There were more than a few raised eyebrows when Mike Blair, a man with 157 games under his belt for the Warriors great rivals Edinburgh, was announced as Glasgow’s latest signing. Various mutterings about “a coaching role” and “SRU pension plan” did the rounds but Mike’s performances on the pitch have won over the notoriously hard to please Glasgow faithful as he’s demonstrated the advantages of having a steadying influence in what is a key decision-making position. His quick thinking and desire to play the game at pace have also been a good fit for the Warriors’ philosophy of moving the point of attack and manipulating defences into mismatches.
So far this season he has installed himself as de facto first choice (or as close to first choice as it’s possible to get under Toonie Tombola) by virtue of playing the most minutes of any of Glasgow’s scrum halves. In attack he has 3 assists on Warriors tries (no-one else in the squad has more than 1). Defensively he’s yet to miss a tackle (although let’s be honest number 9s prefer to leave these dirty jobs to their back row!).
His main job though is linking the forwards and backs and in this role Mike has made 366 passes in his 297 minutes on the pitch. At 99 passes per 80 minutes this is far more than any Glasgow scrum half has managed under Gregor Townsend. Given ball in play time of around 50% and Glagow’s average possession of 55%, Mike is averaging a pass every 14 seconds when the Warriors have the ball! The physical effort required to consistently get to the breakdown and get the ball away is extremely impressive, even more so when you consider that he is the second oldest player in the squad. Mike is vastly experienced and, having featured in all 7 of Glasgow’s games so far this season, now has 307 first class games under his belt, something Ali Price and George Horne will benefit from in Mike’s role as a mentor for the young scrum halves.
Magic moment of the month
Mike’s assist on Junior Bulumakau’s try against the Dragons. The Warriors had just failed to score their 3rd try after a concerted period of pressure and the bonus point was beginning to look unlikely. Blair was quick to a ruck and, having spotted space in behind, had made his decision and was shaping to kick even before his hands were on the ball. The flight was perfectly judged, finding the grass behind the winger and as soon as it bounced the Dragons players were in trouble. Of course it took some serious skills from Junior to work the ball round the outside, keep it play and make the touchdown but the chance was created, almost out of nothing, by the quick thinking and execution of the former Scotland captain. That moment helped to seal the win and also got the quest for the bonus point back on track.
(Jump to 58s into the embedded video to relive the magic moment)
Congratulations to Mike on being voted the McCrea Financial Services Warrior of the Month for October!