Glasgow’s new forwards coach Dan McFarland, who arrived from Connacht in the summer, faces an early test of his mettle this week as he looks to lift a Warriors pack left bruised and beaten by an Edinburgh onslaught on Sunday.
Much had been spoken in the build-up to the opening 1872 Cup encounter about the superiority of the home eight but the extent of their dominance was impressive to witness. It provided the platform for a 23-11 win which gives Alan Solomons’ men a useful cushion to take into the second match at Scotstoun on Saturday.
“We have to be more pro-active in figuring out how to beat teams when they’re stopping us”FRASER BROWN
The expected return of skipper Jonny Gray and back-rower Josh Strauss – arguably Glasgow’s best and most dynamic forwards – is a potential gamechanger but the visiting pack’s problems at BT Murrayfield were so widespread that a lot of work is required this week to fix the key battleground areas where games are almost always won and lost.
Hooker Fraser Brown, who is not long back from a foot injury he picked up in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final, endured a fairly torrid afternoon and is determined to put things right this weekend.
“Certainly we were nowhere near our best,” he admitted. “We just never got our attacking game going. That stemmed from the set piece. We messed up three lineouts, I think, at the start, and then the scrums were a lottery all day. I don’t really know if anybody knows which way the scrums are meant to be going. We certainly felt pretty aggrieved in the first half that every decision was going against us when we were in pretty good positions and it felt like they were just dropping it. Our attacking game stems from being able to get good, clean set-piece ball, and then when we do that, playing at tempo, going through the phases. I think there can only have been a handful of times that we went five, six plus phases, which again is not like us.
“We wear teams out. We make teams tackle against us. We make them put in a lot of tackles and then we exploit the space. We’ll look at that on Tuesday and Wednesday. We’ll look at how we can do better.”
Asked if Glasgow were pressurised into these mistakes by Edinburgh’s excellence or it was just an off day for the Guinness Pro12 champions, Brown replied: “A bit of both. They played well. They had a game plan to limit our opportunities. Possibly they tried not to kick the ball out and limit our set-piece ball – they know how dangerous we can be off set piece.
“They played well to frustrate us, particularly round the breakdown. I thought they were very good at pillaging ball.
“But, on the flipside, we were very poor looking after it. I think we got stripped five, six, seven times in the contact, let alone at the ruck.”
It was a battle between Scotland’s top two hookers and the nation’s most capped forward Ross Ford enjoyed a far more satisfying day’s work as he celebrated his 150th appearance for the club.
Brown said: “Everyone writes that it’s a semi-Scotland trial. It’s difficult in my position, you come up against him in the scrum, but you never find each other on the pitch necessarily. It’s not like two wingers going against each other.
“Our set-piece, our lineout, after a strong showing last week [against Scarlets in Europe] was disappointing for me personally. That’s something I’ve got to look at during the week. As a team we’ve got to be more focused and execute better than we did.”
After the glories of last season, this term is proving to be a bit of a struggle at times for Glasgow and Brown agrees that they haven’t delivered a perfect performance this season.
“No. I think we did in parts. In the last 30 minutes against Scarlets at home [a 43-6 win] you saw what we can do when we put it all together. Last week [in Wales] was a frustrating game for both sides – the weather was so poor.
“And then against Edinburgh you could see it in glimpses, when we kept the ball five, six, seven phases, how well we can play.
“A lot of that’s down to ourselves getting a bit impatient while looking after ball. And a lot of that’s down to the opposition.”
The 26-year-old added: “There’s so much analysis goes on these days that you know exactly how teams play. There’s so many stats that are done, teams know how to try and shut us off.
“But that comes back to us. We have to know how we get round teams. Teams are going to try and suffocate us when we play – that’s just the nature of rugby.
“We have to work it out. Whether it’s in team meetings or out on the pitch, we have to be more pro-active in figuring out how to beat teams when they’re stopping us.”
Glasgow now trail Edinburgh by two points in the Pro12 standings, albeit with a game in hand, and, while recapturing the silverware remains a coveted goal, Brown said: “First and foremost is the win on Saturday for the league points, and then to overturn a 12-point deficit.”