RaboDirect Pro12: Three talking points as Glasgow go second
RaboDirect Pro12: Three talking points as Glagow Warriors are 37-34 winners against Edinburgh
Warriors eye home advantage
There haven’t been too many fast, open games at Scotstoun Stadium this season, but the second leg of the 1872 Cup clash certainly provided a feast for a record crowd in Glasgow with eight tries and 71 points. It was a match Glasgow Warriors were always favourites to win, despite cautious words from players and coaches in the build-up and they duly delivered, even if Edinburgh made it close on the scoreboard. The closeness of the score, however, is ultimately irrelevant. What mattered was that the Warriors won their sixth match in a row to move into second place in the RaboDirect Pro12 and the try-scoring bonus point—just their second of the season—moves them one point ahead of Munster with two rounds to go. With matches to come in Treviso and at home to Zebre on the last day of the regular season, the Warriors should almost certainly secure a home semi-final for the first time. With no club having lost a home semi-final in the Pro12, something the Warriors know only too well from three semi-final defeats, it would be a miracle if the Warriors lost to either of the Italian teams battling it out at the foot of the table to determine which of them will qualify for next season’s Rugby Champions Cup. There may be talk that Treviso are dangerous and Zebre are improving, but the Warriors aren’t a top four side for nothing. To lose to either of them will be nothing short of criminal and a fillip to Munster, who have to travel to Edinburgh before hosting Ulster on the final weekend. One more bonus-point win will guarantee the Warriors the home tie they crave.
There’s a hole in my defence
The Warriors owe a lot to Aussie Matt Taylor for turning them into the best defence in the Pro12, but there were a few problems in the derby clash. Edinburgh aren’t short of attacking threats with Scotland centre Matt Scott and wing Tim Visser—both scored against the Warriors—but the way in which the Glasgow side allowed their rivals to exploit them, particularly in the second half will raise eyebrows and result in an inevitable beasting next week when the analysis sessions are done. The Warriors had conceded the fewest points and fewest tries of the Pro12 clubs, with their formidable scramble defence holding back the formidable attacks of Munster, Scarlets, Ospreys and Ulster in the last month, but conceding four tries in a match is almost unheard of, and while they have still conceded the fewest tries (21), giving up 34 points means they have given up 293 from 20 matches to Ulster’s 280 from 20. Perhaps the issue at Scotstoun was occasion—derby matches are usually fraught, tasty affairs. Maybe it was the fact that it was their sixth match in as many weeks, although the same can be said of Edinburgh as the two Scottish clubs play catch up. The back three were unchanged again this week and have played the majority of the last three matches, having performed superbly in recent weeks. A change for the trip to Treviso may be needed, because the manner in which the last two Edinburgh tries were allowed just isn’t acceptable to the Warriors mentality. Treviso and Zebre may not have potent weapons, but they’ve both shown at times this season that they can cause sides problems if given the opportunity.
Edinburgh consistently inconsistent
It must be frustrating being an Edinburgh fan this season. A new coach, a load of foreign imports keeping out local talent and an inconsistent season which has seen wins come against powerhouses Munster, Leinster and the Ospreys, but defeats to relative minnows Newport Gwent Dragons, Treviso and Zebre. South African head coach Alan Solomons often talks about poor conditioning at the club—something he will fix ahead of next season—but his friends from the southern hemisphere really aren’t the answer. Carl Bezuidenhout, whether at outside-half or full-back, is not great with the boot when kicking for territory or at goal. He may have been spared kicking duty with the return of captain Greig Laidlaw, but his kicking out of hand was atrocious, even with the wind behind him. His temporary deal is almost up and the sooner he is gone, the better. Solomons claims to have a few irons in the fires to rebuild the squad for next season, but there will be questions over his signings if they are of the same ilk as those he has brought in to boost the squad this season and it may be difficult to attract a few truly big name players to a club not playing in the Rugby Champions Cup. Laidlaw will be a huge loss. He may not be a game-changer in either half-back position, but he’s usually solid enough to keep Edinburgh ticking over and his leadership is invaluable. If there are positives for the capital side, it’s that Scott continues to be a menace and Visser’s return definitely makes a huge difference to their attacking threat. Solomons needs to retain a core Scottish element and bring in players to complement that, much in the way the Irish provinces have with the occasional overseas player.