Jackson insists sober reflection can help Warriors recover from Southern discomfort

Next up is an improving Dragons outfit at Scotstoun next Saturday

Ruaridh Jackson
Ruaridh Jackson was one of the few Warriors players to get pass marks in the loss to the Southern Kings. Image:Craig Watson. McCrea Financial Services proudly sponsor Glasgow Warriors

IF YOU were a Dragons player, you would surely not be relishing Saturday’s trip to Scotstoun right now. Glasgow will be desperate to make amends for their abysmal showing against the Southern Kings, and there is a fair chance that they will take it out on the Welsh side with a resounding home win.

The Dragons appear to have improved a bit this season, but while beating the Kings and Zebre they have also lost to Benetton at home and been heavily defeated in Dublin, so there is every reason to expect the Warriors to end up well on top. It is certainly hard to foresee as many things going wrong as they did in Port Elizabeth, where they went 31-0 down before eventually clawing things back to a more respectable 38-28.

There are a couple of positive aspects of such a dispiriting result. One is the timing: at this stage of the season, the odd defeat does not do too much damage, and having won their previous three games, Glasgow have still made a decent start to their PRO14 campaign.

The other is the contrast with last season, when the Warriors swept all before them for long enough, were all but guaranteed a place in the play-offs with months to spare, yet stumbled badly in the semi-final when the Scarlets came to Scotstoun. In other words, a long winning run is no guarantee of victory when it matters most. And if there are serious flaws in your squad, you would rather they were identified and dealt with sooner rather than later.

Ruaridh Jackson, for one, thinks that the experience can be put to good use and help focus minds, especially with the Champions Cup group stages now only a few weeks away. “I hope so,” the full-back said. “We’ll see in the next couple of weeks.

“These sort of things can sometimes be a real reminder that we can’t just coast along and things will just come good. Come game day we need to be switched on, and hopefully everyone learned some lessons from this.

“I personally believe failure can sometimes be a real good thing. Certainly, doing it this time in the season will give us time to have an honest reflection on ourselves and hopefully we can put things into place and right the wrongs that we were showing on the field. I think that can put us in a better place. We can definitely use it as a tool to push on and I really hope we can do.

“We were just far too loose – a lot of dropped balls and really slow to react to them,” Jackson continued when asked to analyse a first half which ended with his team 24-0 behind. “They were obviously fired up, physical and pounced on anything loose and severely punished us. It will be a painful one to look back on, that’s for sure.

“We saw last week against the Cheetahs how punished we were in the first half, and we spoke about it this week and it was frustrating to see out on the pitch that when we dropped balls we were slow to react again. It’s going to take a few honest looks in the mirror, that’s for sure, and an honest assessment of ourselves is going to have to be had.”

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Carelessness and complacency

Head coach Dave Rennie said after the match that he did not think his team had been guilty of complacency, and Jackson was of like mind, explaining that, while the frequency of the errors may have given the impression that the Warriors had not been properly focused, he had certainly not been guilty of taking the Kings lightly. But if there was indeed no failure to prepare properly, that only makes the loss all the worse in the sense that it cannot be readily explained away.

Another concerning factor – one that the Dragons will do their best to exploit on Saturday – was Glasgow’s inability to hold their nerve in adversity. The previous week against the Cheetahs they had been 19-14 behind at half-time before recovering to win 52-24, but against the Kings they lacked the self-reliance to bounce back on time, only playing some decent stuff in the final quarter.

“We re-grouped fairly well last week, but for some reason couldn’t this week,” Jackson accepted. “We were a bit further behind and the fact that we hadn’t even scored a point come half-time was a bit of a shock, whereas we were only a score behind last week.

“So we maybe tried to force things a bit too much trying to chase it and a bit of panic set in. You see the score when you look up at 60 minutes and we’ve still not scored a point: I think we maybe just tried to push things a little when we should have stuck to our systems and really ground them down. You saw in the last 20 minutes how effective we could be and how tired they were looking. If we were closer in the game we could have really punished them in that last 20.”

It is now up to Jackson and his colleagues to punish the Dragons instead. Preferably by playing at their best from the start of the match this time.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1428 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.