SCRUM Web Columnist ‘The Pen’ gives his thoughts on Glasgow Warriors’ European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-final defeat last Sunday:
Sunday against Saracens signalled the end of the European Champions Cup for Glasgow Warriors but for me there were signs that this could be the start of a new chapter in Warriors history.
Saracens were just too good for Glasgow and their experience and ability was breathtaking at times. When you have guys with the skill and ability of Chris Ashton, Owen Farrell and the Vunipola’s, its clear that any team is always going to be up against it and especially at Allianz Park which is as close to a fortress as you can get. Glasgow turned up with their Trojan horse, but through a combination of mistakes, forced and unforced and Sarries awesome play, they left with a rocking horse that could effectively find itself out of two competitions in the space of 6 days.
The early warning signs were there and were it not for a combination of superb last ditch tackling and sheer luck, Glasgow could easily have found themselves 3 tries down as Sarries tore them to shreds. It was surprising then that it took until the 31st minute for Ashton to dot down. 14-3 at half time and given the hosts early dominance, that was somewhat surprising.
A sublime little chip from Russell 8 minutes into the second half found Lee Jones and his wriggle-ability and a couple of slipped tackles meant the Warriors had a try and on the scoreboard were back in the game. In reality, sitting in the West Stand, I didn’t think so as Sarries were clearly annoyed by their defence being breached and they pummelled away at the Warriors door before they burst the locks and flexed their muscle. Further tries from Bosch, Barritt and Ashton showed just what Saracens are capable of and the late score from Ryan Wilson was scant consolation for Glasgow.
The statistics don’t lie. While the territory and possession stats were close and fairly equal, Saracens blasted Glasgow into oblivion with others. The Londoners made 18 clean breaks to Glasgows 5, 649 metres to 246, 35 defenders beaten to 11… I could go on but one thing is clear. Saracens are European and English champions for a reason and to all inside Allianz Park they demonstrated what they can do.
What was heartening to see what the sea of blue that greeted the players as they took to the field. Anywhere between 5000 and 6000 of the Warrior Nation made the trip to the Capital and they made themselves heard loud and proud. It was a far cry from the days of Hughenden and Firhill and their contributed to what was a wonderful atmosphere.
So what now for Glasgow? Well as I sat watching the game I the glorious sunshine I was reminded in more ways than one of Glasgow’s first trip to the Pro12 final in Dublin 2014. At that time, Glasgow were a good side systematically taken apart by a ruthless Leinster side who were at that time one of the top sides in Europe. They were the Pro12 benchmark and their class that day showed how far Glasgow had to go if they wanted to be the Champions.
Fast forward almost 3 years and the club now finds itself in the same situation. A good side but if it is to become a great side they must make the next step up again both on and off the pitch. Of course, Sarries have a significantly bigger pot of cash to play with and that does make a big difference but they should be something we aspire to.
Allianz Park is a magnificent facility and I can only dream of the same kind of facilities at Scotsoun. A huge swathe of ground around the pitch with benches, plenty of eating areas and a huge foyer/concourse inside the main stand gives plenty of space for fans to meet and mill around. The club shop has a huge numbers of items from infant clothes and replica strips to golf equipment and leisurewear. At the end of the game the pitch is opened up to fans and adults and children alike are given the opportunity to play on the turf that their heroes have just graced. Even down to the Saracen Pioneers who are used instead of the yellow jacketed stewards we see at Scotstoun.
What I’d really love to see is Glasgow looking to Saracens as a model that we should aspire to. I accept fully that there are financial constraints which Glasgow simply can’t contend with but the club should be looking and learning from sides like Saracens and taking the best, most affordable ideas to continue to grow. On the pitch, while again we cannot compete with the riches of the Aviva Premiership, have been shown just how far away they are from taking a European title. If they should take heart from one thing it’s that Saracens themselves were once quite a distance from building a side good enough to win at Europes top table. Perhaps we’ll be able to get closer now the players have had a taste of it
Thanks to David Gibson/FOTOSPORT for the photo
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