One of the most encouraging sights for a neutral at Scotstoun last Saturday night was the seeming spark of a return to form by Glasgow centre Huw Jones.
The hero of the 2018 Calcutta Cup triumph, who had such a stellar start to his Test career, has never quite clicked since moving to Scotland from South Africa and missed out on selection for the World Cup squad.
The outside centre looked a lot more like his old self in the 20-16 win over Edinburgh, providing the assist for Ali Price’s opening try and looking positive and dangerous at other moments, and the man with the best view was delighted to see it.
Glasgow and Scotland inside centre Sam Johnson said: “I never had any doubt in Huw whatsoever. The last couple of games when he came in prior to last weekend weren’t exactly the greatest conditions.
“It was freezing cold against Leinster and no-one wanted to be there. Then against La Rochelle in terrible wind and rain he actually had some really good touches.”
It could well be a Johnson-Jones midfield combination that gets the nod again when Dave Rennie names his team for the return match at BT Murrayfield tomorrow afternoon.
“The win in the first game obviously puts us in a good spot,” added Johnson, pictured. “We have reviewed certain things that we still need to improve on. Last weekend was one of those games where whoever won the physical battle was going to come out on top and I think we did that.
“Both teams weren’t holding back. But, in terms of the brutality of it all, I think we won the battle.”
Purely on form, many slightly favoured Edinburgh going into last weekend’s match but Johnson feels a point was proved. “The media have obviously been talking Edinburgh up this season, but it’s all good… didn’t think we had been playing all that poorly the few weeks prior to facing Edinburgh, even though everyone was saying otherwise,” he added.
“At crucial times, our decision-making maybe wasn’t what it should have been. But it’s not like we were getting completely turned over.
“When the game was on the line against Edinburgh, we really stuck to our task and it went our way in the end.
“Our game is based on winning races into contact. We’re known as a flair team but, when we need to, we can also grind it out. The fundamentals are here. Our forwards especially have been outstanding over the past few weeks.
“That’s probably put more onus on us backs to be honest and we’ve just tried to make smarter decisions at crucial times in the game.”
Johnson, who scored that thrilling try at Twickenham which so nearly sealed the greatest comeback win in Test history during that 38-38 thriller at Twickenham in March, has good memories of playing at Murrayfield. During his nine caps, the Australia-born centre has scored tries against Ireland and Georgia at the national stadium.
“It’ll be a great contest come what may in front of 20-odd thousand people. It’ll be a step up again,” said Johnson of tomorrow afternoon’s game.
“Edinburgh will obviously be hurting and won’t want that to happen again. But the same applies to us in terms of our focus. We’re not just going to go out there and just assume that we’ve won the 1872 Cup. We’ll look for areas to improve and go again.”
By Glasgow standards, it has been a wobbly start to the season, with four defeats in the Guinness Pro14 and two in Europe. Having so many players reintegrating back into the fold following the World Cup in Japan is an obvious explanation, but Johnson is now looking forward to building on the Edinburgh win and pushing on from here.
“We’re a very close group,” said the 26-year-old. “There definitely weren’t any sort of crisis meetings or anything like that in the camp.
“That’s the challenge for us now – we need to back it up. We need to find that level of consistency in our game.
“A bad team doesn’t go over to La Rochelle and win. We knew we just had to improve our key decision-making if we wanted to start getting results.”
Johnson concluded: “We know Edinburgh are going to come at us really hard. It’ll be up to us to back it up from last week and win that physicality battle again.”