Shh. Don’t say it too loud but Glasgow might actually be ok.
With the amount of quality which has left the squad, the double headed dash of inexperience at 10 and the back row switching from strength to uncertainty, the Warriors had a slow start to the season
Breathe it all in Glasgow fans….this is probably the highest we’ll ever go.
Osprey’s were a class apart from Glasgow in the Friday night semi-final fixture in Swansea. Although the Warriors effort was phenomenal in the first half, when the teams came back out, Ospreys class began to show and Glasgow looked like boys against men.
It was essentially the Glasgow Warriors ‘A’ team out on show at Firhill on Friday, and the lack of strength in depth had to look worrying for Sean Lineen. Cardiff looked far more physically imposing and far better drilled against a Glasgow team hadn’t really played together before and looked like it.
In the first half, hope for the future Ruaridh Jackson had three chances to get some points on board for the Warriors but missed three kicks in a row and it only served to damage his confidence. He regressed into becoming a shell of himself as he repeatedly missed touch from penalties and looked pedestrian with ball in hand. His first penalty came from a Cardiff Blue holding on to the ball but he didn’t have the legs from near the half way line. On the other hand, after 11 minutes, Ben Blair for the Cardiff Blues looked composed in front of goal as he kicked his first in a run of successful kicks.
Glasgow had a few successful breaks in the opening 2o minutes, notably one from DTH Van Der Merwe who offloaded to Richie Gray who didn’t have the legs. James Eddie, wearing number 6, looked effective on the crash balls he received from scrum-half Mark Mcmillan but Glasgow didn’t have the support play to capitalise.
Glasgow’s game-plan didn’t prove to be effective as at some point it seemed to amount to high hit-and-hopes from Mcmillan or Jackson which would result in a loss of possession for the Warriors. Cardiff took advantage of being given the ball and spent a significant period of time in the Glasgow 22, with a try being prevented by the referee calling a penalty, and subsequently giving a yellow card to Hefin O’Hare. Instead of forcing the issue, Blues again relied on the boot of Blair to make it 9-0 before half time
The second half got off to a bad start for the Warriors as Cardiff’s Gareth Cooper put the ball over the line soon after the kick off. This sparked a continuing in the downturn in atmosphere at Firhill, as the fans began to take our their frustrations by shouting at the referee for missing high tackles, booing Ben Blair whenever he stepped up to kick at goal and screaming at hapless Ruaridh Jackson as he repeatedly missed touch.
On the 48th minute fan favourite Colin Gregor came on as a blood replacement for Mark Mcmillan, but he could do nothing to prevent a try from Casey Laulala which was again converted by Blair, bringing the score to 23-0.
When Mcmillan returned to the field he didn’t replace Gregor, but instead Jackson to put him out of his misery as he finished a performance which showed he has a lot of work to do before stepping into the shoes of Dan Parks, who will be playing for the Blues next season.
Tom James, the Cardiff winger scored a great individual try which further piled on the pressure to a Warriors performance that was losing any shape that it had to begin with. After the conversion the score was 30-0.
With the game out of sight, Glasgow began to bring on more club players, with Alex Dunbar and Paul Burke both getting a chance to impress. Glasgow also began to perform more fluently with Colin Gregor at stand off who was far more confident with the boot and was at the centre of a spell of lively and creative play by Glasgow. DTH Van Der Merwe was unlucky not to break through with another good break in the last ten minutes, as was Fergus Thomson who just didn’t have the legs.
On the 77th minute Gregor managed to kick the ball into touch which received mock applause from the Warriors fans who were delighted to see the ball actually go out. After the line out, Glasgow finally showed their worth with a nice run of play which ended in a powerful Max Evans burst past the try line. After scoring he made a “T” sign with his hands as a message to his brother Thom. Gregor managed to convert from between the posts.
Magners League fixture kick off 7.30 P.M. at Firhill
15 Bernardo Stortoni, 14 Hefin O’Hare, 13 Max Evans, 12 Peter Horne, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Mark McMillan CAPTAIN, 1 Jon Welsh, 2 Dougie Hall, 3 Moray Low, 4 Tim Barker, 5 Richie Gray, 6 James Eddie, 7 Chris Fusaro (Heriot’s)*, 8 Richie Vernon
Substitutes: 16 Fergus Thomson, 17 Kevin Tkachuk, 18 Dan Turner, 19 Paul Burke (Ayr), 20 Colin Gregor, 21 Alex Dunbar (Selkirk)*, 22 Peter Murchie
Players to watch:
Rhuaridh Jackson: Sign of the future, next year he should be pencilled into this position at a more regular basis when Dan Parks will be playing for the Cardiff Blues. This is his chance to show that Parks won’t be missed too much. With versatility in hisability to play full back (as shown during his spell at Ayr) this also could count as an audition for him to show his value as a potential squad member for the Scotland Squad. He must start to show his potential fast, or Frazier Climo could be hot in his heels for both club and country.
James Eddie: A flanker in the Kelly Brown mould, he must be one of the players ear marked to contest to be a new member of the “Killer B” back row due to the departure of the aforementioned Kelly Brown. A very methodical, consistent player who gives outstanding effort, he has put in some impressive performances for West of Scotland. An alumni of the same school of former Glasgow Warriors back row rival, Stevie Swindall, who is now playing for Rotherham, Eddie could be the one who ends up eclipsing his former school mate in becoming an automatic starter for the Warriors.
Max Evans: What does it mean that he is playing this game? We are none the wiser for his selection today. A player who has hardly been an ever present this season, he could be in the side to get his match fitness ready for the next 6 nations fixture, although some will debate the risk of playing him considering the spate of injuries Scotland have suffered in the last week. His selection at outside centre probably means he won’t be slotting in for Scotland as a winger in a direct replacement for his injured brother, allowing Sean Lamont to stay at outside centre, as was rumoured earlier this week. However, this match could also be a test for Evans, as his underwhelming performance against France probably still leaves a bitter taste in Robinson’s mouth.
And two you might not be able to:
Colin Gregor: Glasgow’s forgotten man, performs well whenever and where ever he is called upon. This is exactly the type of fixture that Gregor normally gets to show his talents, when his other, more recognised team mates are away on international duty. He was Man of the Match against Scarlets this season and he is able to step in at scrum half, stand off, full back and centre, but he is a victim of his own versatility.
Paul Burke : A very interesting call up who has been on fire for Ayr this season, especially in the British and Irish cup tie against Rotherham. He also made a difference when he came on in the recent club international against France. His career has been scuppered somewhat by injuries so far but he is now beginning to fulfill his potential and he could make a push to be a major player in professional rugby in this country.
And one Glasgow Warriors want you to watch:
Richie Vernon : As rumours continued in the Herald yesterday about Beattie’s future at the club, with hints that he could follow Kelly Brown out the door, the Warriors wouldn’t want to consider losing a player of Beattie’s standard if they didn’t have a replacement lined up. Warriors and the SRU clearly think they have something in Vernon and if he continues in the form he showed in the post Christmas fixture against Edinburgh, they will be proven right.