The festive season is over now for the rest of us, but for Glasgow Warriors it never began. Saturday’s narrow defeat in Treviso was their third loss in a row in the Pro14, and from enjoying a double-figure lead at the top of Conference A they are now down to second, a mere five points clear of fourth-placed Connacht.
The fact that they face a fight to stay in the play-off places is not in itself a bad thing, and contrasts with last season when, having all but wrapped up a home semi-final with months to spare, they lost much of their focus. But it is the manner of their defeats, both at the Stadio Monigo and home and away to Edinburgh, that will be of real concern to Dave Rennie, pictured inset.
Confidence is low, the cutting edge has gone, and more and more opponents are working out ways to frustrate them. Not exactly what the head coach needs as he looks forward to the remaining rounds of Champions Cup pool games, beginning on Sunday when Cardiff Blues visit Scotstoun.
“We’ve got to get a result next week,” Rennie said after the three-tries-to-two loss in Italy. “There’s a little bit detail that needs to be better. We’ll just focus on the 80 minutes ahead of us and be a hell of a lot better than we have been in the last three weeks.
“Cardiff are a very good side and are playing some good footy. We need to be able to hang on to the ball for long periods and we need to defend a lot better than we did today.
“We created enough opportunities – we weren’t clinical enough and made too many errors. Benetton defended well, they kept working hard, and even when it looked like they were out on their feet at the end they kept getting bodies in front of us. It’s hugely disappointing, especially to only score three points in the second half after creating so many opportunities.”
Some key players will be back against Cardiff after sitting this one out, but Benetton were also understrength yet managed to put in a far more coherent team performance. Too often, Glasgow lacked patience in attack, and when they did put together some decent multi- phase play, they came up against a defence that grew in self-belief the longer the game went on.
The biggest plus point from the Warriors’ point of view was the excellent form on his return from injury of Sam Johnson, the Australian centre who scored his team’s first try with a well-angled line off first phase and then laid on the second for George Horne.
The scrum-half also acquitted himself well, but outside him Adam Hastings made too many errors of judgement and epitomised his side’s uncertainty. The stand-off converted both tries and added a penalty after the break, but Benetton, who had gone into the second half 12-14 down, had far more purpose.
Braam Steyn got their third try to add to the two in the first half from Dean Budd. Tomasso Allan added a penalty to his first-half conversion and a fourth consecutive win was in the bag for the Italians, who are now neck and neck with Edinburgh near the top of Conference B.
A dismal afternoon for Glasgow was summed up in the dying minutes when substitute Brandon Thomson was wide with a penalty that would have salvaged a draw.
They had already passed up an easier chance for three points, opting to kick for touch only to see Alex Allan held up over the line from the ensuing lineout drive.