Glasgow’s Chris Cusiter gets a kick out of return

IT NEVER rains but it pours and whoever coined the phrase could have had Scotstoun on Friday evening in mind when they did so, writes Iain Morrison.

Chris Cusiter. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Glasgow made heavy weather of beating the Blues 22-15 and they weren’t helped by the appalling conditions. Gregor Townsend’s team played their two warm-up matches in an Indian summer, they played their league opener in an Indian monsoon.

In truth everyone left with something to show for their endeavours. The Blues would not have expected to win at Scotstoun but they came mighty close to doing so even in the absence of their Lions contingent. They returned home with a losing bonus point.

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Meanwhile, Glasgow won the match and the points that go with it without ever hitting their straps. Shorn of several of their bigger beasts, the Warriors struggled to physically impose themselves upon a Blues side whose flame-haired stand-off Rhys Patchell won the kicking battle with something to spare.

Apart from league points Gregor Townsend had at least two other reasons to be upbeat. Jonny Gray came on for the injured Al Kellock on 20 minutes and looked like he was born to the part. He is only 19 but Scott Johnson is said to want him ready for the 2015 World Cup and on Friday’s evidence he’ll be there or thereabouts.

The other reason for celebration was the return to action of scrum-half Chris Cusiter, a player from the opposite end of the age/experience spectrum. “Cus” missed almost all of last season with a shoulder injury that occurred in September. He rested the joint for seven months only to discover that it needed an operation anyway. Frustration doesn’t quite do justice to the mental anguish that the scrummy suffered but all that was forgotten on Friday.

“It takes its toll being injured,” he said with feeling. “It’s mentally tough as well, especially when you are just coming back and you have to go back for an operation and start at square one. That was my second long-term injury, it really wasn’t a lot of fun.

“I had some dark days because before the operation, the damaged nerve took so long to recover, you are just doing day after day and month after month of rehab and nothing is happening. There were definitely days when I thought ‘what’s the point?’, but days like today you remember why. Last week was so good coming off the bench [in a pre-season game against Exeter]. I was a bit nervous coming back. I remember one of their guys fell on the wrong side of the ruck and pretended he was in the way and I got to put the boot in him and it brought back all that enjoyment! It brought back that buzz. I absolutely loved it and I thought, ‘that’s why I’ve been though all that I’ve been through’. It was brilliant! Lying on the wrong side that’s what you get. No, it was brilliant! And then tonight, just playing with your team-mates and getting a good win and being part of it was so good, that’s what I missed.”

It’s the adrenaline talking as much as the man: 12 months is a long time to be sat in the stand, and in that time Cusiter also missed the quiet revolution in play that saw Glasgow go from scoring 34 league tries in the 2011/12 season to crossing the line 66 times last time out. They went from beating opponents to wiping the floor with them. They were never able to showcase their expansive stuff on Friday evening but the Glasgow team of old might have lost a close encounter because that is exactly what happened at the start of last season.

“I remember last year we played the Scarlets here and we went behind and we couldn’t pull it back,” said Cusiter. “That’s the most pleasing thing [about Friday’s performance]. When we went three points down we really upped it a gear.”

He is now 31 with 62 Scotland caps and a Lions tour and Test under his belt yet still Cusiter insists he has to prove himself all over again, especially to a host of team-mates who he has yet to play alongside including Josh Strauss, Sean Maitland and Niko Matawalu.

“They thought I was just this grumpy old guy hanging around the club,” Cusiter says, only half joking. Does he feel old?

“Some days I do and some days I don’t,” comes the reply but if sheer, unbridled enthusiasm for the game is any guide Cusiter has a few good years left in him yet.