Glasgow Warriors 22 Scarlets 7: Four talking points
Niko Matawalu impresses as the Scarlets' travel sickness is compounded by a worsening injury list
Matawalu shows Warriors what they’ll miss next season
Josh Strauss may have claimed the man of the match award, but Glasgow Warriors scrum-half Niko Matawalu showed the home crowd what they’ll miss when he leaves for Bath Rugby in the summer. Against brutal wind and rain in the first half, the flying Fijian looked in his element as the Warriors launched a relentless running game at the Scarlets, collectively making almost 200 metres in the opening 40 minutes and forcing their opponents to make four times as many tackles. He may have been culpable for an intercepted pass that ultimately led to the Scarlets’ only score at the end of the first half, and had a few other wayward efforts, but Matawalu’s all-round effort in attack and defence shows that he’ll be true to his word and give the Scots his all before migrating south, and he isn’t quite as selfish as some would have him be.
Scarlets injury nightmare threatens European hopes
Ken Owens, Emyr Phillips, Kirby Myhill. Three hookers out through injury. Enter 20-year-old Ryan Elias for his first start for the West Walians. Off with an ankle injury in the second half, forcing the Scarlets to deploy a 19-year-old debutant. Club captain Owens is nearing a return, but won’t be risked until fully fit. Crisis? Absolutely, but curiously head coach Wayne Pivac does not feel the need to draft in a player or two on loan despite huge matches coming up against in the European Champions Cup against Leicester Tigers and Toulon, while it won’t get any easier during the Six Nations with other key players expected to be unavailable. That was compounded by three players lost to shoulder injuries during the match: Wales duo Liam Williams and Aaron Shingler, as well as lock Johan Snyman. Add that to the previous losses of tighthead props Rhodri Jones and Samson Lee, back-row forwards Rory Pitman and James Davies, wing Harry Robinson and scrum-half Rhodri Williams, and the Scarlets’ hopes of making the Champions Cup next season are looking increasingly slim.
Russell has to be Scotland’s 10
Finn Russell has enjoyed an amazing 12 months as he rose from turning out for BT Premiership side Ayr to establishing himself as a starter for Glasgow Warriors, starting in the PRO12 final in May, and becoming a Scotland international in the summer. So impressive was his progress in professional rugby, the Warriors dispensed with the services of Scotland outside-half Ruaridh Jackson, now on the sidelines at Wasps after a broken leg earlier in the season. With his team-mate and rival Duncan Weir sidelined with an arm injury that requires surgery, Russell’s kicking from hand and off the tee, and ability to take control of games and put defences under pressure, puts him ahead of Edinburgh’s Tom Heathcote, and he will almost certainly make him Scotland’s 10 when they begin their Six Nations campaign next month in Paris against France, unless Scotland head coach Vern Cotter pulls a bootleg by shifting Gloucester scrum-half Greig Laidlaw. Russell, however, continues to show he has grown into the role at the Warriors this season and is Scotland’s best hope if they are to build on their impressive autumn series.
No easy cure for travel sickness
Unbeaten at home in the PRO12 this season, but winless on the road for almost 12 months continues to frustrate the Scarlets. The elements played their part in Glasgow, but they shouldn’t have. It’s not like wind and rain are anything new for the Scarlets. In fact, the conditions were similar when the two sides met in Llanelli in November when the Scarlets won 19-9, but their last win on the road came in February 2014 against Benetton Treviso, and they again failed to adapt to the conditions and the opposition, while their depleted pack were unable to contend with the Warriors pack, which was poor in two matches against Edinburgh. Poor tactical kicking and playing too much rugby in their half proved costly in a poor first half, where the Warriors turned over plenty of ball, but the Scarlets were unable to maintain composure and take advantage with the wind at their backs, coughing up too many penalties. As Pivac said, they were their own worst enemies. They came close to getting a win at the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium in December, but too often they struggle to take their home form on the road.