Glasgow’s defence of their Pro 12 title has not gone to plan with 5 defeats in the season so far matching the number of losses across the whole 2014/15 campaign. The league has seen a closing of the gap to the perennial playoff contenders (Glasgow, Leinster, Munster, Ospreys) and Connacht, Edinburgh and the Scarlets could make this the most hotly contested finish to a season ever. From Glasgow’s perspective it’s difficult to see them topping the league as they did last year but the nature of the playoffs mean as long as you qualify you’re only 2 big wins away from the title. The question then becomes how do the Warriors make sure they are still involved come the 20th of May?
Points mean prizes
Looking at the Pro 12 at the halfway mark and very crudely extrapolating that to the end of the season we arrive at a final table along the lines of:
- Scarlets 72
- Leinster 70
- Connacht 68
- Ulster 64
- Munster 64
- Edinburgh 64
While the actual final line-up may change it gives a good indication of the level of points required for the playoffs. This also ties in with the points during the last World Cup in 2011 which were an average of 4.5 points lower across the top 4 than in the following 3 seasons.
Glasgow have 26 points on the board so far and 12 games remaining, with half of these matches to be played during the Six Nations window. Taking a forecast points total of 67 as giving a really strong chance of making the playoffs the Warriors are likely to need to win 9 of these 12 games and collect 5 bonus points.
- Home comforts: the foundation of the club’s runs to the playoffs has been their home form. 5 of the 12 fixtures will be played at Scotstoun (hopefully!) and 5 wins are essential.
- Flat track bullies: the Warriors have generally been very efficient at picking up points when facing sides from the bottom half of the Pro 12. Away matches against the Dragons, Treviso and Zebre (8 wins out of 9 during Toony’s tenure) need to generate another 3 wins to ease the passage to the post season.
- Away days: That leaves one more win to find from 4 tough away days against other playoff contenders. In order of likelihood of a victory these are:
- Connacht at the Sportsground (where Toony has 3 wins out of 3)
- Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium (2 wins out of 3)
- Scarlets at Parc Y Scarlets (1 win out of 3)
- Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium (1 win out of 3)
One more for the bonus point
It’s not easy to target games for bonus points but the Warriors’ recent record gives some indication of where it is most probable that they will be achieved. The Italian sides have always provided the readiest source of 4-try wins in the Townsend era (8 in 12 games) and these 3 fixtures are the most likely to generate extra points. BPs are also more frequently achieved at home (exactly double in fact – 14 to 7 over the previous 3 seasons). Of the 4 games in Glasgow against Welsh or Irish opposition the Blues fixture stands the highest chance of seeing a quartet of 5 pointers being scored (it’s already happened twice at Scotstoun). Picking up at least 1 losing bonus point from the games against Ospreys, Ulster or Scarlets would round out the 5 BP target.
Fixtures during Six Nations period:
Sun 31 Jan – Ospreys (A) / Scotland players in camp
Fri 12 Feb – Ulster (A) / Wales v Scotland
Sat 20 Feb – Munster (H) / 6N rest week
Thu 25 Feb – Dragons (A) / Italy v Scotland
Sun 6 Mar – Blues (H) * / 6N rest week
Fri 18 Mar – Leinster (H) / Ireland v Scotland
Post Six Nations fixtures:
25/26/27 Mar – Ulster (H)
1/2/3 Apr – Treviso (A) *
8/9/10 Apr – Zebre (A) * / (tbc but this is the most likely weekend)
15/16/17 Apr – Scarlets (A)
29/30/1 Apr/May – Zebre (H) *
6/7/8 May – Connacht (A)
Fixtures in blue represent targeted wins. Fixtures with an asterisk represent targeted try bonus points. 1 further losing bonus point to come from the 3 remaining games.
Clearly this is just one possible route. An extra win reduces the need for bonus points and being more efficient with the BPs could see the target achieved from 8 wins. But looking at the fixtures remaining and what is likely to be required to make the playoffs this seems the most straightforward way of achieving that goal.
It’s also worth noting that for the same 12 fixtures the Warriors collected 42 points in 2012/13, 43 points in 2013/14 and 43 points in 2014/15 so this is not beyond their capabilities. Whatever happens it’s going to be an exciting end to the season and Glasgow are going to need to be at their very best to put up a proper defence of their title.
Picture courtesy of Adrian Henry. Visit Rugby People for more of Adrian’s fine work.