Warriors hold off Dragons
Glasgow Warriors reclaimed a top-four place in the Guinness PRO12 after a hard-fought 19-15 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at Scotstoun.
Having lost to Scarlets in the last round of games, it was not a spectacular response from Glasgow whose coach Gregor Townsend will know his men must play better to mount a serious challenge for the silverware this season.
If the Welsh visitors had capped a spell of sustained pressure in the closing 10 minutes, there could have been few complaints in the home camp.
Glasgow's points came from a penalty try and a 14-point contribution with the boot by Duncan Weir. For Dragons, who now sit second from bottom, Geraint Rhys Jones landed five penalties in an immaculate kicking performance.
Jones made his first contribution after five minutes when he banged over a penalty after Chris Fusaro entered a ruck from the side. But the riposte was instant, with Weir slotting a three-pointer after a similar award from the next play.
Dragons raised the pace and pieced together a multi-phase attack that yielded a penalty inside the home 22. And Jones steered his kick between the posts to nudge the visitors back into the lead after 16 minutes.
The hosts were finding it tough to exit their 22 but as the clock ticked towards 20 minutes the home pack shunted the opposition eight backwards at a Dragons scrum inside the home danger zone.
That proved to be the foundation for Glasgow to enjoy a brief period in the ascendancy and Weir landed another penalty to restore parity. The sides were level for only five minutes and on the next visit to Glasgow territory, the Welsh outfit earned another penalty and the unerring boot of Jones nudged Dragons back ahead.
Glasgow finally managed to gain the upper hand and ended the half as the better side, but despite a string of penalties that created scoring opportunities, the hosts failed to unlock a solid Dragons defence. With the penalty count mounting, referee Dudley Phillips despatched Dragons scrum-half Richie Rees to the sin bin. However, the visitors held out until the break to turn round with a three-point cushion intact.
Glasgow thought they had scored two minutes into the second period when Niko Matawalu pounced on a loose ball at a scrum in the Glasgow half and twice kicked ahead. However, he was beaten in the final sprint for the line, with the covering Ross Wardle carrying over the whitewash.
The try was only delayed and a powerful surge at the ensuing five-metre scrum led to a penalty try and left Weir with a simple conversion. From the restart, Dragons earned another penalty and Jones again opted to go for the posts, his successful kick trimming the deficit to a single point.
Momentum appeared to have turned in Glasgow's favour and a series of accurate kicks from Weir turned the Dragons defence, although the home side failed to add to their points tally.
Glasgow made a flurry of changes in an attempt to raise the pace. But they had to resort to Weir's boot to add three more points. And, with 14 minutes left to play, the international stand-off maintained his flawless kicking contribution with another penalty that went over via a post.
Jones matched that immaculate record with the boot when he succeeded with his fifth kick of the night.
That sparked a desperate finale that stretched the home defence. However, the Welshmen failed to add to their haul and had to settle for a narrow defeat bonus point.