Things have moved on significantly since On Top Of The Moon last looked at how the Warriors might make it to the Pro 12 playoffs – in particular a tough run of results during the Six Nations has left the club supping at the last chance saloon. Barring a double collapse from Scarlets and Ulster it seems almost certain that Glasgow will need to win all their remaining fixtures to even have a chance of appearing in the semi-finals for a sixth successive season.
Target 1 – Champions Cup qualification
A win against Zebre should guarantee a place in Europe’s top competition for 2017/18 and remove any lingering chance of Edinburgh overtaking the Warriors.
Target 2 – top 6 place
Glasgow’s main rival for 6th place will be Connacht who have a pretty tough run in to the end of the season:
- Glasgow (A), Edinburgh (A), Leinster (H), Scarlets (H), Munster (A)
Wins for the Warriors in the club’s 3 remaining home games should be sufficient to secure a top 6 slot and take a Champions Cup spot on merit rather than through the back door of merely being the best of the 2 Scottish sides.
Target 3 – a playoff spot
Put simply the top 3 are out of reach. Leinster, Ospreys and Munster are now in their own mini tournament trying to nail down one of those all important home semi-finals. The Warriors now need to win every game and harvest a decent crop of bonus points if they are to see off Ulster and Scarlets and make the top 4.
- 5 wins + 3 BPs takes Glasgow to 69 points.
- Ulster are currently on 57pts and still to play: Dragons (A), Cardiff Blues (H), Munster (A), Ospreys (A), Leinster (H)
- Scarlets are currently on 53 pts and still to play: Edinburgh (H), Treviso (H), Dragons (A), Connacht (A), Ospreys (H)
Ulster will be expecting 9 or 10 points from their next 2 matches, taking them to 66 or 67. After that they have a brutally hard run-in to the end of the season, taking on the 3 sides who have been the class of the league in 2016/17.
Scarlets will be targeting 4 wins out of 4 before they take on the Os in Round 22. With a couple of big bonus point chances in there as well, Glasgow need them to slip up to keep the side from Llanelli within striking distance. That final match of the season will most likely see the Ospreys visit Parc y Scarlets needing a win to ensure a home semi-final. Hopefully this will be enough motivation for Dan Biggar and co. to see off their Welsh rivals – and potentially do the Warriors a favour in the process.
The remaining home games all have a solid history under Gregor Townsend with only 1 defeat in 12 attempts (and that was in the ‘not-at-home’ home fixture played at Murrayfield). It will be the away matches which will present the biggest obstacle to the Warriors’ ambitions. Toony’s men have only managed 1 win in 10 trips to Thomond Park and the RDS. It will take something special for Glasgow to achieve an Irish double in the closing rounds.
Toony’s track record:
- Connacht home – 4 wins, 0 losses, 2 try BPs
- Munster away – 1 win, 3 losses, 0 try BPs
- Zebre home – 4 wins, 0 losses, 3 try BPs
- Leinster away – 0 wins, 1 draw, 5 losses, 1 try BP
- Edinburgh home – 3 wins, 1 loss (played at Murrayfield), 1 try BP
Champions Cup duties:
For the first time since 2006/07 Glasgow will have to balance post Six Nations action in 2 competitions. A week that might traditionally have been used to rest Scotland players coming off an intense 2 months of rugby is now taken up by one of the biggest matches in the club’s history. Practically speaking that means players like Jonny Gray, Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg could miss the Connacht game – and it’s possible they may not play against Munster either.
The route to the playoffs
Putting all this together gives a target fixture list that looks like this:
Sat 25 Mar – Connacht (H) *
Sat 8 Apr – Munster (A)
Fri 14 Apr – Zebre (H) *
28/29/30 Apr – Leinster (A)
Sat 6 May – Edinburgh (H) *
Matches in blue represent targeted wins, those with an asterisk represent targeted try bonus points. (NB this would give a total of 23 points for these 5 games, compared with the 12 won from the same fixtures last season.)
This would be a hugely testing schedule even without European action to contend with but as it stands there may well need to be a prioritisation of the Champions Cup. In some ways though the current situation does allow the coaching staff to keep things simple. Knock out rugby starts this Friday against Connacht and runs to the end of the season. There are no more second chances. The Warriors just have to go out and win!