The Guinness PRO14 marks its return this weekend with a plethora of mouth-watering fixtures, and Cardiff Blues’ trip to Glasgow Warriors is most certainly one of them.
Both sides will want to make a winning start back to life in Conference A, currently topped by the Scottish outfit.
But the Blues, sitting in fourth ahead of the weekend’s action, will look to gain ground on their opponents, with a prospective win eating into the Warriors’ 10-point advantage over them.
What’s at stake?
After two weeks off, momentum has been cast off and each team will enter this one afresh.
Before the break, Glasgow had made a strong start to the campaign, as they look to go one better than last season’s semi-final finish.
They had suffered defeat to closest Conference rivals Munster but put things right with a well-won triumph over Ospreys.
And the Blues may be left cursing the timing of the interlude; four wins from their last five Guinness PRO14 fixtures tells of a side that was riding a wave, something they will look to rediscover at Scotstoun.
— Cardiff Blues (@cardiff_blues) November 22, 2018
Team News (Glasgow Warriors): Three members of the Scotland side that narrowly lost out to South Africa last weekend start for the Warriors on Friday night, with Ali Price and Pete Horne comprising the half-back pair, while Tommy Seymour starts on the wing.
On the opposite flank is Niko Matawalu, who will make his 100th appearance for the club.
Stafford McDowall impressed sufficiently in the Warriors’ previous two Guinness PRO14 fixtures to get the nod once more, while Ruairdh Jackson plays at full-back.
Team news: (Cardiff Blues): The Warriors won’t be alone in celebrating a milestone appearance-maker in Glasgow, with Blues’ centre Willis Halaholo set to make his 50th Cardiff appearance, while skipper Lloyd Williams makes his 180th – just two short of the region’s record.
Jarrod Evans and Seb Davies are straight in after being released from the Wales squad, at fly-half and second-row respectively, while Kristian Dacey comes in at hooker and youngster Kieron Assiratti starts at prop.
Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie said: “We took 10 days off after Ospreys and everyone came back in in really good nick, we’ve had a number of personal bests in testing so we’re really happy.
“It’ll be a proud day for Niko (Matawalu) and his family making his 100th appearance and hopefully we’ll see that bit of magic from him with ball in hand that we know he’s capable of.
Game number 💯 in a Warriors shirt for Niko Matawalu tomorrow.
What has been your favourite moment from the Flying Fijian playing for Glasgow? pic.twitter.com/FsD3Q40KbB
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) November 22, 2018
“We’ve been on the road a lot and we’ve played pretty well, but we love playing at home and we’re looking forward to getting back in front of a Scotstoun crowd tomorrow night.”
Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill said: “Glasgow are the team that have scored the most tries in the PRO14, and they also kick the least. They’ll cause us a lot of threats in defence so we’ll be looking to make sure that we start strong.
“The first 15 minutes let us down against them in the Champions Cup game. They scored twice. After you take that first 15 minutes away, it was pretty even.
“You certainly can’t give a team of that quality a head start. We’ll be focusing on our start.”
Key battle: This game looks set to be a battle of the half-backs, with international quality returning to bolster the ranks of both sides.
The Warriors will look to Ali Price and Pete Horne to direct proceedings after they were released from Scotland duty, while Blues starlet Jarrod Evans should bring a spark to their game.
Key fact: The Warriors most recent match at Scotstoun ended in a 3-13 defeat to Saracens, but in the Guinness PRO14 their only defeat at the venue since the start of last season was in the semi-final in May.
Did you know? The two sides have already met in the European Champions Cup this season with the Scotsmen winning 29-12 at the Arms Park.
Glasgow Warriors: Ruaridh Jackson, Tommy Seymour, Nick Grigg, Stafford McDowall, Niko Matawalu, Pete Horne, Ali Price; Jamie Bhatti, George Turner, D’Arcy Rae, Rob Harley, Kiran McDonald, Adam Ashe, Callum Gibbins (c), Matt Fagerson
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Kevin Bryce, Petrus du Plessis, Tim Swinson, Matt Smith, Nick Frisby, Brandon Thomson, Rory Hughes
Cardiff Blues: Tom Williams, Aled Summerhill, Garyn Smith, Willis Halaholo, Jason Harries, Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams (c); Brad Thyer, Kristian Dacey, Keiron Assiratti, George Earle, Seb Davies, Josh Turnbull, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams
Replacements: Liam Belcher, Rhys Carré, Scott Andrews, James Down, Sion Bennett, Lewis Jones, Steven Shingler, Harri Millard
TV: At Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow 7.35pm. Live on Premier Sports, eir Sport
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU, 74th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton (IRFU), Ian Kenny (SRU)
TMO: Charles Samson (SRU)
Citing Commissioner: Beth Dickens (SRU)
Niko Matawalu marked his 100th appearance for Glasgow Warriors with a two tries as they cruised past Cardiff Blues 40-15.
The Fijian winger notched the second of four first half scores for the Scottish side, as Adam Ashe, Callum Gibbins and Tommy Seymour all crossed to ensure they had a bonus point before the break at Scotstoun Stadium.
Kristian Dacey looked to spark a comeback with an early second half score for the Blues, but it was quickly cancelled out by Rory Hughes.
Fly-half Jarrod Evans had 10 points on the night for the Welsh side, including a try after an hour before Matawalu grabbed his second late on.
It started well for Cardiff with Evans giving them an early 3-0 lead with a penalty when Glasgow were penalised at the breakdown.
Glasgow had two great chances in the next 10 minutes but only converted one.
Nick Grigg thundered through the midfield and released scrum half Ali Price but Cardiff full-back Tom Williams made a despairing tackle and knocked the ball loose, halting the Scottish sides’ attack.
But it was in vein as just minutes later strong phase play gave a platform for Ruaridh Jackson to make a half break and offload to Ashe who dived over. Horne added the conversion to make it 7-3.
The home side added a second try six minutes later with Matawalu crossing for the second consecutive game week.
It came from a strong line-out before the Fijian picked his angle to break past the defence and step the fullback to dab down – Horne added the extras to make it 14-3.
Glasgow continued to dominate and it was openside flanker Gibbins who got in on the try action just before the half hour mark.
The Scottish side had a quick tap which went through the hands before the back-rower stretched over the whitewash when he looked like he was going to fall short. Another Horne kick made it 21-3.
They secured the bonus point before half-time through Tommy Seymour.
British and Irish Lion Seymour was set free by Grigg on the outside, who offloaded to his support runner who dabbed down under the posts. Horne added the extras to make it 28-3 at the break.
Dacey made it a much better start to the second half for the Welsh side.
The hooker touched after a strong driving line-out just after the break to make it 28-8.
But it wasn’t long before Glasgow grabbed another score, this time with replacement winger Hughes crossing for the home side to increase their lead.
Evans added seven points all of his own on the hour mark, showing his power and agility to touch down before kicking his own conversion to reduce arrears.
Matawalu would score his second 10 minutes before the end. He showed his defence instincts to pick off a wayward pass before dashing over to score with Horne adding the extras to make it 40-15.
22 Nov 2018