A controversial refereeing decision saw Glasgow Warriors extend their unbeaten run in the Guinness Pro14 to ten games despite a valiant Cardiff Blues effort.
After a promising start to the game it was flipped on it’s head in the 29th minute as Fa’ao Filise was inexplicably red carded by Nigel Owens for an innocuous looking tackle. From there the clinical Glasgow exercised their attacking might as the highest point scorers in the league and the tie was taken away from us.
Danny Wilson had to contend with an increasingly lengthy injury list that had claimed Matthew Rees and Matthew Morgan in the build up to the game, as well as the likes of Gethin Jenkins, Rhys Gill, Ellis Jenkins, Sam Warburton, Lloyd Williams, Alex Cuthbert and Dan Fish who have been out for a few more weeks.
With Kris Dacey, Seb Davies and Josh Navidi also unavailable due to international duty, a reshuffle in the pack was required that saw Kirby Myhill start his first league game for 13 months, Macauley Cook move up to the second row and Josh Turnbull recalled to the starting XV.
A mini injury crisis at full-back meant Gareth Anscombe was called upon to start his first game of the season at 15, and captain the side, with Blaine Scully returning from international duty on the left wing and Tom James dropping to the bench, where he was joined by Dane Blacker in line for his first Cardiff Blues Pro14 appearance.
On a bitterly cold night at Scotstoun it was the visitors who drew first blood as Nick Williams won a penalty over the ball right in front of the posts inside 30 seconds. Jarrod Evans duly obliged and it was 3-0 after two minutes.
Both sides left wingers attempted to make decisive breaks, but Glasgow infringed after Leonardo Sarto had run clear, and could not get satisfactory distance on a clearance after Blaine Scully looked lively down the touchline.
From the lineout Cardiff attacked with speed and went direct at the home side. Recycling the ball quickly they shifted the ball well before the cut out pass from Willis Halaholo allowed Macauley Cook to crash over in the corner.
Jarrod Evans nailed the conversion from out wide, for a dream 0-10 lead, before the game started opening up. Glasgow were the side dominating the possession and territory, but Cardiff dealt well with the Scottish side’s attempts to break them down, winning two important turnovers and attempting to counter attack.
However, the penalties were racking up and Glasgow were keen to keep kicking to the corner. Pressure mounted as the hosts went attrition, picking and driving in an attempt to blast through Cardiff rather than run around us. Eventually the pace opened up out wide and fly-half Peter Horne kicked cross field for Sam Johnson to cross in the corner.
Horne’s conversion went over, however Evans responded immediately with a penalty to extend the lead to three points before the game turned on it’s head.
As Glasgow threatened the Cardiff 22, hooker Turner picked and drove around the corner straight into traffic. Cook made the initial hit, assisted by Filise causing the ball carrier to spill possession.
In real time it looked innocuous, however Turner was clearly groggy after the contact, with the TMO stepping in to review. Filise clearly did make contact with the head, but the TMO, along with Nigel Owens, decided it was a deliberate high hit with no arms being wrapped.
A red card was produced for the Tongan leaving him, his captain Anscombe and the Cardiff Blues coaching staff incredulous.
Now down to 14, away at the unbeaten league leaders, an uphill struggle suddenly became a mountain to climb. Within five minutes of going a man down Cardiff were under their posts after Glasgow through the ball wide to Callum Gibbins whose speculative offload bounced fortunately into the arms of Alex Dunbar.
Despite the adversity there was fight and determination within the Cardiff Blues side though. The last 10 minutes of the first half were seen off for the visitors to stay in touch with just a point deficit at half-time, while the first 10 minutes of the second half were dominated by the Welsh side.
Patient attacking phase play drew in Glasgow penalties, and although the first kick to the corner resulted in a home scrum as the maul went down, Brad Thyer put the pressure on and won a scrum penalty for Evans to kick the Blues back in front.
From there it was all Glasgow though, as the Warriors put us to the sword with some patient and calculating attacking play.
Owens yellow carded Olly Robinson as the hosts cranked up the pressure on the Cardiff line, and with 13 men the waves of attack were too much to deal with. Ruaridh Jackson eventually the beneficiary of the extra space.
The floodgates threatened to open, but the major positive for Cardiff Blues was that at 75 minutes the score was still only 28-16. This was a direct reflection of the defensive organisation and commitment shown by the players.
Energy levels did not drop and we still tried to play despite the shortage in men, meaning that although Glasgow were able to score twice in the last five minutes, there is encouragement to be taken from a performance that was good despite the heavy scoreline.
There is also an amount of frustration that the game was taken away from us by a refereeing decision, which hopefully can be directed into a big training week culminating in a huge performance against Sale next week as we return to European action.
What would have happened had we kept 15 men on the field? We will never know, but hopefully we can confirm over the crucial next few weeks just how much we can continue to improve this season. Come on Cardiff!!