IF Glasgow’s maul is said to be like a shopping trolley thundering down a hill when it’s fully functioning, then last week it looked like one of the wheels had come off and another had lost all sense of direction.
Few teams have been able to prevent the Warriors pack from powering over the line when they get into their groove but Northampton Saints found a way to successfully negate what had been up until then a consistent scoring threat last Friday night. And with the backs not able to make much headway either until late in the contest, it was perhaps little surprise that the end result was a rare home defeat for Franco Smith’s men.
Given that loss came in the first of just four Champions Cup pool matches, it leaves Glasgow with little room for error when they take on the second of those challenges away to Bayonne this coming Friday night. The French side were able to land a creditable draw away to Munster in their own opening encounter and Jamie Bhatti admits Warriors will need to be on it from the first whistle if they are to silence what is expected to be a noisy and partisan home crowd. If they can get the maul firing, too, then even better.
“It was a disappointing way to start the tournament, especially at home,” admitted the loosehead. “But credit where it’s due, Northampton played really well on the night. Our maul has been so good for us over the past year but they had obviously done their homework on it and stopped us up front.
“In terms of what they were actually doing to stop the maul, I’m not sure it was always totally legal. But we need to be better and adapt. We maybe just expected the ref to get on top of it a bit more.
“We were maybe a wee bit shellshocked with what Northampton were doing. But we are confident we can get back on track this week against Bayonne.
“Our maul is the biggest thing we need to get right. Against Ospreys, we drove them 70 metres backwards. Against Ulster, we drove them about 40 metres back. Those are good mauls. If we get that side of our game going, no one can stop us.
“We never really turned up last weekend. We need that bit of extra aggression going over to France. We need to make sure we bounce back.”
Watching footage of Bayonne’s performance last weekend has been part of the Warriors’ travelling party’s homework this week.
“We were all given the task of watching Bayonne versus Munster last weekend,” revealed Bhatti. “They are a good side. They chucked the ball around, have good ball carriers, and actually dominated Munster in the scrum.
“Like any French team, they’ll be passionate and have the crowd behind them. They should probably have beaten Munster to be honest, so it’ll be a good challenge for us. From our point of view, we have a bit of extra fire in the belly from last weekend. We want to right a few wrongs from that Northampton game.
“We haven’t started games well in recent weeks. That’s something we need to rectify. We need to start well and produce an 80-minute performance. It’s not like the league where you’ve obviously got more games to make it up after a defeat. It’s a short run of games in this competition and you need to pick up results.”
Bhatti, if selected, will be up the back of the plane with the rest of the squad for the trip to south-west France but joked that he could be in the cockpit for future journeys.
“I’m still doing the [flying] lessons, just working my way through the theory side of it just now,” he added “There are nine exams to get through and I’ve done six so far. It’s hard to really do much flying with the weather just now.
“Hopefully once the weather picks up I’ll get back in the skies. I could always get a wee private plane and just fly the team around to games. Maybe save some money doing that. It would be cheaper than chartering planes everywhere. Just pay me a couple of hundred grand a year and I’ll do it!”
Before then there could be another stop, with Bhatti, who recently turned 30, unsure yet on whether he will finish his career at Scotstoun or somewhere warmer.
“I would probably like to [finish my career here] but that’s partly my decision and partly Glasgow’s decision. Maybe in my latter years I’ll look to get some sun on the bones, who knows.”