“NOTHING about Johnny Matthews makes sense but I’m so here for it,” read one of the many posts on Twitter/X saluting the Glasgow Warriors hooker on Saturday night.
Matthews doesn’t look or act like a sporting superhero – one excitable fan reckoned he might actually be Jesus himself – but it is hard to argue with the statistics that are in danger of elevating the likeable Liverpudlian from cult hero to bona fide legend status.
His two tries off the bench against Ulster, one a flying burst down the five-metre channel, the other a more traditional pounce from the back of the maul, not only enhanced his burgeoning reputation but came with statistical ramifications, too.
Matthews now leads the way in this season’s United Rugby Championship with seven tries but that is not all. He is also now Warriors’ joint fifth highest try scorer with 31, the same amount as Sean Lamont and Stuart Hogg but achieved in less than half the games that it took the other two.
And at Scotstoun, Glasgow’s home for the past 11 years, only two players, Niko Matawalu (26) and Tommy Seymour (23), have grounded the ball more often than Matthews’ 21.
“What am I doing wrong away from home is probably the question there!” was the 30-year-old’s typically modest deflection of another flattering statistic. That is Matthews’ response to much of the praise coming his way, preferring his team-mates to get the glory for their hard work in setting him up.
“I’ve always been able to find the line but also been lucky enough to play in teams that had fantastic mauls,” he shrugged. “[Scoring tries] is something I’ve always tried to have as part of my game. I’ve been lucky enough to be on the back of a very good driving maul for the past couple of years.
“I’ve just happened to be in the right place at the right time to get on the end of some good team tries. It’s good to be on the back of a successful unit and we put the work in so it’s good to see it paying off.
“We got a couple at the weekend and should have had a couple of penalty tries, too. But five points for the team was the main thing.”
Nigel Carolan, Glasgow’s attack coach, reckons Matthews’ first score at the weekend ought to be a “contender for try of the season” but once more the hooker preferred to put the onus on all the work that went on before the ball arrived in his hands just outside of the Ulster 22.
“You watch the build-up, then the interplay between the forwards and backs is fantastic,” he insisted. “They’ve created the overlap for me and I don’t know where their defenders went to be honest. It just opened up in front of me and I managed to finish well.”
Matthews’ solitary Scotland cap to date was another magical moment. A late call-up to the World Cup after an injury to Stuart McInally, he marked his debut by running in a try against Romania. Of course he did.
On this form, it is hard to see Matthews not being selected for the Six Nations but the player insists it’s not in his thoughts right now.
“I’m just trying to get my place in the squad here first then build from there,” he added. “We’ve got five massive games before the turn of the year, so all my focus is on Glasgow. We will see what happens in the new year.
Perhaps the only part of his game that needs work is his kicking. His fluffed attempt to end Saturday’s game with the clock in the red only just dribbled over the touchline and one can only imagine what Franco Smith’s reaction would have been had Ulster kept the ball in play and run in a converted try to claim a losing bonus point.
“My left foot got stuck and Duncy Weir has been having a go at me for not kicking it with my left,” he revealed. “I just swung my right leg at it and fortunately, it managed to go out. Franco was giving me some stick for that.”
Even superheroes have their flaws.