THE really pleasing thing from a Glasgow Warriors perspective about Saturday’s bonus-point win over the Sharks is that there is every reason to believe that there is much more to come.
Head coach Danny Wilson was without as many as 13 frontline players, including his top three tighthead props in Zander Fagerson (resting after the Lions tour), Simon Berghan (minor Achilles injury) and Enrique Pieretto (away with Argentina), his first-choice loosehead in Oli Kebble (recovering from ankle surgery), second-row Kiran McDonald (kidney injury), back-rowers Rory Darge (minor knee injury) and Matt Fagerson (recovering from surgery on his arm), scrum-half Ali Price (resting after Lions tour), stand-offs Duncan Weir (concussed) and Domingo Miotti (with Argentina), wingers Sebastian Canelliere (with Argentina) and Ratu Tagive (fractured cheek), and full-back Josh McKay (seeing out the final few weeks of his previous contract playing in New Zealand).
Despite this, Warriors played most of the game with pace and precision which was reminiscent of the glory days when the Scotstoun men marched to the PRO12 title under Gregor Townsend.
One swallow does not make a summer, of course, but the early indications are that Warriors have got both the frontline firepower and the strength in depth to be serious contenders in the United Rugby Championship this season.
Another provisional conclusion we can draw from these first two rounds of the campaign is that the addition of four South African former Super Rugby franchises to the league is not going to provide the immediate boost in intensity we were told to expect.
From eight games played so far, the new boys have managed just one win, when the Emirates Lions despatched perennial strugglers Zebre in round one.
They are missing their Springboks at the moment, and they will be a tougher proposition on home soil later in the season, so we can’t make a firm judgement yet. But we can assume that the English Premiership and French Top14 are not shaking in their boots at the prospect of the URC stealing their thunder based on the evidence available so far.
That said, Warriors can only focus on beating whatever team is put in front of them, and they deserve credit for the way they went about that task during the first 50 minutes of Saturday’s game.
“We got into the flow of our attack a little bit better, put them under pressure when we got quick ball, and it was good to score a few tries back in front of our home fans,” pointed out scrum-half George Horne.
“I think we mixed up our game really well. We were balanced. In our own half we had a bit of work to do from last week in in terms of getting clear from that area and we were much better at that this week.
“Then we came alive when we got into their half. It was pleasing to put a few phases together and put them under pressure when we got quick ball.
“We definitely got the flow much better in our attack, worked through the phases and recycled the ball well. When you play front-foot ball with tempo it’s hard to stop.
“It is frustrating the game fizzled out during the last 25 minutes,” he added. “They got a bit of confidence and a bit of territory, and we maybe rushed a couple of things and made some silly mistakes, so that is something to work on.
“It was something we spoke about after the game. It’s all good and well playing well for 55 minutes but in the big games it’s that last 20 minutes that counts, so we need to manage that better as a team.”
Horne had particular words of praise for full-back Cole Forbes. The former New Zealand under-20s cap had a strong end to last season and has picked up where he left off in this campaign, scoring two of his team’s five tries on Saturday.
Warriors’ other three tries were scored by Ross Thompson, Ryan Wilson and Jamie Bhatti, while Thompson kicked all five conversions.
“Cole has been great since he arrived here,” said Horne. “He’s so dependable, a great defender, electric in attack and scored a couple of good tries. He’s such a good player to have at the back. He fills everyone with confidence because you know if the high balls go up, he’s going to take them. He’s done really well and I’m really happy for him because he’s such a good guy off the field as well.”