Glasgow Warriors believe they are in the perfect place to change rugby narrative
The Scottish club enjoy a home semi-final for the first time and are looking to alter a sequence of play-off defeats
“It’s three years we’ve been building towards this. Everything is in place; it’s our task to get the job done,” said Ryan Grant of Glasgow Warriors during the week. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images
Tonight at Scotstoun the Glasgow Warriors have an opportunity to pen a happier ending to a frustrating tale of woe in this play-off phase of the RaboDirect Pro12 tournament.
On four occasions in the five years the present format has been used to determine the champion team, Glasgow have reached the play-offs, only to be thwarted. The most recent margins were miniscule, Leinster a frequent stumbling block.
This, though, is the first time they will play a semi-final at home and it should be noted no away team prevailed over this period.
The statistical runes are promising. The Warriors are on a club record, eight-match unbeaten league run and have won seven matches in succession at tonight’s venue, their last home defeat inflicted by the defending Heineken Cup champions and this season’s finalists, Toulon, in January.
Munster though have won three of the last four meetings between the teams on Scottish soil, including this season’s clash in October. The Warriors will point to the fact they avenged that defeat, convincingly 22-5, at Thomond Park five weeks ago.
Glasgow and Scotland flanker Rob Harley spoke during the week about how each side would derive confidence from the respective victories. “We played really well in that game. We showed really good patience in attack and we were willing to play through the phases until we got tries,” he said.
“The defence was excellent as well. There were times we were on their five-metre line and it was all hands on deck. There was one particular moment when the (Munster) number eight was reaching out and Chris Cusiter dived in and knocked the ball away. It was courageous defence. It is massive for us to have that under our belts.
“At the same time, I remember playing them here earlier in the season and how Munster were so physical. While we can take confidence from winning over there, they will be thinking the same about winning here. We have to remember how dangerous they are and the threat that they pose. There is no doubt that we need to really step up for this game.”
He doesn’t believe the history of coming up short in the semi-final is a mental millstone: “I think it is exciting. Playing in the previous semi-finals there was a step up in intensity from the regular season, so we know it is going to be all about the small details. The small mistakes will get punished and everything is heightened a little bit.”
Scotland, Lions and Glasgow prop Ryan Grant spoke about building towards this moment, how the scars of a couple of narrow defeats to Leinster at this juncture have made the team all the more determined. “It’s three years we’ve been building towards this. Everything is in place; it’s our task to get the job done.”
There’s no doubting the momentum Glasgow’s winning sequence has built or that the club, who took a chance in moving from Hughenden to Scotstoun in 2009, have been rewarded for their decision with larger attendances. With a capacity just shy of 10,000, there were just 800 tickets remaining yesterday at lunch-time.
Several Glasgow players have spoken about the importance of the home semi-final and the backing of a passionate support. Munster fans track record suggests there’ll be more than a smattering of red in the ground.
Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend has added value to the work started under the previous coach Sean Lineen in expanding both the depth of the squad and the quality and consistency in performance terms. They couldn’t be in a better place, literally.