Despite making eight changes to his starting XV, Gregor Townsend’s Glasgow Warriors ran in five tries to maintain their 100 per cent record at the start of the Guinness PRO12. There were numerous impressive performances: from Adam Ashe making his first competitive start at number 8 to man of the match scrum-half Henry Pyrgos and full-back Stuart Hogg was menacing on his way to a brace of tries. If there has been a complaint about the Warriors in the last year, it has been that they don’t score enough tries when in a position to cash in on much-needed bonus points. That doesn’t appear to be a problem just now with 15 tries in their opening four matches, yielding two bonus points in successive games. The opening 20 minutes looked to be heading to a traditionally agonising slow match; a one for the scrummaging aficionados, but the final hour saw some great running rugby and ambitious play from both teams, with the Warriors lighting up the Scotstoun night with mesmeric handling and clean line breaks, even grabbing a try from a tasty chargedown metres from the Connacht line. It wasn’t their best defensive display with lapses akin to that 1872 Cup try-fest in April, but the Warriors always looked in charge, already cementing a place in the top two, and they’ll be hard to shift.
Despite three wins from their first three matches, few would have expected Connacht to stand a chance against Glasgow Warriors, who are mighty in defence and not half bad in attack. Yet credit due for notching up three tries, including a penalty try. Pat Lam’s young team were ultimately outfought, but not without causing last year’s finalists a few problems along the way. Ian Porter stood out at scrum-half while full-back Darragh Leader seemed to be everywhere, in what as a somewhat erratic display. Outside-half Jack Carty is also growing into the 10 jersey now Dan Parks has gone and Lam seems content to keep faith with him to run the game. They still lack a clinical edge in attack, but there is no doubting that they now have the foundations of a team going the right way. Of all the teams in transition chasing a top six place, Connacht seem the most likely to achieve it this season on evidence so far. They don’t have the weapons that Cardiff Blues do, but they’ve shown more spirit and caused more problems for last year’s finalists Leinster and Glasgow Warriors than the Welsh region did. They’re a more cohesive unit, something the Blues lack despite their glut of Wales internationals. Their small squad size and relative inexperience may cost them later in the season, but the future certainly looks bright for Galway club.
The role of the Television Match Official seems to crop up a lot. Too often, at times. Sure enough, it was a talking point at Scotstoun, because there wasn’t a TMO. Although having a TMO doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to decide a pass was clearly and obviously forward, even if it looked that way. Basically, not on TV equals no TMO. Which is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Just because a game has not been selected by broadcasters, it should not mean it is degraded by not having a TMO. After all, there are cameras at the stadium. After what seems like an eternity these days, the highlights get thrown up on YouTube, but the club coaching teams have access to the video feeds in real time and there is a team working to put the game and replays on the big screen for everyone’s benefit. Everyone, that is, except the officials on the field. With the additional revenue coming into the league now through Sky Sports’ arrival, surely the Celtic League organisers can mandate for every stadium to have a big screen and for every game to have a TMO. That way all games are equal in terms of officiating. Of course, a TMO can get things wrong, interfere at the wrong time, and take an eternity to make a decision – see any Italian TMO – but they are, for the most part, a good thing. The lawmakers of the game still need to drastically review the power of the TMO, but that shouldn’t mean the PRO12 – or any other competition – is an unequal playing field.
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