Modest Johnny Matthews plays down try-scoring heroics as Glasgow Warriors ace reveals his secret
Whenever he was accused of being a flat-track bully who only scored tap-ins against the smaller clubs, Kris Boyd tended to have a stock response ready. “If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it,” harrumphed the striker with the sort of wounded indignance that continues to shape most of his post-playing punditry.
The same could be said for Johnny Matthews. It is the Glasgow Warriors hooker himself who continues to modestly play down his remarkable try-scoring heroics, waving it off as no more than him benefiting from his team-mates’ hard work to plop over the line with the ball. Again, though, if it were as simple as that, the stats tables would be chock-a-block with hookers garnering all the glory. That they’re not suggests there’s more to it than simply being in the right place at the right time.
Glasgow's attack coach Nigel Carolan describes Matthews as a “try-scoring machine” and the numbers back it up. The leading scorer in this season’s United Rugby Championship with seven, the Liverpudlian is now also the joint fifth highest scorer in Warriors’ history and has claimed the third most tries at Scotstoun – behind Niko Matawalu and Tommy Seymour – since Warriors set up home there in 2012.
“What am I doing wrong away from home is probably the question there!” he deflected, never comfortable with being showered with praise. “The two in front of me in that list were decent players – and weren’t on the back of mauls either. All of mine together probably combine to two or three of theirs in terms of metres.”
Again the 30-year-old is being self-effacing as his first score against Ulster at the weekend was one any winger in the game would have been proud of, Matthews taking a pass about 25 metres out and haring down the line to score what Carolan reckons was “a contender for try of the season”. This is no new phenomenon, with Matthews the leading scorer in the Premiership four years ago while with Boroughmuir. He puts his continued success down to a combination of personal desire and supportive team-mates.
“I’ve always been able to find the line but also been lucky enough to play in teams that had fantastic mauls,” he shrugged. “[Scoring tries] is something I’ve always tried to have as part of my game. I’ve been lucky enough to be on the back of a very good driving maul for the past couple of years. I’ve just happened to be in the right place at the right time to get on the end of some good team tries. It’s good to be on the back of a successful unit and we put the work in so it’s good to see it paying off. We got a couple at the weekend and should have had a couple of penalty tries, too. But five points for the team was the main thing.”
The only cloud on Matthews’ horizon right now comes in the form of his beloved Everton after they were docked 10 points by the Premier League. “It’s a disgrace!” he added. “But the more I read about it, the more I’m confident that it will get turned into a fine. I didn’t think we’d get 10 points at the start of the investigation. But we’ll get them back – it will fall through.”