Tommy Freeman’s first-half double of tries helped Northampton Saints kick-off their Investec Champions Cup campaign with a bang, beating Glasgow Warriors 28-19 at Scotstoun.
The men in Black, Green and Gold led 22-5 after an impressive first-half showing, which saw Courtney Lawes barge over for his first Saints try since 2018 to cancel out Sebastian Cancelliere’s intercept score, before Freeman crossed twice.
Fin Smith kicked two penalties early in the second half to extend Saints’ lead, and despite two Warriors scores – one for Ollie Smith, the other a penalty try – Northampton had enough of a lead to be sure of their first away European victory since 2020.
Glasgow drew first blood in the fourth minute as Sebastian Cancelliere picked off an Alex Mitchell pass on the right wing, and with Saints all moving in the other direction, he was able to race down the touchline and cross the whitewash in the corner.
Tom Jordan dragged his conversion attempt wide of the uprights, and despite the unfavourable conditions, both sides continued to look to run the ball from deep – and Saints came close to scoring as Freeman was released down the left, before he was hauled down by the last defender inside the 22.
But the visitors weren’t to be denied again as they brilliantly worked the ball through the hands, with Freeman and George Hendy getting good touches to release Lawes to score in the left corner – and Fin Smith’s touchline conversion was brilliantly struck to add the extra two points.
With a quarter of an hour played, Sam Graham got over the ball on halfway to win a penalty, and Smith was on target again to extend the lead to 10-5.
Northampton now had all the momentum and things got even better in the 20th minute when Freeman crashed over from short-range as Saints piled on the pressure with a series of big carries inside the 22, although Smith was just wide this time with his conversion.
Glasgow won a couple of penalties to earn some territory, but an off-the-ball penalty on 28 minutes against the hosts released the pressure valve, and after Saints cleared their lines, Warriors’ discipline cost them again when Scott Cummings was yellow-carded for recklessly jumping across a lineout and landing on top of Alex Waller.
The visitors made them pay almost immediately as Mitchell picked a gap and found Hendy who carried up to the line, and after a banging on the door for a few phases, the ball was spread to Freeman who used his power again to notch up his second score of the evening under the posts.
Smith made no mistake with the extras, and while the fly-half was bailed out by Mitchell when he was intercepted on halfway by Cancelliere, he produced a moment of magic just afterwards with an out-the-back offload to Furbank to move Saints way upfield.
Northampton were within a metre of securing a bonus-point try before the interval, but a breakdown penalty cost them and kept the score at 22-5 as the teams headed into the sheds.
Smith kept the scoreboard ticking over with a penalty on 47 minutes, as Huw Jones was caught offside. The fly-half saw a drop-goal attempt charged down four minutes later, but was on target again just before the hour mark as Saints won a scrum penalty 30 metres out.
The heavens had opened at Scotstoun and both sides struggled to put many meaningful passages of play together, with the second half riddled with errors and penalties.
Eventually though Glasgow broke the stalemate as Ollie Smith found some space on the left wing, and collected his own chip over the top to score in the corner – with Jordan doing well to land the extra points from the touchline.
That score sparked the hosts into life and they burst upfield again before sending a penalty into the corner, but Saints repelled the lineout drive to flip the momentum.
Glasgow did threaten to snatch losing and try bonus points in the closing stages, after an ominous driving maul was dragged down by Saints and a penalty try awarded, but with the clock in the red they could not come up with the crucial fourth try as Cancelliere was hauled into touch to end the game.
WARRIORS: McKay, Cancelliere, H Jones, McDowall, Smith, Jordan, Kennedy; Bhatti, Matthews, Fagerson, Manjezi, R Gray, Cummings, Darge, Fagerson
Replacements: Turner, McBeth, Sordoni, Williamson, Miller, Vailanu, Afshar, Thompson
SAINTS: Furbank, Sleightholme, Freeman, Dingwall, Hendy, F Smith, Mitchell; A Waller, Langdon, Hill, Lockett, Moon, Lawes, Scott-Young, Graham
Replacements: R Smith, Haffar, Davison, Mayanavanua, Pearson, James, Litchfield, Seabrook
Referee: Luc Ramos