Glasgow’s hopes of a top-two URC finish suffered a major blow in Johannesburg as a stunning second-half blitz from the 14-man Lions kept their own play-off prospects alive.

Warriors led 14-8 early in the second half after converted tries from Kyle Rowe and Euan Ferrie, with the hosts down to 13 men with replacement flanker Ruan Venter red-carded for a high hit on Tom Jordan and Francke Horn sin-binned just before half-time for a deliberate knock-on.

But the Lions, back up to 14, hit the shell-shocked Warriors with a barrage of four tries in 11 minutes to boost their chances of forcing their way into the top eight in the final round of games.

Josh McKay’s try with 12 minutes left gave Glasgow brief hope of salvaging a bonus point but a sixth Lions try with the last play of the game put the seal on a demoralising display from Franco Smith’s men.

Here are five things we learned from Johannesburg’s Emirates Airlines Park: 

Having an extra man – or two - doesn’t always count

There would have been no panic in the Glasgow ranks when electric Lions wing Rabz Maxwane raced onto Erich Cronje’s inviting pass to put Lions in front at 8-7 after 34 minutes.

That belief in being able to turn things around would no doubt have swelled when Lions replacement flanker Ruan Venter was shown a straight red card for a high hit on Tom Jordan after 35 minutes, despite the Warriors fly-half being forced off with a head knock.

Venter, an early replacement for Emmanuel Tshituka, had already spent 10 minutes in the sin-bin after tackling Jordan in the build-up to Kyle Rowe’s try and then keeping the Glasgow fly-half pinned to the ground with his hand pressed into his face.

Three minutes later Lions were down to 13 men when No.8 Francke Horn stopped a flowing attack with a deliberate knock-on. 

But Glasgow could only muster a second try, when Euan Ferrie forced his way over from close range, at the tail-end of the period when they held a two-man advantage.

Once Lions were back up to 14 men, the game took a very different turn.

Glasgow were the architects of their own downfall

At 14-8 up and looking to press home their advantage, wing Kyle Rowe burst clear on a brilliant breakout after 50 minutes, right up to the Lions 22.

But with only one man up in support, once Rowe was brought to ground, the Lions were able to steal possession and launch the move which kick-started a stunning turnaround.

Left wing Edvill van der Merwe raced clear from deep and chipped ahead before leaving Stafford McDowall for dead in the 51st minute.

Three minutes later, McDowall – filling in at scrum-half - hesitated briefly at the base of a ruck, allowing Cronje to knock the ball out of his hands.

Moments later the Lions had breached a disorientated Glasgow defence and Maxwane had his second try of the afternoon.

Once you lose momentum, it’s very difficult to wrestle it back

At 20-14 in the 54th minute, all was far from lost for Warriors. They were, after all, still playing against 14 men.

But the Lions, with the scent of a play-off spot now in their nostrils, were playing like men possessed, finding their attacking rhythm and ruthlessly taking every chance that came their way.

Their fourth try - a third in six minutes - was an absolute belter, a stunning counter-attack featuring a couple of sublime out-the-back offloads finished off with elan by flanker JC Pretorius.

When replacement No.10 Sanele Nohamba then picked off Duncan Weir’s pass to romp home in the 62nd minute, adding his fourth conversion to boot, Glasgow’s race was as good as run.

Josh McKay’s try with 12 minutes left gave them brief hope of snatching a losing bonus point but they never really threatened a fourth try and Hanru Sirgel’s late try put the seal on a crushing defeat.

Glasgow’s top-two hopes are now out of their hands

While this defeat doesn’t need to define their season, it may have repercussions down the line if Warriors are able to go one step further than last year and negotiate a home quarter-final.

Finishing first or second would have given Glasgow the chance of remaining at home for any semi-final as one of the top seeds.

But having surrendered a position they have held for so long with this defeat, they have allowed the likes of Munster and the Bulls to steal a march on them.

Their final game of the season at home in a fortnight against bottom dogs Zebre should be a banker five points, but it will be interesting to see how Smith approaches that game selection-wise now.

He may yet decide to rest some front-liners to keep them fresh for the knockout stages, but after a two-week break, it may be that getting close to his first-choice team out on the park might be a good way to restore morale after this energy-sapping defeat.

Competition for back-three spots is fierce

Kyle Rowe was left out of last week’s match against Bulls in Pretoria, with Argentine wing Sebastian Cancelliere coming into the side and claiming a superb intercept try in Warriors’ stirring comeback.

With captain Kyle Steyn in prime form on the other flank – four tries in his previous three games before this – this was an opportune time for Rowe to remind us of what a superb debut season he has had as a Warrior after replacing the unfortunate Cancelliere in the starting line-up.

His 11th try in 16 starts this season to give Glasgow an early lead was a clinical piece of finishing, racing onto George Horne’s dab through, kicking ahead left-footed to the line and diving on the loose ball.

Rowe might have had a second after 28 minutes when another flowing move saw McKay send the left wing haring to the line but this time the Lions did brilliantly to hold Rowe up on the line.

That moment, in hindsight, proved decisive in the final analysis, one of many Glasgow will look back on with regret after a dispiriting afternoon in Joburg.

LIONS: Horn; Maxwane, Cronje, Hendrikse (Rass 76), Van der Merwe; Lombard (Nohamba 48), Van den Berg (Nohamba 48); Naude (Smith 53), Botha (Visagie 65), Ntlabakanye (Dreyer 53), Alberts (Nothnagel 61), Delport, Pretorius (Sirgel 71), Tshituka (Venter 10), Horn.

Tries: Maxwane 2, Van der Merwe, Pretorius, Nohamba, Sirgil; Conversions: Nohamba; Penalties: Hendrikse, Nohamba; Yellow cards: Venter, Horn;  Red card: Venter

GLASGOW: McKay; Steyn, McDowall, Tuipulotu, Rowe; Jordan (Weir 36), Horne (Dobie 61); Kebble (Bhatti 33) Fraser (Matthews 33), Walker (Z Ferguson 33), Brown (Williamson 46), Cummings, Ferrie (M Fagerson 67), Darge (Dempsey 46), Venter.

Tries:  Rowe, Ferrie, McKay; Conversions: Horne 2, Weir

Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)

Attendance: 6,672

Player of the match: Rabz Maxwane (Lions)