GREGOR Townsend will be sweating over the fitness of Josh Strauss for the closing stages of the Pro12 campaign after the powerful No 8 limped out of Saturday’s bonus point victory over Connacht at the Sportsground.
Strauss only lasted 18 minutes following his introduction as a second-half replacement, but the Glasgow coach says he was withdrawn “as a precaution” with an ankle injury.
In recent weeks Strauss, who becomes Scottish qualified during this year’s World Cup, has struggled with knee injuries, and with the bonus point wrapped up Townsend felt it was prudent to take no chances with the former Lions back-row.
Indeed in his brief cameo, Strauss made a massive impact for Warriors and it was his line break and offload that sent Adam Ashe in for the bonus point try. Townsend wants to protect his prize asset.
“He just got a bang on his ankle and, look, it was to protect him,” said Townsend.
“He wanted to stay on but we’re in this stage of the season and obviously I think we’d got the bonus point already – it was an easy change to make.
“He’s taken a couple of knocks, more on his knee, over the last few weeks so I think it’s fine. He was desperate to stay on so he would have been okay to play but best to make sure he didn’t get injured.
“He was disappointed he didn’t get another try. He felt the offload was knocked on by one of the Connacht players but it was a great decision to draw the last man and put Adam in for a try.”
Townsend added: “Other than that, I think there’s the usual. Some guys hadn’t played for a while. Leone Nakarawa hadn’t played much rugby in the last five, six weeks, Ryan Grant, Euan Murray too, so I’m sure they’ll be feeling it in the morning but nothing major.”
The former Scottish international was not inclined to start the celebrations just yet after his side picked up their eighth try bonus-point victory of the season at the Sportsground to move within one victory of a home semi-final.
At times on Saturday Warriors seemed content to sit back and defend their own ten-metre line, continuously repelling the Connacht attack and making the most of the numerous errors that the home side made.
The league leaders could rely on their defence, although Townsend said it was “passive” – it was only pierced, by former Warrior Aly Muldowney, when they were down to 14 men.
Last year’s losing finalists fell foul of referee Marius Mitrea and conceded 15 penalties. Tommy Seymour and Chris Fusaro were sin-binned in the second half, and their coach warned that improved discipline is required if they are to go one step further this year.
“Our discipline was poor,” said Townsend. “With the yellow card, one was a high tackle, which was disappointing. One I felt we had the numbers on the ball when Tommy Seymour got yellow carded.
“We’ve got to bring the penalty count down whether it’s through being offside three times or offside in defence, which isn’t good enough, and obviously with a few scrum penalties early on.
“So from today’s game we know we have to be better defensively. At times we were a bit passive. We’ve got to make sure our discipline’s better. So they’ll be the two main things from today.”
Ashe was one of the top performers for Warriors and his try 12 minutes from time crowned a fine performance by the 21-year-old No 8. With Strauss still struggling with injury he is likely to start there again away to Ospreys, but Ashe thinks they need a sharp start to that key battle.
“I think we need to focus on starting the game with a big impact. We can’t build our way into the game because Ospreys are a tough team,” he said.
“But it’s really good that we have made the top four. But we want that home semi-final. It is so important.
“I think it’s the last four years that we have made the play-offs and we have been put out in a semi-final. So last year having a home semi made a massive difference, so that is something that we really need this year.”
Scorers: Connacht: Tries - A Muldowney; Con - Carty; Pens - Carty 2. Glasgow: Tries - Matawalu 2, Hogg, Ashe, Seymour; Cons - Russell 3.
Connacht: T O’Halloran; D Poolman, R Henshaw, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You; U Dillane, A Muldowney; J Muldoon, E Masterson, E McKeon. Subs: J Cooney (for K Marmion 51), A Browne (for U Dillane 53), D Leader (for T O’Halloran 55), G Naoupu (for E Masterson 60), M Nikora (for J Carty 63), R Loughney (for D Buckley 69), F Bealham (for Rodney Ah You 69), S Delahunt (for T McCartney 75).
Glasgow: S Hogg; T Seymour, R Vernon, P Horne, N Matawalu; F Russell, H Pyrgos; J Yanuyanutawa, F Brown, E Murray; L Nakarawa, J Gray; R Harley, C Fusaro, A Ashe. Subs: R Grant (for J Yanuyanutawa 40), J Welsh (for E Murray 40), K Bryce (for F Brown 45), T Swinson (for L Nakarawa 55), J Strauss (for R Harley 55), N Matawalu (for L Jones 71) P Murchie (for J Strauss 73) D Weir (for F Russell 78).