Glasgow 17, Saracens 21: Jackson breaks new ground for historic Saracens

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The Independent Online

One way or another, it was always going to be a momentous night on Clydeside, at the windswept home of Partick Thistle Football Club. Saracens needed a point to make it into the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup for the first time in their history. Glasgow required a four-try victory and a seven point margin to do so themselves.

It was the Premiership side who grasped the hand of opportunity to finish top of Pool 4 with the guarantee of a home tie in the last eight of rugby's premier European competition. In doing so, they gratefully accepted a helpful nudge from their hosts, scores gifted to Richard Haughton and Glen Jackson at either end of the first half easing Sarries' progress. On the Firhill ground where the youthful Alan Hansen learned the art of defending, Sean Lineen's Glasgow Warriors were guilty of two lapses that might best be described as unbelievable.

"We scored two fortuitous tries, but we'll take them," Alan Gaffney, Saracens' director of rugby reflected. "The fact that we've now qualified is fantastic. I've been so nervous all week I couldn't sleep."

As it happened, when the gusts of 60mph subsided before kick off, Glasgow never managed to put the wind up Gaffney's men – even though they had the prevailing elements with them in the opening half. Quite the opposite, in fact.

With five minutes on the clock, Jackson punted a kick into the right corner that would have been a lost cause for Haughton to chase had Hefin O'Hare, Glasgow's left wing, not dithered as the ball trundled into the in-goal area and inched towards the touchline. It was a costly piece of dallying. Haughton got hand to ball and Brian Fitzgerald, the television match official, confirmed a score for Sarries' "Hair Bear" wing.

The small consolation for Glasgow was the strength of the wind, which held up Jackson's conversion attempt. The Kiwi fly-half also had a long-range penalty blown off target, much to the relief of the locals.

The Warriors had already suffered a blow before kick off, Daryl Gibson falling victim to a knee injury and making way for Scott Barrow at inside-centre. It took them to the end of the opening quarter to gain their composure when Dan Parks put points on the board for them, landing his first two penalties.

In between those two efforts, Jackson found his place-kicking range with a successful penalty attempt of his own, making it 8-6 to the English side after 26 minutes. Still, Saracens were obliged to make a change in midfield, Kevin Sorrell limping off with a damaged ankle and Kamlei Ratuvou stepping up from bench duty.

Not that the Fijian got the chance to cut loose before the interval. Saracens spent most of the remaining time in the first half on the back foot, but comfortably so. Parks did land another penalty for Glasgow, though Jackson kicked one at the other end before snaffling a gift try six minutes into injury time. Plucking a stray pass from Sam Pinder, the Glasgow scrum-half, Jackson coasted to his score from 45m out, then added the conversion to give saracens a 18-9 cushion going into the second half.

The wind duly extracted from their sails, Glasgow nearly conceded a third try 12 minutes into the second-half. Haughton twirled and pirouetted his way into the right corner, but with Pinder and Parks hanging on to his coat tails. This time the TMO called in favour of Glasgow.

There was another close call five minutes later, Brent Russell, Saracens' Springbok full-back, spilling the ball with the home line at his mercy. Then Glasgow found a second wind, Thom Evans, their flying right wing, popping up on the left to feed a scoring pass to Bernardo Stortoni, the former Bristol full-back. Parks missed the conversion but had the final say on the scoreboard, landing another penalty in the 87th minute. By then, though, Jackson had already pushed Saracens into the comfort zone, his second penalty success taking his points haul to 16.