Cardiff Blues came within a point of getting their first win of the season as a late penalty was put wide to hand Glasgow Warriors four points at the Arms Park.
After last week’s heavy 37-9 defeat away at Leinster, Cardiff Blues head coach Danny Wilson made two changes to his starting XV, bringing in Nick Williams and Willis Halaholo, while new Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie welcomed back British and Irish Lion Tommy Seymour.
It was the visitors who started the strongest, getting down to Cardiff’s five-metre line early, but Alex Cuthbert cut the attack short with a well read cross field kick interception before Glasgow infringed at the scrum.
Another set piece issue for the Warriors saw a lineout well overthrown after nine minutes and the Blues pounced through Josh Navidi setting up quick ball. Steve Shingler put Tom James into a yard of space, and the winger duly provided a fend and went over for the first score of the game.
Shingler provided the conversion, and extended the lead two minutes later after a dominant Cardiff Blues scrum offered the chance to make it 10-0.
A dream start for the hosts, but Glasgow soon started finding their way back into the game as they realised on a cold, wet night in the Welsh capital, that kicks in behind were the order of the day. The pressure eventually told as Finn Russell opened their account from the tee.
The game took on a scrappy feel over the next 10 minutes, with Cardiff forcing Glasgow into mistakes in midfield but felt aggrieved not to be rewarded with some penalty decisions. Eventually it was the scrum again that came up trumps for a 13-3 lead.
It only takes a minute to change a game though, and Glasgow were quick to punish a clearance kick from Lloyd Williams straight down the throat of of Ruaridh Jackson. Lee Jones ran the ball back with interest, before quick ball produced a break on the blindside.
Scrum-half Henry Pyrgos tracked the attack perfectly and was on hand to run the ball under the posts. Scotland fly-half Finn Russell added the extras to make the score 13-10 at half-time.
The second half got off to a flyer as Shingler kicked the Blues further ahead, before a box kick from Lloyd Williams was won by Russell over the head of Cuthbert. The challenge of the winger left open space for the fly-half to run into and put Lee Jones over.
With the conversion added the score was 16-17 within two minutes of the restart.
Shingler quickly had the opportunity to put the home side back ahead off the tee, but the score would then stay 19-17 for 20 minutes as Glasgow dominated possession but struggled to break down Cardiff through a combination of errors and solid Blues defence.
Eventually Russell got the scoreboard going again on 65 minutes, edging the visitors back in front, and setting up an enthralling last 10 minutes.
Danny Wilson threw on Tomos Williams and Matthew Morgan to try and make something happen, but again it was handling errors that stunted any momentum gained, both teams guilty of poor skills throughout the game.
The defining moment of the match came on 77 minutes from a Cardiff Blues scrum on the Glasgow 10 metre line. The set piece wheeled as the ball came in and referee Frank Murphy blew his whistle before taking an age to signal in the home side’s direction.
Steve Shingler put the ball on the tee for a kick he will score 99 times out of 100, and it seemed for all the world this effort would go over until the last minute when the ball just faded away from the left hand upright.
There was still a chance to win the game as Matthew Morgan set up an attacking position from kick-off, but when Rey Lee-Lo spilled the ball it signalled an agonising 19-20 loss, and a record of played three, lost three to start the season.
Danny Wilson was pragmatic post-match, telling the Cardiff Blues official website, “It’s a bitter pill to swallow but if we are just analysing the performance it was a big step forward.
“it was the best performance from us this season and a huge step in the right direction from our last home game against Edinburgh. We were as close as we all saw to picking up a win against a very good Glasgow team.
“The effort from the players and the application of the game plan to put them under pressure forced a lot of errors.”
Looking ahead to next week, Cardiff Blues travel to Connacht, and Wilson was confident that Friday night’s performance could be built on.
“We’ve improved each week from a poor start against Edinburgh and I genuinely think tonight is a performance to be proud of.
“We didn’t quite get over the line but we couldn’t get much closer and next week has to be another improvement.”