Fans squeezed into Scotstoun on Friday night – even the Italians sell out the little ground – and entered the twilight zone where they were afforded a glimpse into the future. They were offered a hint as to what Glasgow might look like without stand-off Finn Russell… and it wasn’t all bad.
Everyone has the stand-off moving to France in the summer, not least because Dan Biggar is said to be worth £600,000 and Russell has more strings to his bow than the Welshman.
Dave Rennie has already said that he will fight hard to keep his star and Russell is no fool. He understands that the Warriors’ coaching team of Rennie, Jason O’Halloran and Jon Humphries is almost certainly better than any he will encounter in the Top 14.
The slight stand-off also knows that a star signing with a salary to match will become the target for every belligerent breakaway looking to make a name for himself.
Russell will make himself a heap of money at some point in his career but perhaps not until after the next World Cup, which is just one season away after this. Rennie will already be planning for the eventuality.
The Kiwi might like to hire a big-name replacement from New Zealand or South Africa but given that the Welshman Jason Tovey shares the No 10 shirt at Edinburgh with Duncan Weir, the onus is on Glasgow to cultivate playmakers for the international side.
With that in mind Peter Horne picked a perfect evening to display one of his most compelling performances in a No 10 shirt on Friday evening.
It wasn’t perfect, but his man-of-the-match display included a personal tally of 17 points; the full house of one try, two penalties and three conversions. He didn’t miss a kick all night, proving that Russell is not the only one whose radar is fully functioning.
Early in the match, a training ground move was executed to perfection: Nick Grigg drifted wide, Sam Johnson cut back to hold the drift and Horne delivered the perfect pass for Tommy Seymour to slice open the Benetton defence in the midfield.
A little later the stand-off nudged a penalty to within inches of the Italian line. He employed another equally deft kick early in the second half although his coach hinted after the match that he should have kicked a little more to counter the Italians’ impressive line speed.
Horne took his try beautifully, even if the video will make uncomfortanble viewing for a couple of Italian defenders, but it also highlighted his remaining weakness.
Russell squares up defences, meaning he keeps them guessing whether the attack will go wide or back inside. Horne scored by stepping inside the drifting defenders but it was one of the few times in the match that that happened.
Horne tends to drift cross-field. It isn’t just his fault, he needs runners offering themselves in the inside channel and perhaps he didn’t have enough support there.
Still it was an impressive overall display from the little man who has struggled to stamp his abilities on one position.
And if he is trying to copy Russell, he did a good job when suffering momentary brain fade at a restart. Catching the ball, Horne went right and then turned left before he was eaten alive by three maurading Benetton forwards.