IT’S a funny old business, sport. It’s not so much that the worm turns – that much is inevitable – it’s the speed at which it spins and it’s been whirring round like a Catherine Wheel in recent weeks.
After the first round of the Heineken Cup, the Cardiff Blues coach Phil Davies was on the rack after his team had conceded six tries in a hopelessly one-sided European tie against Exeter at Sandy Park. Were you to read the Welsh press you would stake the last pound in your pocket on Davies being shown the door.
A couple of months later and Davies is being feted in the streets of Cardiff following back-to-back victories over Glasgow. Sport is a zero-sum game, for every winner there is an equal and opposite loser, and right now Gregor Townsend is experiencing the flip side of the coin. In effect the two are seated on some sort of cosmic see-saw.
Glasgow are out of Europe, which is a pity after so much promise – and such an easy pool that Big Al Kellock might have made the draw himself.
Worse than the fact of their exit was the manner of it: they left with a whimper. As one of the Blues management put it after Friday’s grim 9-7 defeat for the Warriors: “You’d be a bit miffed if you’d just subscribed to Sky TV and then got that match to watch.”
In tricky conditions that saw a stiff breeze (Rhys Patchell kicked a 52-metre penalty for the Blues that cleared the bar by five feet) and periodic rain, Glasgow scored the only try of the night.
Both Duncan Weir and Ruaridh Jackson missed penalties inside the final few minutes to snatch the win but the match was won and lost in the ten minutes before half time when Glasgow dominated nine exhausting scrums and came away empty handed.
Townsend was bleating about Niko Matawalu’s try that was wiped off because Rob Harley took out Patchell off the ball but the TMO, the referee and commentator Stuart Barnes all disagreed.
Where Townsend might have found more traction was in the scrums, where the fifth one saw Pascal Gauzere yellow card Cardiff’s skipper, prop Sam Hobbs. But the French referee failed to add the very obvious penalty try as a result. In that respect Glasgow were unlucky – it was Friday 13th after all – in all other respects they got what they deserved.
The team is not just losing, it is losing to sides that Glasgow would expect to beat in their sleep. Instead they look to be testing that theory by sleepwalking through matches. Glasgow did not lose a match at Scotstoun from 7 December 2012 (against Castres) all the way through to 25 October 2013 (against Munster). Since then they have lost two successive games at home against the weakest Welsh regions. Up to and including the Munster match, Glasgow had lost two games in eight. Since then they have lost three from five.
Something is clearly amiss and you don’t need to be Sigmund Freud to suggest that, with much the same personnel still taking the field, the problem may be in the head.
On Thursday, Glasgow flanker Ryan Wilson appeared in private at Glasgow Sheriff Court charged with assaulting another player in the city’s west end. Wilson, 24, is alleged to have assaulted 29-year-old Ally Maclay, who plays for Glasgow Hawks, on Great Western Road on 27 October.
He made no plea or declaration and was granted bail by Sheriff Ian Miller.
After Friday’s match Townsend was asked if the court appearance had had an effect on the Warriors team.
“No,” was his brief reply.
The question was repeated several times and Townsend repeated the answer with mounting impatience.
If the incident has not yet impacted on this squad, as Townsend argues, then heaven help Glasgow when it does.