Glasgow under Gregor Townsend have shown an abrasive, steely edge to their play. The corollary of that is, quite simply, conceding penalties. In previous seasons there has been some control to this side of their play such that, while the overall crime count may have been against them, the difference was marginal. This season has seen that focus diminished and on occasions disappear completely.
The raw stats do not look pretty. In 7 games the Warriors have conceded 76 penalties – however at 10.9 penalties per game, this is only marginally worse than the 10.7 per game they gave up across the whole of last season. The Cardiff game featured the worst sequence of the campaign with 8 penalties in just 20 minutes at one stage – that’s as many as they would have been targeting to concede in the whole match!
Penalty Magnets (click to embiggen):
Unsurprisingly it’s the front row that struggle to behave themselves although the back row are giving them a run for their money. The backs crime count is boosted by serial offenders Grayson Hart (seemingly carrying on from where Niko left off – in terms of annoying referees at least!) and Taqele Naiyarovoro. Special mention to Scott Cummings who has played 367 minutes without conceding a single penalty. He’ll soon learn…
What will be far more concerning for Toonie is the number of yellow cards they have amassed – 10 so far (compared last season’s total of 13 (+1 red), and 2013/14’s 11 sin bins – each collected across 30 matches). This is the highest in the league and has seen Glasgow spend over an hour short-handed.
The Sin Bin Sinners (click to embiggen):
So 4 from the backs; 4 from the back row; and 2 from the front row. 7 of the cards have arisen from individual errors with the other 3 being attempted try savers. It looks like Matt Taylor needs to work on some tackling issues now that he’s back with the squad – in particular timing and technique. At least after the Blues game, Mr T now has more tries for Glasgow than he does yellow cards…
A related issue is the 3 penalty tries conceded so far this season.
- v Connacht – scrum got mashed.
- v Leinster – Taq’s daft moment (although arguably while the yellow card was justified the PT was not).
- v Cardiff – Hoggy couldn’t manage to disguise his deliberate knock on as part of a tackle. It was the complete disintegration of the defence that really caused it though.
Taking these scores into account the Warriors have given up no less 84 points directly to penalty offences.
Why is this important?
Short of playing a team of 15 scrum halves, coached by Richard Cockerill, it’s hard to know how Glasgow could have done more to get up the noses of referees this season. Although penalties have regularly been an issue for Toonie’s sides the last couple of months do seem to have featured far too many soft ones given away under no real pressure in the middle of the pitch. This has allowed quality kickers such as Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell to get easy points or move up the pitch into good field position without their sides having to expend any great effort. Some of the yellow cards have come from simple desperation but the majority have been down to poor technique or a bad decision being made.
This is a particularly important issue as the Warriors head into their first Champions Cup game of the season away to Racing 92. In their 3 European away fixtures last season:
- The aggregate penalty count was 46-20 against Glasgow;
- 3 Warriors players were sin binned;
- Of the 4 tries conceded in these games, 3 were penalty tries.
In these sort of games the forwards need to front up physically and not be overwhelmed in the set piece or at the breakdown. Players need to trust the defence and not make panicky decisions to rush up or go after a ball that is already lost. Errors need to be kept to a minimum and the execution around contact areas has to be perfect.
Glasgow twice managed streaks of 6 games with no sin bins last season. Gregor Townsend will be delighted if the side can get through the next half dozen games while avoiding the kind of Christmas cards the Warriors could really do without.