I’ve written enough pieces down the years heralding the final, conclusive arrival of pro rugby in Scotland that it’s impossible to be convinced by the latest version, represented by Gregor Townsend’s Glasgow Warriors.
The Warriors conclusively booked their place in the Rabodirect PRO12 play-offs for the second year in succession with a 35-17 rout of the reigning champions, the Ospreys, on Friday night. Three weeks ago they put 50 points on mighty Munster, the dominant team in Celtic rugby over the past decade.
A few weeks before that they went to Newport and marmalised the Dragons 60-3. They rattled off five successive wins with a four-try bonus point, beating the all-time league record.
The Warriors play with a flair and inventiveness that’s rarely been seen recently in Scottish rugby – clearly related to the way their head coach played in his pomp.
The Scotland team that re-established the self-esteem of the rugby nation during the Six Nations was largely based on Glasgow, and the Warriors have the national team’s brightest new star, full-back Stuart Hogg, in their ranks.
Judicious – and Edinburgh fans would say maybe disproportionate – use of resources has brought significant players in Sean Maitland, already qualified for Scotland, and Josh Strauss, who will be in two years, to augment the home talent.
The catalyst, however, is the Fijian Niko Matawalu, who has been a revelation playing at scrum-half and wing. His speed of thought and action have been instrumental in the team’s rise, and he’s simply the best fun to be seen anywhere on a rugby pitch at the moment.
But while watching Glasgow this last three months, even on their dreadfully substandard pitch at Scotstoun, has been a thrilling experience, I don’t think they’re going to get the title that would be a significant staging post in the troubled history of Scottish pro rugby.
Mostly because, dotted in between those stellar performances mentioned above there have been two losses, at Leinster and Llanelli Scarlets, which have been hugely significant and tell you a lot about where the Warriors actually are.
They narrowly lost in Dublin against a Leinster side which had few of their international regulars. They barely showed up against the Scarlets two weeks ago and were heavily beaten.
Those two losses make it unlikely, even if they crush former hero Dan Parks’ Connacht in Galway next week, that the Warriors will get a home semi-final in the play-offs, which is probably going to be crucial. Instead they will probably need to go to Dublin, where a full-strength Leinster will be waiting.
If they manage to win there, they would probably need to beat Ulster at Ravenhill. Even successfully tapping into that Scotstoun feeling on the road, two wins looks too tall an order.