GLASGOW WARRIORS were hapless against Edinburgh at Murrayfield last Saturday but, according to defence coach Kenny Murray, they were not hopeless – and there is a big difference.
In the end, the gap between a morale boosting win and a frustrating loss was breached by a missed penalty after half an hour and a thrown-away try with just over 10 minutes to go. On such fine margins can tight rugby matches be decided, but Murray believes that there is plenty of reason to believe that Warriors can turn it around in this weekend’s re-match at Scotstoun.
They will need to sharpen up their attack, take points with the boot when they are on offer, and protect possession better. Easier said than done, but not insurmountable challenges.
Meanwhile, Oli Kebble looks likely to return, which should bolster the home team’s creaking scrum; and there are options at stand-off if the coaching team decide that Brandon Thomson’s nerves have been too severely frayed by a couple of major blunders in recent weeks.
“It’s obviously disappointing losing derby games but there wasn’t a huge amount in it,” insisted Murray. “Reflecting back on the game, it was really a try [for Edinburgh] that we created ourselves rather than them creating anything.
“We made 127 tackles and 99 of them were in the first half, which is an incredible stat. We were pretty happy defensively and we just need to be better in one of two areas. Jonny Bell [attack coach] has highlighted a few things we can get better at, so we’ll take that into the game on Friday.
“Murrayfield hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for us over the last five or six years, but the thing with rugby is that you don’t get much time to sit and dwell. You have to get on with it.”
Finding the perfect 10
It has been a tough couple of weeks for Thomson. He miscued a sitter which cost Warriors an injury-time victory over the Dragons in their last league match before Christmas, and then made the same costly error during the first half of Saturday’s game. He also threw the loose pass which gifted Edinburgh that decisive try.
“He is generally positive guy – he always has a smile on his face – but he knows himself that you can’t be missing kicks like that at the level we play at,” acknowledged Murray. “There’s no point trying to kid anyone about that. At the end of the day, he’s got to be better there and he knows it.
“The guys will help to pick him back up. We don’t want guys in the team getting down on themselves. We need everyone in a good state of mind.”
Academy prospect Ross Thompson [with a ‘p’] replaced Thomson [no ‘p’] almost immediately after that score, and he pulled the strings confidently as Edinburgh eased off and Warriors worked their way into position for second-row Lewis Bean’s late score, which secured a losing bonus-point. The 21-year-old then added the conversion for good measure, as if to underline that it should not be that hard to bisect the posts from that sort of range.
Murray didn’t rule out the possibility of Thompson starting this week, but also indicated that Pete Horne, who missed last week with concussion, could come back into contention. First choice 10 Adam Hastings – who is Gloucester-bound next season – is on the long-term injured list.
“He [Horne] did a fair bit in training yesterday but, obviously, with head injuries, anything like a headache you need to be careful with – so we will see how he is tomorrow,” explained Murray.
“We were happy with Ross,” he added. “When he came on, he did well. He could possibly be in contention for the game as well this weekend.”
Murray also reiterated head coach Danny Wilson’s promise earlier in the season that Warriors are committed to blooding the next generation of players when the time is right – and suggested that could be sooner rather than later.
“It is something we are always speaking about,” he said. “We have a lot of good young boys in our Academy and a few guys have trained really well with us. Ross Thompson got a run at the weekend and did well, so it’s a good opportunity to give guys like that a chance.
“The situation forces it a bit. Adam is out for a while and we have a few guys unavailable on the wing. We’ve got young guys in the background like Ollie Smith and Rufus McLean – guys who will get a shot over the next couple of months.
“It looks like the Six Nations will go ahead so we will need to use the depth of the squad then.”
“Jamie Dobie is just 19 and he’s been playing with us for the past couple of seasons so young guys have had a crack at it,” he added. “Stafford McDowall has obviously played a few games as well.
“So, we want to give those young guys a shot and over the next wee while you will see that, but what we need to be careful about is throwing too many in at the same time as that could have a detrimental effect on them. There have been players in the past where players have been thrown in too early and it had a negative impact.”
One complicating factor this year is that the domestic season – and specifically Super6 – is still in lockdown, meaning there is a lack of game-time opportunities below PRO14 level for emerging player to demonstrate that they are ready to take the next step.
“It is a real challenge and a concern,” agreed Murray. “We have tried to deal with that a bit by having interclub rugby. A couple of times this year we have had 12 versus 12 or 13 versus 13 games just to get the young guys and the wider squad players playing because there is no club rugby to do that.
“We have also been talking about trying to do something with Edinburgh, maybe some sort of A game. We are looking at options because I don’t think there will be any club rugby in the near future. Without those opportunities we have to do our best to do it ourselves.”