Tommy Freeman scored two tries as Northampton opened their Champions Cup campaign with a three-try 28-19 victory away to Glasgow.
Warriors had only been beaten once at home in the previous two years but were distinctly second best as Saints recovered from falling behind early on to land a deserved win. Glasgow also scored three tries of their own, making Northampton’s superior kicking the difference between the teams.
“I’m really pleased,” said Phil Dowson, Northampton’s director of rugby. “We don’t want to burden this group in terms of picking over the history but we knew we had to be better in this tournament and I thought particularly in the first half we were excellent tonight. We were good at the breakdown again, didn’t give too many penalties away and showed some really good physicality as well.”
There was a late change among the home replacements with Nathan McBeth taking the place of new dad Oli Kebble, while Matt Fagerson made his 100th appearance for the club.
The England scrum-half Alex Mitchell returned for Northampton alongside wing George Hendy, while Fin Smith – who is eligible to play for either Scotland or England – started at fly-half for the visitors.
Glasgow went ahead after five minutes. It was a moment to forget for Mitchell whose intended pass for Hendy was picked off by Sebastián Cancelliere. The Argentina wing ran from inside his own half before dotting down for the try. Tom Jordan failed to add the extras.
Northampton quickly recovered, however and by half-time had built up a commanding advantage after running in three tries and adding a Smith penalty. The first was from Courtney Lawes, the England veteran taking a pass from Smith and shrugging off Sean Kennedy’s attempted tackle to score.
Saints maintained the pressure and it was not long before they were over the line again. This time Freeman was the scorer, rounding off a period of exerted pressure to score after receiving a pass from Smith.
Warriors were then temporarily reduced to 14 men when Scott Cummings was adjudged to have not jumped straight in the lineout before landing on Alex Waller, who went off for a head injury assessment and did not return. Northampton made the most of the man advantage, George Furbank setting up Freeman who burst around the post for his second try of the game.
Glasgow switched scrum-halves at half-time – Ben Afshar on for Kennedy – and then changed three of the pack not long after to try and regain a foothold in the contest. It failed to change matters, however, as Smith kicked another two penalties to stretch Saints’ advantage and take the game away.
Warriors finally gave their supporters something to cheer when Ollie Smith ran on to his own chip kick to score before the home side were then awarded a penalty try. But Saints held firm for a vital win.
“Clearly it wasn’t perfect and there’s some frustration around the second half, inviting them in for opportunities,” added Dowson. “But I’m delighted with so many different aspects of our play tonight.”
Franco Smith, Glasgow’s head coach, said: “I think we looked a little bit shell-shocked, which is understandable if you haven’t played in the Champions Cup before. We improved in the second half and showed we know how to fight back but we are very disappointed with the first half specifically.”