Glasgow and Saracens: Past meetings (part 1)

This Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter-final between Saracens and Glasgow will be the 11th game between the two sides in European competition. It will be the 4th meeting in the last 2 years and a decade earlier, in the mid-2000s, these clubs were regular adversaries in the Challenge Cup and Heineken Cup. On Top Of The Moon takes a look back at the earliest encounters…

The double header

2003/04 Challenge Cup Round 2, first leg – 11 January 2004 at Vicarage Road (report)
and 2003/04 Challenge Cup Round 2, second leg – 16 January 2004 at Hughenden (report)

Saracens 42 (37 + 5)
Tries: Thomas Castaignede (2), Kyran Bracken, Robbie Russell, Ben Russell, Morgan Williams
Conversions: Thomas Castaignede (3)
Penalties: Thomas Castaignede (2)

Glasgow Rugby 39 (6 + 33)
Tries: Andy Henderson, Rory Kerr, Cameron Mather
Conversions: Dan Parks (2), Calvin Howarth
Penalties: Dan Parks (5), Calvin Howarth

The first clashes in the Challenge Cup – a 2-legged second round match-up – may have set the tone somewhat for the clubs’ future competitive relationship. Initially Glasgow were blown away by Saracens’ pace and power, with the Scots possibly a little over-awed by their more illustrious opponents. A 37-6 first leg deficit would have preyed on the players minds during the long bus journey home.

A dawning realisation that just maybe they did belong on the same pitch as their English opposition lead to a huge fightback 5 days later. This time it was Saracens turn to be shell-shocked after swapping the clinical modern professionalism of Vicarage Road for the quaint old school feel of Hughenden! Glasgow agonisingly came up just short (an emerging theme for the matches to come sadly) with a 33-5 home win leaving them 3 points behind on the aggregate score.

Vicarage Road Part 1 – First Blood

2006/07 Challenge Cup Round 1
22 October 2006 at Vicarage Road (report)

Saracens 28
Tries: Penalty try (2), Kevin Yates
Conversions: Glen Jackson (2)
Penalties: Glen Jackson (3)

Glasgow Warriors 23
Tries: Francisco Leonelli, Hefin O’Hare
Conversions: Dan Parks (2)
Penalties: Dan Parks (3)

Since their previous meetings Glasgow had managed to acquire both the Warriors’ monicker and the 2 men who would contribute most to seeing the club build the mentality to go along with the name. Sean Lineen and Al Kellock respectively coached and captained the side for the first time in Europe. In line with the ethos they were building there was less respect for Saracens’ pedigree this time out as the Warriors got off to a flying start and a 16-3 lead.

The first of 2 scrum penalty tries immediately before half-time lifted the home side and deflated the visitors at a crucial juncture. Big Al’s men never stopped fighting though and went away with the bonus point and the knowledge that the toughest match in the group was out of the way.

The Hughenden mud bath

2006/07 Challenge Cup Round 6
19 January 2007 at Hughenden (report)

Glasgow Warriors 6
Penalties: Dan Parks (2)

Saracens 6
Penalties: Glen Jackson (2)

Both sides had made relatively light work of pool rivals Narbonne and G.R.A.N. Parma leaving top spot and qualification for the quarter finals on the line when they met again in Round 6 of the tournament. The weather was not conducive to running rugby. To be frank it had been pishing it down for days and even staying vertical was a challenge on the boggy Hughenden surface. If the Saracens boys had wondered where the hell they had ended up on their first expedition to Glasgow this must have been like landing on another planet.

2,570 drookit souls watched both teams throw everything they could reasonably manage at the game. Dan Parks and Glen Jackson were the only men who could put points on the board in testing conditions. There was one short spell that, just briefly, lifted the soggy crowd to a fever pitch and generated the kind of noise rarely heard around Glasgow’s leafy West End. Having established a beach head in the visitor’s 22 the Warriors’ forwards ground their way towards a try, picking and going, picking and going, edging closer and closer to glory…until, with the line beckoning, Justin Va’a knocked the ball on! It was a dramatic reminder of rugby’s ability to build excitement and expectation to fever pitch – before delivering a metaphorical swift kick to the baws.

Ultimately though the draw suited both teams, seeing them safely through to the quarter finals where the weird intricacies of the seeding system ensured they would meet once again in a post Six Nations rematch…

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