They proved last week that they can score well to win games when they beat Wasps 31-20 in the European Challenge Cup at BT Murrayfield, and now they have proved they can guts it out as they came from behind to claim victory in the away leg.
“We have momentum, which is good for us, but Glasgow will be champing at the bit to have a go at us and they are coming off the back of the top tier of Europe, so they’ve been playing some tough games,” said flanker Jamie Ritchie.
“For us, they are not in bad form, they have just struggled a wee bit in the league. They are not suddenly a bad side, we need to come out all guns blazing. We have gained a bit of momentum. We are in a good place.
“It’s a bit of a cliche, but form goes out the window for these games because we know each other so well. It’s about who turns up on the day, so I think for us, it’s about preparing as well as we can to be ready for that challenge.
“They are always good games, we don’t really need any more motivation than seeing Glasgow on the other side of the team sheet. We’ve gathered a bit of momentum going into this fixture and we’re really excited for the next little period. The Christmas games last season, we won, hopefully we can do this again this year. “
This game was another personal triumph for Ritchie, pictured inset, who was solid at blindside flanker for the first hour before shifting to openside in a reminder of his versatility, getting his hands on the ball enough to make a real impact.
The important thing from the club’s point of view, however, is that head coach Richard Cockerill had gambled by making nine changes from the side that won the home game, and they still managed to come away from a match they could easily have lost with the points they needed. With so many changes, they took time to gel and it was not until they started to bring on the cap-laden bench that they began to get any sort of domination. They also gambled with going for tries when penalty points were on offer and they were still trailing; none of them worked.
It meant they almost left it too late before Jaco van der Walt brought them within a point of the English side with his first kick and completed the comeback from his second with 90 seconds to spare.
“Hindsight is 20/20. We wanted to apply pressure with our maul knowing that, if we didn’t score from the drive, we’d back ourselves to do it in the backs,” Ritchie said. “There were a few mistakes but we came close a few times, so there were opportunities out there which, hopefully we’ll take the next time.
“At the end, because we had a bit of time, and we knew that two penalties would put us ahead, so kicking those last two goals was the right decision.
“It was a funny old game. We made an awful lot of mistakes – that seemed to be the story of the match. Both teams struggled to get going. We absorbed lot of pressure, managed to keep ourselves within touching distance and we did enough to win.
“We back ourselves to be fitter than teams. We saw that towards the end when we did really well to keep them out. At the end we just wanted it a wee bit more.
“They’re a tough side, a good club with a lot of history and they have a proud home record – maybe not this season but certainly in the past. For us it was a great win, a gritty win.
“You gain a lot of confidence from being behind most of that game then coming away at the death. It is a real positive, despite our performance. We’re excited that we can win tough games and we showed that to ourselves.”