AT THE risk of straying into Mystic Meg’s territory, what does the future hold for Glasgow Warriors following Saturday’s final defeat in Dublin?
It is a worthwhile question in the circumstances because, over the course of the summer, the club are losing their second-choice fly-half in Ruaridh Jackson and their first-choice scrum-half, Chris Cusiter.
The veteran nine has enjoyed his best season since returning north from Perpignan five long years ago. During that time he has fought hard with rivals for the number nine shirt but most of his big battles have come against various injuries which have blighted his career.
“I came back this season feeling like an underdog again,” said the little scrummy. “I had to prove myself all over again. I worked hard and felt I have become more consistent this season.”
So he has, an integral cog in the Glasgow machine that fell at the final hurdle. Sadly for Glasgow, Cusiter took a knock to the head early in the second half of Saturday’s match and he was replaced by Niko Matawalu on 45 minutes. The Fijian brought his habitual energy to bear, which included stripping the ball off a Leinster forward late in the game, but what Glasgow needed in the circumstances were cool heads and some degree of control. What they got were lateral running, forced passes and a host of unforced errors.
“I am really disappointed because we did not play our best game and that is what we needed to do to win the final,” said Cusiter, looking back at the action. “We made too many mistakes and, when we had them under pressure, we turned over the ball, knocked on or gave away penalties. We never managed to build the pressure on them so, from that point of view, I am desperately disappointed. All the boys feel that way, I think. They [Leinster] are a good team, were clinical and put us under a lot of pressure. Both teams were struggling with the heat and the pace of the game and were clinging on a bit. To lose that try before half-time was a killer blow. To go in ahead at half-time, who knows what would happen? We were exhausted. It was a hot, hot day out there. You could feel the fatigue. Going in at half-time both teams were feeling it.
“At 14-12 we were still in the game. We were one score behind. Our opportunities early in the second half, I suppose, the turnover on their line then they go down the other end, that was the killer. That was where they won.”
Cusiter was reckoned unlucky by many not to have started for Scotland in the Six Nations but, if Finn Russell continues to kick like he did on Saturday with four from four, he may yet be Vern Cotter’s first-choice scrum-half for next year’s World Cup.
The peripatetic number nine is off on his travels again this summer, having signed with Sale Sharks, where he could partner England’s very own prodigal son in Danny Cipriani. It’s an odd move because you would think Townsend would be happy to keep his best scrumhalf and Cusiter sounds sorry to go.
“I have loved it,” replies Cusiter when asked about his time as a Warrior. “I wish I had not had the injuries. They were dark times. There were two seasons when I managed just three games. To be injured for 11 months was not a fun time in my life. At some times in my life, I thought I might retire.
“This season I had loved it. This has been my most enjoyable season. I have got a new lease of life and enjoyed rugby. I will leave with lots of fond memories and will be watching the boys when I can. It is a great club.
“There was one bad season but, apart from that, it [Glasgow] has gone in the right direction. This season has just gone to another level. That home semi played in front of 10,000 people, the interest around Glasgow, the taxi drivers chatting to you about how well Glasgow are doing, the people in the street. By beating the big teams regularly we have gone to the next level. I hope they continue that.
“Gregor [Townsend] is a great coach, very astute, and signed well. I am sure he will continue that work next year. If you are competing in finals you are doing something right.”
You suspect that whatever the immediate future holds for Glasgow, it would have been that much rosier with, rather than without, their best scrum-half.