Glasgow Warriors ‘will return to Galway a stronger team’

Sila Puafisi: Ordered off. Picture: SNS
Sila Puafisi: Ordered off. Picture: SNS
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Glasgow Warriors will be back more determined than ever to avenge Saturday’s defeat by Connacht when the sides meet again in the semi-final, according to coach Gregor Townsend.

The defending champions came out second best in Galway and will have to become the first Pro12 team to win a semi-final away from home if they are to claim back-to-back titles.

The sending off of prop Sila Puafisi hampered Townsend’s side for the last half hour and, in the end, Gordon Reid’s try was not enough to avoid a first defeat in ten games.

In front of a sold-out 7,800 capacity Sportsground, Pat Lam’s side reached the last four for the first time and, with just one home defeat this season, they will be confident of turning over Glasgow once again.

But the former Scottish stand-off says his side will be back stronger on Saturday week as they seek to reach the final at Murrayfield.

“We will certainly be more determined. The winning and losing is not the key factor, it’s if we play close to our potential. We didn’t do that today,” said Townsend.

“There was a couple of areas, with discipline, attack and defence. The players are disappointed with themselves that we didn’t play to our potential. If we had still lost or got the draw, then so be it. But we know we can play much better.

“I think we have got a strong squad but I think the team we had today was what was what we felt was our strongest team. There is two weeks rest time as well, so two week’s preparation time before the next game.

“We’ve obviously got a couple of injuries that we will look at and we will see if Sila gets a ban. But I would imagine other players will be in the mix for selection for sure and we will see how they train over the next week.”

Tries in each half from Bundee Aki and Tiernan O’Halloran proved sufficient for the home side as they ended up with second place in the final standings – their best finish.

Warriors will be disappointed with their return in the first-half especially, where Finn Russell missed two kickable penalties and then missed a crucial kick to the corner during their spell of best pressure.

A better return from the tee and a more accurate overall performance will see Warriors in good shape in a fortnight.

“The game was very competitive I felt and the first 20 minutes we controlled a lot of the territory by the way we were playing in attack, and then we gave a penalty away in our half, they kicked to the corner and scored straight after,” said Townsend.

“Then we had a couple of opportunities to score penalties but also to score tries in the 22 that we didn’t take. So those things are going to have to improve, but then I felt Connacht defended really well and they did slow down our rhythm.

“We have got to look at that, what we can do differently to make sure we are producing quick ball. Second half, we are always up against it. Let’s not prepare for 14 men next time we’re here.”

While Alex Dunbar was helped off with a leg injury for Warriors, injuries will be a major concern for the home side as three Connacht props went off for head injury assessments during the game, while loosehead Ronan Loughney also went off injured.

They finished the game with hooker Tom McCartney at loosehead while Ireland tighthead Nathan White remains on the return to play protocols.

It is probably fortunate for them that there is two weeks between games, although Lam hopes Denis Buckley might recover from a broken ankle in time. “I was joking that some of our props would fail that test even if they didn’t get a knock on the head – it’s a tough test,” said Lam.

“Obviously there is the hope that Denis Buckley will make it back. He got some good news but we have to prepare that he’s not there.

“I’m not sure about Nathan. It’s a day-to-day thing so hopefully he’ll come into the picture. I’ll just leave that to the medical staff.”