THE disappointment and despair were etched on the faces of Gregor Townsend and his skipper Al Kellock as they chewed over the carcass of their failed final performance that ended up well short of what Glasgow were capable of and of what was needed on the night.
Ulster failed to score a try throughout the semi-final two weeks ago and Glasgow failed to cross the whitewash yesterday. They didn’t come close apart, perhaps, for one dart in the second half from Niko Matawalu which only resulted in a turnover and yet another series of Leinster attacks.
“It’s so difficult at the moment,” said Kellock in the aftermath. “It hurts to lose a semi and it hurts even more to lose a final. Credit to Leinster, we made too many mistakes and they were clinical. There were a few key points in the game where we needed to get the break. I believe we pushed them really hard. Although the scoreline was comfortable, if we get the right break at the right time we could have gone on and won that but on the day the better team won.”
That much was true. Glasgow had their moments but almost all of them came in the first half with the breeze at their backs and even then mistakes in crucial times let Leinster off the hook. Josh Strauss and Chris Fusaro spilled passes they could catch in their sleep and Sean Maitland fired one bullet straight into touch. Individually none of these loses a game, collectively they sow doubt in one side and boost confidence in the other.
“We will analyse that game,” Kellock continued. “We will look at what we have to do to get better. The emotion I am trying to force to the front is the pride at the effort that has gone in. What a two weeks it’s been, to win against Munster, the build-up, the fans when we entered into the ground were incredible. But we have to push forward. We have to get better. If we have to lose a final to win one next year, well, you would take that.”
His coach was equally phlegmatic in the face of crushing disappointment, pointing to exactly the same causes for defeat, the execution or rather the lack of it, although Townsend attempted to explain why his side failed to turn up on the night.
“We rushed things at times,” admitted the coach. “We knew we had to play our best game of the season to win and we didn’t do that. We had moments of ascendancy in the first half, there was a slight wind advantage and we played really well, we were breaking tackles, but on two occasions we got into the 22 we didn’t execute. We have been very good in that area, we scored three here just a few months ago. We just rushed them, we didn’t execute well.
“Obviously the try-scoring opportunity in the second half that led to a big breakaway by Leinster, if that had gone our way it could have been a different game.”
Coaches talk about “earning” the right to go wide and Glasgow never paid their dues at the coal face. Instead they were too lateral, too fast and loose with the ball in hand. There were times when the pick and drive up the middle of the breakdown looked like the most effective tactic but it was rarely employed by the visitors. It was one of the lessons that Townsend insisted his team would take away from this disappointment.
“There are lessons we learned from losing the semi-final [last season] that made us a stronger team. We’ve now got to a final and we have to handle the occasion better, the wonderful occasion, the noise from the Glasgow supporters. It was a fantastic day but there were times when we needed more control and have more patience in our play.”
Spare a thought for Scotland coach Vern Cotter who was in the RDS stands next to predecessor Scott Johnson and doubtless taking notes. Several of Glasgow’s walking wounded, including the injured duo of Chris Cusiter and Alex Dunbar, were booked on a 6am flight to Houston out of Scotland this morning, presuming their injuries allow them. The hurt to their spirits may be considerably worse than the bruises to their bodies.