IT IS premature, probably by a year or two at least, to talk of Glasgow in connection with any serious challenge for silverware in the United Rugby Championship. They are a young team, with some new signings still bedding in and others yet to make their debuts, and it will take time for them to fulfil their potential.
But the potential is there in abundance all right, and even at this early stage of the new tournament it is obvious that they are making significant progress compared to the indifferent form they suffered last season. Saturday’s 13-9 home win against the Lions was further proof of that.
It was an unspectacular result at the end of an underwhelming match, but that in itself spoke volumes about the increasing maturity of this Warriors squad – in particular, their ability to find a way to win when things are not going their way. This was a sixth victory in their last seven competitive games for Danny Wilson’s team, and while there may be a host of reasons that they have found such solid form after along period in the doldrums, centre Nick Grigg is convinced that the main factor is simply the good esprit de corps within the camp.
“I guess the end of last season we were on a bit of a roll,” he said. “We had a lot of energy going into games – we were winning games and it just kind of progressed from there. Coming into the new season we just rolled on from that high from last season. We’ve got a few new faces in and they’re contributing well. It’s going well at the moment.”
It went well right from the start against the Lions, as prop forward Jamie Bhatti scored a try in the second minute. But subsequent attacks failed to pay off, and there were times when the Warriors simply appeared to be trying too hard to force an opening.
“The main message that was coming on in the first half was we’re cutting them apart but we need to watch those 50-50 passes when we get close to the line,” Grigg continued. “We don’t have to score in the first couple of phases. We can take an extra few more to actually cut them open.”
As it transpired, Glasgow failed to cut the Lions open again, at least not to the extent of scoring another try to add to that Bhatti effort. But their greater patience paid off in other ways, enabling them to stick doggedly to their task in defence as the South Africans threatened a late upset. Ross Thompson contributed the rest of his team’s points with a conversion and two penalties, while EW Viljoen replied with three penalties for the Lions.
In part because of the wet conditions, the match was a far less pleasing spectacle than the game a week earlier, in which the Warriors secured the try bonus in the first half before going on to beat the Sharks with relative ease. But that game had had its share of defensive shortcomings as well as attacking excellence, and on the whole Grigg thought the performance against the Lions was a step up from the Sharks match.
“Physicality was our big thing against the Lions,” he continued. “The previous week against the Sharks we made all our tackles but we weren’t physical enough. Against the Lions there were a few more hits out there.”
This first five-week block of games in the URC continues for the Warriors with a visit to bottom club Zebre on Saturday, then concludes with a home match against champions Leinster six days later. If they apply themselves against the Italians as they did against the Lions, another win should be forthcoming. Leinster will almost certainly be a lot tougher, but, having beaten the Dublin-based side at the end of last season, Grigg and his team-mates will at least go into the game with a fair degree of self-belief.
“A couple more wins under the belt leading into that part of the season would be good,” the Scotland international concluded. “Leinster at home is going to be a big one, because we rolled them last time, so we need a back-to-back performance.”