Glasgow embolden bravehearts ahead of the Calcutta Cup
Glasgow 27 Northampton 20
Monday 21 January 2013
It will be on Billy Williams' old cabbage patch at Twickenham, some 420 miles to the south of Scotstoun Stadium, that the outcome of the 2013 Calcutta Cup will be decided on 2 February. Still, the events surrounding Northampton's departure from the Heineken Cup, with their defeat against the Warriors in the west end of Glasgow on Saturday gone, could well have a bearing on the Six Nations opener in south-west London on Saturday week.
For one thing, the involvement of Calum Clark is in serious doubt and Matt Kvesic of Worcester has been called up in case his badly damaged shoulder suffered on Saturday fails to heal. He was in obvious distress as he withdrew from the fray in the 38th minute of a thoroughly painful afternoon for the Saints.
Clark was given a 64-week suspension, cut to 32, for his sins after breaking Rob Hawkins' arm in the LV Cup final last season. Just how long he will need to spend on the sidelines this time is unclear as yet. "It's his AC [acromioclavicular] joint," Jim Mallinder, Northampton's director of rugby, said. "I think he's done a little bit of damage there. It's in a sling."
The slings and arrows of physical misfortune also felled Courtney Lawes. The England second-row dynamo departed after a head-on cranial collision with the Glasgow centre Graeme Morrison early in the second half. "Courtney's not too bad," Mallinder reported. "He's got a little bit of a stinger but, hopefully, he'll be fine."
Stuart Lancaster, England's head coach, will be mightily relieved to hear that – as Scott Johnson, Scotland's head honcho, will – to discover that Ruaridh Jackson suffered no serious damage. The fly-half aggravated a rib injury and had to be replaced in the 35th minute. However, Glasgow's head coach, Gregor Townsend, said: "I wouldn't have thought he'd be a doubt for the Calcutta Cup. He's just a bit sore."
As was the collective ego of the Saints after this knockout blow on the continental front. Ultimately, they got caught between the need to chase a four-try bonus point while at the same time securing victory.
The latter was never going to be easy against a Glasgow side who had threatened to make a mark in the competition – leading their opener at Franklin's Gardens 15-0 and their away match in Castres for 75 minutes – before reaching the final round of pool matches without a win on the board.
To their credit, Mallinder's men were in with a shot with 52 seconds left on the clock. At that point, they had three tries in the bag, courtesy of Dom Waldouck, George Pisi and Ben Foden, and were pressing for a fourth in the right corner with the scores tied at 20-20.
It was then that the 20-20 vision of the touch judge spotted the punch thrown by replacement prop Alex Waller that earned a yellow card and a turnover of possession.
It mattered little in the grand scheme of Heineken and Amlin Cup qualification that Northampton proceeded to lose the game, the replacement centre Peter Horne scoring with a dazzling solo 50-yard run. In terms of lifting Scottish spirits ahead of the Six Nations, however, the Glasgow victory should not be underestimated.
It was no less than they deserved for a fine all-round performance in which Glasgow's live-wire Fijian scrum-half Niko Matawulu took the eye (and snaffled an interception score to boot) and their talismanic captain, Al Kellock, was at his granite best, paving the way for a Josh Strauss try and leading the resistance to the Saints' line-out drive.
Asked how important the win might be ahead of the Scotland squad assembling at Scotstoun today, Kellock replied: "Massively important. I said at half-time, 'It's easy to play the role that's expected of you – to go out and be good for 40 minutes and push Northampton hard – but it's important that we win this game.' The effort, to a man, was top-class."
Glasgow: Tries Strauss, Matawalu, Horne; Conversions Wight 2, Horne; Penalties Jackson 2. Northampton: Tries Waldouck, Pisi, Foden; Conversion Myler; Penalty Myler.
Glasgow S Hogg; T Seymour (S Kennedy, 58), B McGuigan (P Horne, 55), G Morrison, S Maitland; R Jackson (S Wight, 35; A Dunbar, 70), N Matawalu; G Reid (R Grant, 61), P MacArthur (D Hall, 51), M Low, T Swinson, A Kellock (capt, T Ryder, 25-29), J Strauss, J Eddie, R Wilson (T Ryder, 47).
Northampton B Foden; J Wilson (T May, 55), G Pisi, D Waldouck, J Elliott; S Myler (R Lamb, 56), L Dickson; S Tonga'uiha (A Waller, 55), D Hartley (capt) (M Hayward, 68), P Doran-Jones (T Mercey, 55), S Manoa, C Lawes (R Oakley, 51), C Clark (M Sorensen, 38), T Wood, P Dowson.
Referee L Hodges (Wales).
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