Townsend: Glasgow Warriors must have higher standards in poor conditions

Glasgow Warriors head coach delivers his verdict after seeing his players make it six PRO12 wins out of seven

After struggling to get to grips with difficult playing conditions on their way to a hard-fought 17-9 win over Benetton Treviso on Friday night, Glasgow Warriors head coach insisted they have to improve.

Crowd favourite Niko Matawalu dived over for this third Guinness PRO12 try of the season at the end of the first quarter to finish off a superb breakout try, which started in the Warriors 22, but the rest of the scoring was reduced to a penalty goal-kicking battle between Warriors outside-half Peter Horne and Treviso full-back Jayden Hayward.

We have to have higher standards when we’ve got the ball in poor conditions to make sure we secure it well

Gregor Townsend

Despite several misses, including a woeful first effort which barely got off the ground, Horne came out on top 4-3, snuffing out Treviso’s losing bonus point with barely a minute left on the clock.

“We didn’t play at our best, but the conditions were a massive factor; the opposition too,” Townsend said. “When I saw that so many Italian players had been released back to Treviso, I knew it would be a tough game.

“They’re very strong around the breakdown; it suited them, the conditions tonight, and it became a real battle zone.

“Our scrum was excellent throughout against some experienced players and stopping their lineout drive was very good – so that was two big strengths of Treviso.

“We have to have higher standards when we’ve got the ball in poor conditions to make sure we secure it well, and make sure we go forward, but I thought we did enough and got better and better, especially in the second half, as the game went on.

“Maybe we could have changed our tactics: not gone for the lineout and look to do a quick tap. It was one of those games where there wasn’t really any quick ball, but we scored a cracking try and we were almost away again.

“There was a game in there threatening to break out, but as the conditions turned even worse we struggled to break out that game.”

It is worth remembering that this was a weakened Warriors team compared to the one that had already notched up three try-scoring bonus points from the opening five rounds, including in Treviso at the start of October, and ruthlessly disposed of Bath in the opening round of the European Champions Cup.

Despite the unavailability of more than a dozen Scotland internationals, Townsend reiterated that he was pleased with the squad available to him, boosted by the return of experienced campaigners Ryan Grant, Ryan Wilson and Richie Vernon, but there is plenty of work to do ahead of their next outing on 21 November against the Scarlets in Llanelli.

“We’re really happy with the squad we’ve got, and we trained well this week,” he added. “At seven o’clock, when it was dry, it was one of the best warm-ups we’ve had.

“The weather does change things – it becomes a big leveller. You’re obviously not going to get many tries, you’ve just got to make sure you don’t give the opposition easy ways into the game through mistakes, and we did that a couple of times.

“We knew coming into this part of the season was going to be tough – 11 games in succession including our pre-season games – against some tough, tough opponents.

“We’ve had a lot of away games, but to have eight out of nine wins, not including pre-season, is fantastic, and to have up to 40 players playing this season is really good.”

Next up for Townsend and his Warriors is a visit to West Wales to take on the Scarlets, who are notoriously difficult to beat at the Parc y Scarlets, on the eve of Scotland vs Tonga in Kilmarnock.

To compound matters for the Scots, they are likely to be without some, or all, of their Fijian and Canadian internationals, but should welcome back club captain Al Kellock to the second row after his exploits leading Sir John Kirwan’s Barbarians, which would at least negate the loss of Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa.

There are already plans drawn up to deal with the loss of players and game time. Vernon revealed after the match that Townsend has ordered an ‘improvement week’ which will include a full-contact hit-out, with the club’s BT Sport Academy players again making up the numbers.

“We have a really tough game coming up,” Townsend said. “We’ve got Scarlets away and we will be missing players. Fiji, Scotland and Canada are all playing that weekend, so we’ve got to work very hard in the two weeks build-up we have before that game.

“We’re going to give them a week off to recover – they deserve that. The week we come back we don’t have a game, but we’ll make sure we improve during that week.

“We have a hit-out as well, so it gives us a chance to have some contact game scenarios, so when we get into that Scarlets week, we’ll be more clear about our team.”

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