THERE was a shock result on Friday night – but it wasn’t the one that Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend was looking for.
Ulster and Leinster saw off their Welsh opponents without too much ado. Treviso, though, stuck 41 points on the Scarlets, which must have been galling for Glasgow, who finished third in league for the third time in the last four years and must now travel for a Dublin semi-final for the second season in succession.
When the two teams met at the RDS Showground 12 months ago, Leinster ran out 19-15 winners, although the match was not as close as the score suggests. Jonny Sexton kicked four penalties before Rob Kearney scored Leinster’s only try of the match to give the Dubliners a 19-3 lead. Two late tries from Dougie Hall and Stuart Hogg meant the final score flattered Glasgow.
But the Warriors will have learned some lessons, including the need for discipline. In a tight match, Leinster were 12-3 up early in the second half without having to do anything very much. The same was true back in March when Glasgow lost to the same opposition on the same ground through the same lack of discipline. Playing with the elements, Glasgow scored two tries and a penalty in the first half but, instead of turning round at the break with an unassailable lead, ill-discipline had given Ian Madigan four shots at goal which meant at 17-12 his team was always in the hunt. Not one of Glasgow’s penalties was offering three to save seven points. They were not conceding cynical points, just daft ones.
The other lesson from 2012’s semi-final is that Glasgow can compete with Leinster but they need to start doing so from the first quarter rather than in the last 20 minutes.
Ospreys showed on Friday night that Leinster’s defence is as susceptible to quickly recycled ball as any other in world rugby.
Townsend still has a few selection headaches to contend with, although Tim Swinston did enough against Connacht to win his second row battle with Tom Ryder. Ruaridh Jackson was true to himself with a sweetly struck drop goal and some nice touches before the stand-off butchered a try opportunity when he misjudged a pass to Peter Murchie.
Townsend will probably stick with Jackson for the semi-final but Peter Horne offers the coach another option because the Fifer has blossomed under the new regime. He had one start last season under Sean Lineen but has already enjoyed 18 in the current campaign including one at stand-off. Horne scored the Warriors’ try of the season from ten, after stepping, handing and dummying his way through what looked like the entire Northampton team – twice.
“I played ten for a season at Howe of Fife and another eight or ten matches for Dundee in my first year with Glasgow and I enjoy it,” says Horne. “It’s fun, running the team. The coaches have been brilliant this year and I think I have been a bit more accurate. I think my defence has improved and I enjoy making decisions. I started against Ulster and have probably stepped in mid-match another four or five times.”
The problem is that Glasgow have to do something different to beat the three-times European champions in their own backyard.
Leinster beat them in Dublin 12 months ago and will be confident of doing so again on Saturday.
So what has changed since then to give Glasgow a fighting chance?
“I think confidence is high” says Horne. “We were delighted to tough out that win in Connacht after getting smashed by the Scarlets.
“We know that we will have to play some rugby to beat Leinster but our fundamentals, defence and discipline, are better than they were last season and our back three are on fire.
“All I have to do is pass them the ball and let them get their strut on!”
It may not be in the dictionary but you know exactly what he means.