GLASGOW WARRIORS centre Sam Johnson believes that his team showed in their 1872 Cup first leg win over Edinburgh last Saturday that they are more than just flat-track bullies, capable of turning on the style when things are going their way but lacking the rugged edge required to grind out results when the going gets tough.
The Scotstoun outfit have had a hit-and-miss start to the season but Johnson says the issues faced by the team relate to some poor decision-making rather than a soft underbelly.
The two sides meet again at Murrayfield on Saturday and if Warriors come out on top again they will get their hands back on the 1872 Cup for the first time since the 2016-17 season, whereas if Edinburgh win then we will have to wait until the third and final instalment of the series at the end of May to find out who will claim local bragging rights for the season.
“Last weekend was one of those games where whoever won the physical battle was going to come out on top and I think we did that,” said Johnson. “Neither team was holding back, but in terms of the brutality of it all I think we won the battle.
“We probably missed a few opportunities and there were a few suspect calls where we could probably have done things better when we were in good positions, but overall we’re pretty happy.
“I didn’t think we had been playing all that poorly the few weeks prior to facing Edinburgh, even though everyone was saying otherwise,” he continued. “At crucial times, our decision-making maybe wasn’t what it should have been. But it’s not like we were getting completely turned over. When the game was on the line against Edinburgh, we really stuck to our task and it went our way in the end.
“Our game is based on winning races into contact. We’re known as a flair team but, when we need to, we can also grind it out. The fundamentals are there. Our forwards especially have been outstanding over the past few weeks. That’s probably put more onus on us backs, to be honest, and we’ve just tried to make smarter decisions at crucial times in the game.
“A bad team doesn’t go over to La Rochelle and win [like Glasgow did at the start of December]. We knew we just had to improve our key decision-making if we wanted to start getting results. We know Edinburgh are going to come at us really hard [in the return match]. It’ll be up to us to back it up from last week and win that physicality battle again.
“It’ll be a great contest [in the return leg] come what may in front of 30-odd thousand people. It’ll be a step up again. Edinburgh will obviously be hurting and won’t want that to happen again. But the same applies to us in terms of our focus. We’re not going to go out there and just assume that we’ve won the 1872 Cup. We’ll look for areas to improve and go again.”
Johnson’s centre partner last weekend was Huw Jones, who has had a fairly torrid 2019 in which he has struggled for form and game time with Glasgow and consequentially fallen so far down the international pecking order that he didn’t even make the Scotland squad for the World Cup.
While it wasn’t exactly a game for free-flowing rugby, Jones still managed to shine with arguably his best performance for several months. He looked sharp and hungry in the defence and attack, and played a crucial role in his team’s first try when he collected Adam Hastings’ chip ahead then drew in three defenders before sending Ali Price under the posts.
“I never had any doubt in Huw whatsoever,” said Johnson. “The last couple of games when he came in prior to last weekend weren’t exactly the greatest conditions – it was freezing cold against Leinster and no one wanted to be there, then against La Rochelle in terrible wind and rain he actually had some really good touches – so, both him and Nick Grigg will continue to fight for that No 13 jersey and we’ll see what happens. But Huw played really well last weekend, that’s for sure.”