Glasgow Warriors 13-7 Sale: Warriors survive fightback in Heineken Champions Cup
|Heineken Champions Cup|
|Glasgow Warriors: 13 (13)|
|Try: Van der Merwe Con: Hastings Pens: Hastings 2|
|Sale Sharks: 7 (0)|
|Try: Oosthuizen Con: MacGinty|
Nervy Glasgow Warriors held off a second-half fightback by Sale Sharks to open their Heineken Champions Cup campaign with a 13-7 win.
DTH van der Merwe's try at the end of the first half was reward for a dominant display as Sale struggled to make inroads into Warriors' 22.
Sale were better after the break and cut the deficit to six points after Coenie Oosthuizen's try.
That kept the hosts on edge but Sale could not find another score.
The visitors were left to rue a poor first 40 minutes in what was their first Champions Cup match since the 2016-17 season.
Relief for Glasgow, frustration for Sale
Glasgow lost their opening home game in Europe last season against Saracens, but the English visitors then were of an altogether different order to the English visitors here. Sale are going solidly in the Premiership but the chance of them suffocating Dave Rennie's team the way the reigning champions did a year ago was always remote.
The chances of them making a fight of this looked impossible for large parts of it. They were outplayed for vast chunks. Their lineout was a mess, their amount of ball negligible until the hour mark when Glasgow's previously comfortable day suddenly became sweaty as Sale stirred.
They had come to Scotland without their stellar names, of course. No Faf de Klerk, no Tom Curry, no Mark Wilson. No Lood de Jager either. That's an amount of brilliance and muscle to go without.
The hosts faced Saracens in their first game in Europe last season and also in their last, a pummelling defeat to the soon-to-be-champions. Perhaps with that physical monstering in mind, Glasgow had an edge about them from the start, an edge that brought a few early off-the-ball scraps.
Glasgow owned the ball for an hour. Even when early pressure and phase upon phase on the Sale five metre line went unrewarded in the face of the visitors' aggression there was always the sense that the points would come. Slowly, they did. Hastings banged over a penalty towards the end of the first quarter and then put over another early in the second quarter.
They'd played with a thunder that Sale struggled badly to cope with. Penalties started to flow as a consequence of the heat the visitors were under. After half an hour, Glasgow had enjoyed 77% possession and 82% territory. Sale's tackle stats were soaring. Ross Harrison, the loosehead, was sitting on 15 tackles all on his own.
Something had to give - and it did. In a rare sortie into Glasgow's 22, Sale got turned over. From the scrum, Glasgow won a penalty. Hastings rifled it to touch. Finally, Glasgow made their pressure count off a set-piece move, George Horne linking with Sam Johnson who fed it on to Van der Merwe. The wing cut inside the confused Marland Yarde and ran away to score.
The conversion made it 13-0, not quite a reflection of Glasgow's control but a handsome enough lead all the same. It was a lead you couldn't see them giving up, not even when Steve Diamond got angry and made five substitutions inside the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Things did change, though. Sale got up a head of steam and Oosthuizen, one of Diamond's emergency crew off the bench, drove over from close range. AJ MacGinty's conversion was good and out of the blue we had a single-score game on our hands.
Sale's new forwards gave them a power that they lacked earlier on and a menace that few inside Scotstoun could see coming. Rennie brought on Pete Horne for Hastings in an attempt to regain some control, a process that was helped no end by Sale's continuing lineout woes.
When they lost a fourth throw close to the end, Sale gave the impetus back to Glasgow, who were now a shadow of the side they looked in the first 40 minutes. Sale had another crack at them with the clock on red but the home defence repelled them.
Relief for Glasgow for holding out. Frustration for Sale for waking up too late. A bizarre game but four precious points for Glasgow from a game they said they had to win. They did, just about.
Glasgow Warriors: Seymour; Tagive, Grigg, Johnson, Van der Merwe; Hastings, G Horne; Kebble, Brown, Z Fagerson, Harley, Cummings, Wilson, Gibbins, M Fagerson.
Replacements: Turner, Allan, Rae, Swinson, Fusaro, Price, P Horne, Steyn.
Sale Sharks: Hammersley; Yarde, Redpath, James, McGuigan; MacGinty, Papier; Harrison, Webber, Cooper-Woolley, Evans, Phillips, J Du Preez, Curry, D Du Preez.
Replacements: Van der Merwe, Morozov, Oosthuizen, Postlethwaite, Ross, Cliff, R Du Preez, Ashton.