After a year of tumultuous off-field controversies, it must have been a relief for the newly formed Glasgow Barbarians to start letting their rugby do the talking. Yet on a night when they were looking to put past demons to bed it was a performance that delivered perspiration but little in way of inspiration.
It was a Glasgow side crippled with injuries that took to the field, against an ominous looking Vet’s side that seemed to tower over the depleted Barbarians.
On a greasy surface at the Garscube, it was never going to be a night for creativity, and all too often it descended into a brutal battle up front. The early tentativeness set a precedent for the course of the match, with the Glasgow 9 seeming to lack faith in his back line as he constantly seemed to be trying to pin the Vets back with an overly ambitious kicking game. It seemed to be merely handing the impetus back to a Vets side growing in self-belief, and allowed them to set about with seemingly endless waves of pressure that a scrambling Glasgow defence showed great resilience to keep out. Yet the Glasgow rear guard effort came at a cost, and as bodies were put on the line, Thomas Horton was forced off with a suspected broken wrist. Queue reshuffling and a controversy that threatened to see the match boil over. As the intensity of the Vet pressure mounted it seemed only a matter of when rather than if. A well worked move from the breakdown saw David McFarland, a handful for the Barbarians all night, bundle over to open the scoring yet the Glasgow team seemed incensed, arguing that the ball was fumbled forward before being grounded. With the absence of any fourth official, it would have been a brave decision to not award the try.
Glasgow looked to hit back instantly, the mercurial Horner burst through the Vet line, but found himself isolated, and he was promptly wrapped up in a swathe of the maroon Vet defence and the chance was gone. It was the case for Glasgow all night: moments of incisive individual brilliance not backed up by the team as a whole.
The Vets looked set to further their lead shortly after the half hour mark. Smart hands in the corner exposed Glasgow defensive frailties but with the line at their mercy it was knocked on by Chris MacGregor to temporarily reprieve the flagging Glasgow backline. Minutes later the weight advantage of the Vets was to be demonstrated. A driving maul on the Glasgow 22 gathered unstoppable momentum, and with the defence unable to handle the sheer ferocity, it was left to MacGregor for the simplest of tries. It perhaps showed a
Glasgow defensive immaturity, with the defence surely thinking in hindsight that it would have been better to cynically collapse the maul and sacrifice the penalty.
Richard Flook was imperious with the boot all evening, kicking intelligently from hand, whilst he continued to dissect the posts from the tee. Whenever the Barbarians looked to be developing something of a foothold on the match, they were consistently let down by defensive indiscipline for which they were repeatedly punished by the right foot of the stand off.
Glasgow almost got the perfect response straight after half-time. The Vets failed to deal with the kick off, yet as Glasgow looked to get back into the game they were met by an impenetrable maroon wall.
Glasgow did get back into the game through a couple of penalties from Andrew Brown. Brown, the league’s top kicker, has been described by compatriots as a “metronome,” and another flawless performance with the boot did little to disabuse that notion. Yet penalties seemed to come tit-for-tat and Brown repeatedly saw his efforts cancelled out by his opposite, Flook.
The game’s decisive moment came in the 70th minute. Glasgow were enjoying a spell of intense pressure and for the first time the Vets looked genuinely rattled. An innocuous looking ruck saw the ball spilled forward, and from it replacement winger Oliver James was allowed to rampage the length of the pitch through a fragmented field before selflessly passing to Macgregor to complete the rout.
Glasgow did gain some consolation however, when a clever up-and-under from Horner saw Glasgow’s talisman surge past a static Vet defence, and with the favourable bouncing ball giving Glasgow some of the luck that had so far eluded them, was able to canter home to give the score line a greater degree of respectability, with the match finishing 25-11. The full-time whistle sparked scenes of jubilation from the vociferous Vet support, as they capped an impressive start to the season with another major scalp.
After the match Andrew Brown spoke to Guardian about the frustration felt within the rugby club, “It’s really tough for the side at the moment. We are not getting any investment, and we have only been able to train three times this year. The image we have has scared a lot of the freshers, whilst some of the older guys have become disillusioned and are thinking about leaving and joining club sides. No disrespect to the Vets, they really deserved to win tonight they were the much better side and did the simple things better, but I think if the whole thing with GUSA hadn’t happened it would have been a totally different story.”