Mauling by Racing 92 prompts Warriors strategy rethink

Racing's Chris Masoe tackles Stuart Hogg, who was given little chance to show his blistering pace. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Racing's Chris Masoe tackles Stuart Hogg, who was given little chance to show his blistering pace. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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It does not take a rocket scientist to work out what will be on the first page of Gregor Townsend’s flip chart this week.

As if Glasgow Warriors needed any reminding of what is to come against Northampton Saints, they got a painful lesson in the art and brute force of mauling.

Racing 92 served up the hors d’oeuvres in Paris with a hat-trick of second-half tries all from driving lineouts.

Having failed to run around the Warriors, the French league leaders reverted to the combined grunt of their sizeable pack, whose experience almost matched their considerable weight.

In rugby terms it was a back-handed compliment to Glasgow whose defence in general play was excellent in stifling the impact of global stars such as Dan Carter, Juan Imhoff and Maxime Machenaud.

But there was little stopping the 23-stone Kiwi Ben Tameifuna from less than five metres out before both his front-row colleagues, hooker Dimitri Szarzewski and prop Eddy Ben Arous, finished identical scores from lineout drives in the opening minutes of the second half.

It was an uphill battle from there and finally lock Manuel Carizza then emerged from a similar effort to clinch the bonus in injury time.

Next they face Saints who were the finest exponents of mauling in Europe last season in what is now, quite simply, a must-win game for Glasgow if they are to have any hope of progressing as one of three best runners-up.

“Any pack takes a lot of pride from scoring from a driving maul. When you look at how dominant Racing’s set-piece has been in Europe and the league so far this season, I thought our scrum and lineout in general went well,” said captain Jonny Gray.

“But it was hugely disappointing to concede those tries from driving lineouts. The two at the start of the second half in particular, are something we have to look at because we can’t allow that to happen in any game.

“Now we’re going to Northampton who are just as good, if not better, in that area. We know what’s coming, so we must learn from this game and work hard.

“It’s going to be massive next weekend. We know we have to win and we have to learn from this defeat.

“A lot of effort went into the game and at times we played some good stuff against a class team. We were in that match but at key moments we let ourselves down and didn’t take our chances.

“We still believe we can win our last two games and that could be enough to progress, but we know how hard that is going to be.”

It could get harder if Glasgow lose Mark Bennett who injured his shoulder and will be assessed today. Given the injury to Peter Horne, Townsend could do without losing a second centre.

“Mark said the shoulder was sore for about a minute. It was a bit better after the game but obviously it’s a concern that he went off. He’s a key player for us and Scotland, so we’ll see how he reacts over the next couple of days,” said Townsend.

That merely added to the over-riding sense of frustration for the head coach who knows this was, in fact, an opportunity missed. Glasgow had more than a fair share of possession and territory but failed to do much with either.

Stuart Hogg gave glimpses of his electric pace while Taqele Naiyaravoro showed his destructive capabilities, yet both were guilty of coughing up possession in promising positions.

Hogg also narrowly missed with a long-range kick after Finn Russell pushed an earlier effort wide from closer distance that would have put Glasgow 9-0 ahead before Carter even touched a kicking tee. Carter went on to kick a perfect five from five.

“There were plenty of positives in our game, our defence, the scrum and the willingness to keep attacking, but we have to improve our accuracy,” admitted Townsend.

“We created opportunities to attack but didn’t hold on to the ball well enough. There were times we needed to be better and more focused.

“It takes a lot of effort to create chances against teams of this quality, so you need to take any chances. It was disappointing that we didn’t.”

Glasgow must not only overturn the 26-15 loss at home to Saints but are likely to need a bonus point either this week or next, against Racing.

“It’s a different challenge but we are determined to do better than we did at Scotstoun,” said Townsend. “Northampton play a different game to Racing. It’s built around a strong set-piece that will try to win scrum penalties in order to get lineout drives, at which they are very good. They have exciting players behind in Ben Foden, George and Ken Pisi, George North and Luther Burrell, but they use them only after the forwards have got them going forward.”