It’s been a disjointed season so far for Glasgow. Players missing for the World Cup. Players coming back from international duty then leaving again. Injuries. Postponements. Rotation. Through it all thought there’s been a consistency about the Warriors in one respect – they don’t really seem to get going until after half time.
Leaving aside the Connacht game (which was almost a mirror image of the rest of the season – a strong first 40 followed by clocking off early 5 minutes into the second half) the multitude of players who have taken to the pitch have struggled to impose themselves in the first half of the other 8 matches played this season. Glasgow have only been ahead at the break in a single one of these games (Leinster away – which was ultimately lost due to some spectacularly poor discipline). Of the matches with no lead at half time 4 were ultimately won (against Dragons, Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and Treviso) and two more would surely have been won late on by sides with a bit more composure (Scarlets and Munster).
The men in black (and blue) have been outscored 95-68 in the opening period of these matches, before coming back to ‘win’ the second halves on aggregate by 104 points to 63. The Leinster game again stands out as it’s the only one of the 8 where the opposition have put more points on the board than Glasgow after half time. Even the Northampton game, which finished 5-5 for the second half, featured more than enough opportunities to put sufficient points on the board to turn around the 11 point half time deficit, but an endless array of errors in the opposition 22 put paid to any possible comeback.
The difference in tries scored is even more stark. The team have only crossed the whitewash 6 times before the break in these games while managing 16 five-pointers after half-time. This means the Warriors have scored 41% of their points in the opening period but only 27% of their tries. In the second half the side have appeared more able to go through the phases patiently and effectively, leading to numerous close range scores. Possession and territory also illustrate the discrepancy in how games have gone early on:
So what’s the problem?
Falling behind early on allows the opposition to sit back and can leave the Warriors forcing the game – which frequently is when mistakes happen. There are a number of possible issues that need to be confronted:
Lack of physicality. It’s easier for teams with powerful packs (and backlines) to dominate earlier in the game before their lesser aerobic fitness kicks in. Conversely the more mobile Warriors can sustain their level longer allowing them to come into their own more in the latter stages.
Unfamiliarity. As an example Glasgow have yet to play the same 9-10-12-13 axis this season. It’s difficult for these players to dictate the play the way that might be expected when they’ve not been getting regular game time together.
Rocket. There gave been a occasions in this run of games when the team have appeared to come out after the break having had the proverbial rocket up their backside. Maybe Toonie needs to consider giving them the hairdryer treatment as a pre-emptive strike before the game even begins?
Discipline is another area where the first half has been worse for the Warriors. 5 of the 10 yellow cards in these fixtures have been brandished in the first half. An even split may seem fair enough but in fact the long term trend in the Pro 12 is that less than a third of all sin bins happen prior to half time. Cards are much more common in the second half when players are tired and making more mistakes and referees’ patience has worn thin and repeated infringements are finally punished. Not for the Warriors though whose struggles put themselves under additional pressure by playing short-handed early on and allowing their opponents to get in front.
A nice bit of analysis and particularly applicable to last Friday night when the Warriors went fully 70 minutes without scoring (or indeed, looking likely to score).Never mind putting in a better performance after half time, if you set aside Finn’s early penalty goal, the team didn’t turn up at all until 20 minutes were left.
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Aye Friday night was like the extreme version of a slow start! Won’t get away with it against Leinster – absolutely has to be an 80 minute performance.
Yes Friday was a very poor performance. There were some glimmers of hope however :-
Alex Dunbar played 70 mins
Mike Cusack lasted 60 mins
Dunky W looked right up for it and brought real energy exactly when needed.
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