Need to Know: Connacht v Glasgow Match Preview

KO 5.15 at the Sportsground, Saturday 3rd September
Live on Sky

Team Talk
It’s deja vu all over again for Glasgow as they play their third consecutive competitive fixture at the Sportsground against Connacht. Off season departures and injuries have had an impact but 28 of the 46 men who featured in the playoff semi-final will take to the field again – 15 for the Warriors and 13 for Connacht.

The home side have a good recent record in season openers, winning 5 out of their last 6. It’s more of a mixed bag for Glasgow with 3 wins in 6 seasons – and none away from home. The Warriors haven’t lost 3 in a row in the Pro 12 since 2012 – Leinster in the playoffs, Ulster (A), Scarlets (H).

The two sides have only previously met once on opening day in the Pro 12 / Celtic League. Remarkably both John Muldoon and Sean Lamont played in that match 12 years ago and will feature again in this season’s encounter.

Teams

CONNACHT
15 Cian Kelleher
14 Niyi Adeolokun
13 Eoin Griffin
12 Bundee Aki
11 Matt Healy
10 Jack Carty
9 Caolin Blade
GLASGOW WARRIORS
15 Stuart Hogg
14 Leonardo Sarto
13 Alex Dunbar
12 Sam Johnson
11 Tommy Seymour
10 Peter Horne
9 Henry Pyrgos (c)

1 Dennis Buckley
2 Tom McCartney
3 Finlay Bealham
4 Ultan Dillane
5 Danny Qualter
6 Eoin McKeon
7 Nepia Fox-Matamua
8 John Muldoon (c)

1 Gordon Reid
2 Pat MacArthur
3 Zander Fagerson
4 Tim Swinson
5 Jonny Gray (c)
6 Robert Harley
7 Simone Favaro
8 Ryan Wilson

16 Dave Heffernan
17 Ronan Loughney
18 JP Cooney
19 Lewis Stevenson
20 James Connolly
21 Kieran Marmion
22 Shane O’Leary
23 Peter Robb

16 Corey Flynn
17 Ryan Grant
18 Sila Puafisi
19 Tjiuee Uanivi
20 Lewis Wynne
21 Ali Price
22 Rory Clegg
23 Sean Lamont

Matchday Milestones:
It’s Centurion time again as Sean Lamont will become the latest player to hit 100 caps for the Warriors when he comes off the bench on Saturday. Glasgow’s opening try of the season will also be the 300th scored under Gregor Townsend. There’s also another milestone looming for the Toony era – having used 96 players in his time so far if all 4 debutants in the 23 make it onto the pitch it will bring up the 100th Warrior to feature under the future Scotland head coach.

Warriors One to Watch:
With Finn Russell still missing through injury and Duncan Weir now wearing the black and red of Edinburgh a huge amount of pressure falls on the shoulders of Peter Horne. He’s likely to see place kicking duties delegated to Henry Pyrgos but it’s essential that Pete fills the key decision-maker role at 10 and has an effective day kicking from hand. He needs to dictate where the game is played to keep his forwards on the front foot and also provide the link to release a potent looking backline. He may have additional defensive duties to deal with as well – assisting Sam Johnson in covering the key threat of Bundee Aki.

Head to Head:
Back 3 – ADV Glasgow
Centres – ADV Connacht
Half Backs – ADV Glasgow
Front Row – ADV Connacht
Second Row – ADV Glasgow
Back Row – EVEN
Subs – EVEN

Toony’s Track Record…
…against Connacht:

  • Regular season – 7 wins, 1 loss. 3 Try BPs. 1 Losing BP. 32 points out of a possible 40 (80%)
  • Playoffs – 1 loss.
  • Gregor Townsend had a 100% winning record against Connacht until their end of season double over the Warriors on the way to becoming champions.

Last season’s match-up:

20
Carries made by Leone Nakarawa. The Flying Fijian was a workhorse in Galway and provided Glasgow’s primary carrying threat. His workload is likely to be spread across the pack and Gregor Townsend will be looking for them to be as dynamic as possible to stop the stifling Connacht defensive line getting on top.

70%
Possession for Glasgow in the first half. One of the biggest frustrations for the Warriors was their failure to convert their opportunities in the opening period. Breaks from deep were squandered through poor handling and when they reached the Connacht 22 the home side were right up in the Warriors’ faces, knocking bodies back and making it hard for Ali Price and company to get the ball away from the contact area.

1
Red card for the Warriors. It can be a bit of a fool’s errand to speculate what might have happened if only one event in a match was changed. In this case Glasgow fans might argue that all the first half pressure was building to wear down Connacht and would have allowed the Warriors to ease away if the game had continued as 15 v 15. As things were the Westies had to make 175 tackles (missing 27) to only 85 for the away side (7 missed). Could Connacht have sustained another 31 minutes with their backs against the wall? Undoubtedly their fans would counter that they could – and would point to an outstanding defensive effort against Leinster just weeks earlier which epitomised the never say die spirit at the Sportsground.

Home and Away:
Connacht last 5 (H) – W W W W W
Glasgow last 5 (A) – W W W L L

Officials:
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU, 49th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell (WRU), Eddie Hagan-O’Connell (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Peter Ferguson (IRFU)
TMO: Jon Mason (IRFU)

The game was originally scheduled to be overseen by Nigel Owens but the league’s most experienced official is currently nursing a hamstring injury. In his place is Mr. Davies who refereed Glasgow 4 times last year – including both regular season fixtures against Connacht. The Welsh whistler issued 4 yellow cards and 1 red card to Warriors in those 4 games and the penalty count was also against Glasgow on each occasion. In their last three contests with Connacht the Warriors have seen 3 yellow and 1 red cards. Discipline must be better this time out or there is almost no chance that this fixture will prove to be third time lucky…

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