Ross Thompson was the toast of Scotstoun last night after the 21-year-old academy prospect celebrated his first start for Glasgow Warriors with a man-of-the-match performance in which he kicked 13 points and generally played with the assurance of a seasoned pro, helping the hosts pick up a well-deserved against their great rivals.
Thompson’s only previous experience at this level was 10 minutes off the bench in the first instalment of this season’s 1872 Cup series a fortnight ago, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the way he conducted himself throughout the 80 minutes. The more experienced Brandon Thomson was covering the stand-off slot from the bench, but head coach Danny Wilson decided not to make the usual swap as the game hung in the balance during the final 20 minutes.
There was one hospital pass to Huw Jones early on, but apart from that, Thompson generally distributed the ball with accuracy and intelligence. He kicked with imagination and ambition, and even managed to halt a rampaging Fijian juggernaut in the shape of Viliame Mata with a courageous tackle midway through the first half.
“I was pretty nervous to begin with but everyone inside and outside me definitely helped,” said Thompson afterwards.” Ali Price [at scrum-half]was really good, he took over a lot of the kicking duties, and he just kept talking the whole way through, which definitely made it a lot easier for me.”
Thompson’s performance is all the more remarkable because the 10 minutes he got a fortnight ago was the first competitive rugby of any sort he had played in almost 11 months due to Covid – but there was very little sign of the rustiness we expect to see after such a lengthy lay-off in that cameo or during this match.
“Do you know what? It is just nice to be playing some rugby again,” he said. “I think I’ve only played 10 minutes this season so to get 80 is really good.”
Thompson also showed his maturity – and his common sense in keeping the big boys happy – by highlighting the vital role the Warriors pack played in this much-needed win. The Glasgow scrum was steamrollered a fortnight ago, but had the upper hand this time round, winning four penalties in this area over the course of the 80 minutes.
“The backs were brilliant, but I thought the forwards were outstanding,” he said. “Our scrum gave us a really good platform, and so did the maul, which definitely helped us get the win in the end.
“I think everyone is hoping we can now put a start on this season, and hopefully get a couple of back-to-back wins. We don’t know when the games will be played due to Covid, but hopefully when we do get a chance to play, we can get some more results.
Meanwhile, victorious head coach Danny Wilson was cautious about heaping too much praise on the youngster, although he did acknowledge that it was a very encouraging display.
“As a young lad to come into this type of derby game, he did well and his goal-kicking was really good,” said Wilson. “On the whole, he fired some shots and played some rugby. There is obviously still lots for him to develop and work on. But for his first opportunity at this level, coming out of the academy, it was a pleasing performance from him.
“For this group, it was important to get a win,” he added. “They’ve gone through a fair amount recently, but they’ve stuck together, and they’ve not stopped working hard.
“There were a few frightening moments there towards the end, but I thought we played well and were pretty dominant.”
It has been a tough start to Wilson’s tenure at Glasgow, but this victory has reinforced his faith in the team being able to battle. through the various challenges it currently faces in terms of Covid, budget-squeezes and injury, to be a stronger unit for the experience.
“I’m confident once we get some time together as a group, we’ll build towards something,” he said. “There’s just been so much going on, so we haven’t really had that yet.
“We’ve obviously got a lot of guys heading off now for the Six Nations, but this is a good win for us, and we need to use it as a springboard moving forward.”