty

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