Biarritz opened their Heineken Cup charge with a clinical 22-18 win in Glasgow on Saturday, in a dour game with a fine finale.
Biarritz opened their Heineken Cup charge with a clinical 22-18 win in Glasgow on Saturday, in a dour game of rugby which had a belting finale.
The physios involved in this game are in for a heavy week. Not so much because of the physicality, but more for the repetitive strain injuries caused by the players craning their necks to watch the kicks fly over their heads so much of the time.
Biarritz came to be clinical and sneak a win. They rarely committed more than two players to defensive rucks, preferring to string their troops acros the pitch in a white line of behemoths determined to let nothing pass.
The only Glasgow player who ever seemd capable of beating that line was Johnnie Beattie, who made several telling breaks, but Glasgow's ambitions with ball in hand seemed similarly negative. Glasgow set their stall out to bully, Biarritz to soak it all up and wait for the penalties to present themselves. On the narrow confines of the soccer pitch, neither tactic let a yard of space free.
So it came down to mistakes. Glasgow made theirs first, when a tapped ball from a line-out ten metres from their own line was pounded upon by Magnus Lund milliseconds befoe Colin Gregor could get there. It was the first time Biarritz had been in the lead, 49 minutes in, but it was one they never lost.
Glasgow losing line-outs was the decisive feature of a game where so much ball was hoofed to touch. They lost five of their first nine – Lund's try the ninth. Once the Scots were chasing the game, the set piece became irrelevant: then it came down to what they could create. 'Very little' was the resigned answer from the locals after the match.
There were flurries, never more so than the eight phases back and forth across the pitch that earned Dan Parks the drop goal opportunity to bring Glasgow back to only 19-18 down.
But Dimitri Yachvili's penalty made it 22-18 and as the line-outs continued to head south, so did Glasgow's chances.
Despite Dan Parks putting the ball out on the full as he started the game, it was Glasgow who took the early initiative at Firhill.
The French side were unsettled by Glasgow's early tempo, giving away a penalty six metres within their half in the fourth minute which Parks steered home.
In the seventh minute centre Rob Dewey drove forward off a pass from Parks and when the penalty was awarded at the subsequent ruck, Parks made it 6-0.
Biarritz were unsettled and it was no surprise when their scrum gave away another penalty kicked by Parks.
The French side then settled, with Yachvili and Traille contributing a penalty and drop goal respectively in quick succession.
However, when a penalty was reversed in Glasgow's favour Parks eased his side 12-6 ahead with a long-range penalty.
Glasgow continued to have the better of possession as the half drew to an end but a penalty from Yachvili and drop goal from full-back Marcello Bosch ensured it was 12-12 at the interval.
Parks began the second half with his fifth penalty but Biarritz raised their game, putting the Glasgow line-out under pressure.
Glasgow were trapped in their own 22 and when loose line-out ball from Tim Barker ended over the home line, Magnus Lund was first to it for the opening try.
Yachvili converted to give the visitors a 19-15 lead after 50 minutes.
Glasgow got back on the front foot thanks to a break from Thom Evans and a drop goal from Parks on 59 minutes made it 19-18.
However, the gap was widened again on 66 minutes when Yachvili struck a magnificent penalty from the left-hand touchline.
Glasgow then huffed and puffed without ever putting the visitors' defence under real pressure until deep into stoppage time.
And Glasgow were lucky not to concede a second try when left winger Julien Peyrelongue just failed to reach a kick threaded through by replacement Laurent Tranier.
Pens: Parks 5
Drop goal: Parks
For Biarritz:Try: Lund
Pens: Yachvili 3
Drop goals: Traille, Bosch
Glasgow: 15 Bernardo Stortoni, 14 Rob Dewey, 13 Dave McCall, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Thom Evans, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 John Barclay, 6 Richie Vernon, 5 Alastair Kellock (capt), 4 Tim Barker, 3 Moray Low, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Jon Welsh.
Replacements: 16 Fergus Thomson, 17 Ed Kalman, 18 Kevin Tkachuk, 19 Dan Turner, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Hefin O'Hare, 22 Colin Gregor, 23 DTH van der Merwe.
Biarritz: 15 Marcelo Bosch, 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Ayoola Erinle, 12 Damine Traille, 11 Nicolas Brusque, 10 Julien Peyrelongue, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Florian Faure, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Magnus Lund, 5 Pelu Lan Taele, 4 Jerome Thion (c), 3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Romain Terrain, 1 Eduard Coetzee.
Replacements: 16 Benoit August, 17 Fabien Barcella, 18 Mosese Moala, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Wenceslus Lauret, 21 Valentin Courrent, 22 Laurent Tranier, 23 Yann Lesgourgues.
Referee: Wayne Barnes