Glasgow Warriors welcome Newport Gwent Dragons to Scotstoun on Saturday afternoon looking to end a run of three consecutive Guinness PRO12 defeats and consolidate their place in the top six.
What’s at stake?
Since beating Cardiff Blues at Scotstoun on January 7, Glasgow have suffered three Guinness PRO12 defeats in a row – going down to Scarlets at home and enduring road losses to Ulster and Ospreys.
That run has left them with a mountain to climb in order to reach the Guinness PRO12 semi-finals for a sixth consecutive season, with securing a top-six spot now their primary goal.
The Dragons also head into Saturday’s clash on a poor run of form, as they have notched just one victory in the last seven rounds of league action.
That came in a home tie against Benetton Treviso in early January, and the Welsh outfit lie tenth in the standings, although just a point behind Edinburgh in ninth.
History is also on the Scottish outfit’s side as they have won their last five matches against the Dragons since a 24-23 loss in Newport a little over three years ago.
Glasgow Warriors team news
Coach Gregor Townsend has made eight changes to the starting XV that went down 26-15 at Ospreys last weekend, with three of those coming in the backline.
Fresh from signing a new two-year contract with the club, Lee Jones is set to make his 50th appearance for Warriors as he comes in for Junior Bulumakau on the wing.
Mark Bennett returns at outside centre, meaning Nick Grigg switches inside and Peter Horne moves to No.10, while Henry Pyrgos replaces Grayson Hart and scrum-half.
Two-thirds of the front row is changed as Alex Allan and D’arcy Rae come in at prop, Tim Swinson is preferred to Scott Cummings in the engine room, Richie Vernon makes his first start of the campaign at No. 8 and Simone Favaro will maraud around the park from openside flanker.
Newport Gwent Dragons team news
Dragons head coach Kingsley Jones has made six alterations to the side that lost 54-22 to Leinster at Rodney Parade last time out.
An entirely new half-back pairing of Sarel Pretorius and Angus O’Brien will start, Sam Beard is preferred to Jack Dixon at inside centre, Adam Warren comes in for Adam Hughes on the wing and Tom Prydie will be the last line of defence at full-back instead of Carl Meyer.
That means the pack only shows one change as James Thomas will partner Rynard Landman in the boiler room, as Nick Crosswell drops out of the 23.
Dragons may have suffered a disappointing home defeat to Leinster last time out and now face a daunting trip to Scotland, but returning fly-half O’Brien claims the team have been putting in the hard yards during the build-up to the game.
“It’s been quite an intense week and we had good reviews and discussion on Monday about what went wrong and what we need to work on,” he said. “It’s been tough.
“It’s never nice losing, especially in front of our crowd. We weren’t expecting that and were disappointed because our Rodney Parade record has been good. It’s a big test but we are confident that we can put a few wrongs right.
“We’ve got to be confident going up there, we have to impose our game on them. We’ve identified what has worked for teams against them and what didn’t. We’ve done our homework and will be prepared.
And Townsend has saluted winger Jones as he prepares to reach his half-century of Glasgow appearances.
“Lee has been involved in some of our best performances this season and reaching 50 appearances shows how hard he has worked since joining the club,” said Townsend.
“We are determined to get back to winning ways tomorrow and there is no better place to do that than in front of our home crowd.”
Key battle: Henry Pyrgos v Sarel Pretorius
Henry Pyrgos returns to club duty having come off the bench during Scotland’s memorable 29-13 victory over Wales in the RBS 6 Nations last time out.
With Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw ruled out for the remainder of the Championship, Pyrgos and fellow Warrior Ali Price will be vying for the No.9 jersey – with the former having the perfect opportunity to stake a claim this Saturday.
The 27-year-old is handed the captain’s armband for the visit of the Dragons and his most pressing concern will be containing the Welsh side’s exciting, sniping scrum-half Sarel Pretorius.
The South African is always a danger to cross the whitewash – no Dragon has scored more than his four Guinness PRO12 tries this season – and whoever controls the game better out of him and Pyrgos will give their side a distinct advantage.
Key stat: The Warriors have played seven games against Welsh regions in the Guinness PRO12 this season and won just twice.
Did you know? Dragons have not won away from home in the Guinness PRO12 since a visit to Treviso in March 2015 and have not been victorious at Scotstoun since November 2013.
Glasgow – Top points scorer: Finn Russell 48pts Top try scorer: Tommy Seymour 8
Dragons – Top points scorer: Angus O’Brien 72pts Top try scorer: Sarel Pretorious/Pat Howard 4
Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 27, Warriors won 12, Dragons won 13 with 2 games drawn.
At Scotstoun Stadium, 3pm. Live on Sky Sports
Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU, 20th competition game)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson (IRFU), Dunx McClement (SRU)
Citing Commissioner: Iain Goodall (SRU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)
Nick Grigg’s first-half try double laid the platform for a phenomenal Glasgow Warriors fightback 47-17 win over Newport Gwent Dragons at Scotstoun.
Gregor Townsend’s side were winless in the Guinness PRO12 since beating Cardiff Blues on January 7 and with Sarel Pretorius massively influential in the first 20 minutes, Rynard Landman crashing over and Angus O’Brien kicking a penalty, Dragons looked good to continue that run.
But after Landman’s try on 23 minutes, Glasgow were irrepressible – scoring seven tries as Grigg and Peter Horne controlled the game and man of the match Brian Alainu’uese dominated in the carry.
Centre Grigg’s double kick-started the Glasgow revival, turning over the 10-0 deficit to lead 14-10 at half-time before Rory Hughes and debutant Ratu Tagive crossed within ten minutes of the turn.
Lee Jones scrambled over eight minutes later and then Scotland centre Mark Bennett and Horne added two further scores to wrap up a valuable maximum-points win, closing the gap on Ulster and Scarlets in the Guinness PRO12 standings.
It was a frenetic start, Sam Beard looked like cutting through early on, only for Pyrgos to pick off the pass and then watch his chip ricochet off the Dragons line.
Still, it was O’Brien who put Dragons ahead with a penalty after 14 minutes when Andrew Brace pinged Warriors at the breakdown.
After nearly 20 minutes at a breathless intensity at Scotstoun, Pat Howard looked to be in acres of space out wide only to inadvertently collide with full-back Tom Prydie who also had his eyes on the wide pass.
Pretorius and No. 8 Lewis Evans linked well from the base of a scrum deep in the Glasgow 22, Howard popping up off his wing and driving close to the line before Landman picked and went under the posts, his momentum carrying him over.
O’Brien converted for a 10-0 lead, but that seemed to stir Glasgow to life, a clever Bennett kick piling the pressure on Dragons before Grigg was stripped by Pretorius reaching for the line.
Grigg though made amends moments later, bursting through as the Warriors pressure took its toll, with Horne knocking over the conversion to pull Glasgow within three points after half an hour.
It was the powerful centre who then looked up and noticed lock Landman and prop Brok Harris in midfield and accelerated between the two tight forwards 30 metres out, leaving them both for dead and stepping inside the covering defence for a brilliant individual try.
With Horne’s conversion, Glasgow led 14-10 at the break and Hughes picked a plum line from first-phase ball to slice through Dragons’ defence and bundle over three minutes into the second period.
Scotland playmaker Horne made the simple conversion and seven minutes later his flat pass freed up Grigg to carve open the Dragons defence ten minutes into the half, laying the platform for Glasgow’s bonus-point try.
Grigg found an outside shoulder and race clear, passing inside to Corey Flynn who was caught just short, but when the ball was recycled and Horne had the presence of mind to spot Tagive unmarked out wide, dropping a cross-field kick into the winger’s path for a first Warriors try.
Townsend’s side did not have to wait too long for try number six, a quick tap from Pyrgos five metres out found Murchie and after a quick shimmy he hit Jones on a short line, who span through two challenges to cross for a converted try.
Olympic silver medallist Bennett was the next to capitalise on Grigg’s creative showing, picking an inside line off his centre partner and showing his superb pace to score under the posts, Horne again converting before grabbing the seventh and final try following a Brandon Thomson break late on.
Tyler Morgan scored a consolation score with the last play as Glasgow pushed for number eight.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017, 27th May, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Ticket Information: Fans can still avail of an exclusive number of €35 tickets. Book via www.ticketmaster.ie. Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final