Glasgow came away from Dublin at the end of their RaboDirect PRO12 season with probably a similar feeling to Edinburgh at the end of their Heineken Cup run. There was unfinished business – and points – left out on the field in this game, and this game did not perhaps reflect all the progress they have made this season.
To a certain extent those feelings would be justified – two missed penalties and a conversion would have been very handy indeed on the scoreboard – but Sean Lineen and the team should be incredibly proud of how they have bounced back from last year’s poor season. For a while there the West coast men were actually doing what Edinburgh failed to do – campaigning on two fronts. And while their Heineken Cup run ended at the pool stage and they narrowly missed out on an Amlin place, their league form continued.
Perhaps though there has been an over emphasis on defence this season and you imagine incoming coach Townsend might want to work more on unleashing the undoubted attacking talents that will be at his disposal, men such as Alex Dunbar, Stuart Hogg and DTH Van Der Merwe. Neither Weir or Jackson outshone the other yesterday although Weir has the edge over the course of the season. Cusiter was outstanding though, and again we were scratching our heads as to why line breaks or quick ball are not a problem in the dark blue of Glasgow but seem to vanish when he gets into the dark blue of Scotland.
Their defence has been in the top two of the league – Leinster is the other – and they are very hard to break down. This was illustrated starkly on Saturday when Dunbar was binned on behalf of the team for repeated ruck infringements, and yet Leinster only managed an extra 3 points during that spell when you might expected that have been their move for the throat of the match.
Not only that but in that spell just before half time they were camped on Glasgow’s line for nearly all of it, pushing for penalties, tries and penalty tries. Glasgow clung on, but there is a determination to their play that is not as manic as Edinburgh’s scramble defence. After withstanding the scrum storm, they turned the ball over and cleared. The RDS was a little shell shocked. At half time Leinster were only 9-3 up, and this was markedly different to the pool fixture in Europe, by which stage they were out of sight. What happened to the bonus point by 35 minutes lark?
Glasgow came out expecting a strong response but they were more than up to weathering a Leinster team beginning to tire and make errors at the end of what has been an intensive season. They also earned penalty chances, but Weir was unable to capitalise. Sexton on the other hand was more effective from the tee and Leinster’s lead kept creeping away. You never doubted Edinburgh’s ability to score late tries when they needed to, but Glasgow build their game on keeping the scorelines close and taking that one vital chance.
Ica Nacewa though proved that he was the arch-exponent of taking his chances though, cutting through the defence and sending Kearney (Dave) over for the score that was to prove decisive. Suddenly the kicks all added up and Glasgow needed at least 3 scores to get a win.
Al Kellock’s men don’t quit though and they did indeed score two tries in the last ten minutes including a Dougie Hall run-in at the corner and a skillful wee grubber from Jackson that Hogg pounced on. Glasgow believed they might still have a chance, but even both of the conversions (Jackson got one) wouldn’t have earned them a win.
Sadly the clock thought otherwise; they were already in the red. Game, and season over.
Nearly men, again. All this with a referee in George Clancy who at times seemed blind to Leinster’s indiscretions but keenly aware of many of Glasgow’s. However, the debate about both Clancy’s quality and the use of non-neutral (in terms of home union) referees is one for another time, as well as the one about whether teams that are perceived to be inferior (whether Italian, Irish, Scottish, Samoan etc) are refereed as such. I will say this: the referee could have done more to police Leinster – Cullen in particular made a thorough nuisance of himself when he came on – but he did not lose Glasgow the game.