European Rugby Wrap: Woes for Warriors, Hardie's Edinburgh heroics
Finlay Morrison reports as Glasgow misfire at home but Edinburgh soar to top of their Pool
Despite the logistical difficulties in re-scheduling the postponed round one fixtures taking up much of the rugby headlines this week, the majority of the round two fixtures were thankfully fulfilled this weekend.
Glasgow Warriors were one of those such teams who were affected by the tragic events of last weekend, and they finally got their Champions Cup campaign up and running as they welcomed Northampton Saints to Scotstoun on Saturday.
European Champions Cup
Glasgow Warriors 15-26 Northampton Saints
Glasgow were taught a harsh lesson in elite European rugby by a bullish and streetwise Saints team at a bitterly cold Scotstoun stadium on Saturday evening, and the lack of a losing bonus point means their Champions Cup ambitions could be all but over before they've even really begun.
The Aviva Premiership side had been struggling for form of late having lost three of their last four domestic games, and were also missing the likes of international forwards Dylan Hartley, Alex Corbisiero and Courtney Lawes for their trip north.
Despite their indifferent start to the season however, the Saints were in complete control for the majority of the contest at Scotstoun, and cleverly identified and nullified Glasgow's key danger men Mark Bennett, Stuart Hogg and Leone Nakarawa, rendering them largely ineffective - the latter pair being tactically withdrawn mid-way through the second half.
Hogg's Horror Show
For Hogg in particular, it was a night to forget as the Warriors' fullback was at fault for both Northampton's first-half tries. He failed to deal with a simple garryowen which allowed George Pisi to scamper over after seven minutes, and then on the half hour mark, he missed a straightforward cover tackle on winger Ahsee Tuala to allow the Saints to take a 3-18 lead.
The home side did eventually ignite towards the end of the first half when Peter Horne got on the end of Finn Russell's delayed pop pass to squeeze through for a try, but for the majority of the contest the Glasgow backs couldn't get any of the go-forward an momentum they enjoy in the Pro 12.
Another major worry for Gregor Townsend and his coaches was their teams complete destruction at the set piece. The Northampton scrum was absolutely dominant, with man of the match Kieran Brookes relishing his front row battle with Warriors' loosehead Ryan Grant who was sin-binned on 20 minutes for collective scrum infringements, and later replaced by Gordon Reid who also struggled in the tight play.
If the scrum was a concern through, the lineout also requires immediate attention. The home side lost hooker Pat MacArthur to a facial injury after only eight minutes and his replacement, 25-year-old Georgian Shalva Mamukashvili, relied on the lineout calls being whispered in his ear before each throw. Needless to say that he was understandably off target with a good few of his arrows, and the loss of a primary source of ball hindered any lingering hopes of a Warriors comeback.
Despite the comprehensive defeat, only the second at Scotstoun this season, head coach Townsend didn't seem too down heartened afterwards.
He said: "When you play a team, you find out a bit more about them, you get a determination having put in a lot of effort and lost. We need to put that right in January."
Townsend now has to prepare his side for a run of games at home, including a must-win clash with Scarlets when the Champions Cup resumes in December, and will look to address the glaring issues with his forward pack.
Glasgow certainly have a big enough squad to utilise over the coming months, but it's now about finding the right combinations in the front and back rows, otherwise they could find that this season's silverware has already run away from them.
European Champions cup results:
Ulster 9-27 Saracens
Treviso 3 - 36 Leicester Tigers
Bath 19 - 16 Leinster
Toulouse 24 - 18 Oyonnax
Scarlets 12 - 29 Racing 92
Exeter Chiefs 34 - 19 Bordeaux-Begles
Clermont Auvergne 34 - 29 Ospreys
Stade Francais v Munster Postponed
Wasps 32 - 6 Toulon
European Challenge Cup
Agen 6-27 Edinburgh
Alan Solomons and his squad travelled to the south of France on Thursday morning ahead of Friday's Pool 5 clash at the Stade Armandie, expecting an entirely different Agen performance than the one witnessed at the Madejski Stadium last Sunday in their heavy defeat to London Irish.
In reality however, Edinburgh were rarely troubled by the Top 14 side and were 0-13 up at halftime thanks to two Greig Tonks penalties and a penalty try which the stand off converted on the half hour mark, to give the Scots an advantage they were not to relinquish.
Edinburgh fans had been keen to see how new openside recruit John Hardie would fair on his third appearance in the black and red, and they would have been overjoyed at the Kilted Kiwi's performance on Friday night. He was simply everywhere, in a tenacious and industrious display, earning the man of the match accolade, setting up Cornell du Preez for a 42nd minute try, as well as touching down himself for Edinburgh's third just before the end.
Irish on the Horizon
The win sees Edinburgh sit top of Pool 5, two points clear of second-placed London Irish whom they tackle on the round three and four double-header. Victory at the Madejski Stadium for the Gunners would put the capital men firmly in control of the pool with two home games remaining.
Edinburgh have remarkably won their last two fixtures away to the exiles, most recently in last season's quarter finals and again in 2011 in the old Heineken Cup in the season that they made history by becoming the first Scottish side to reach a European semi final.
They must now retain the belief that they are the best side in this pool and take that momentum into the double-header and then look to retain their 1872 cup when Glasgow Warriors come calling at the end of December.
Challenge Cup results:
Cardiff Blues 20-32 Harlequins
La Rochelle 20-33 Gloucester
Montpellier 64-0 Calvisano
Sale Sharks 29-20 Pau
Zebre 27-8 Worcester Warriors
Connacht 21-17 Brive
Castres 32-29 Newport Gwent Dragons
Grenoble 27-20 London Irish
Newcastle Falcons 55-7 Enisei-STM