Glasgow always hoped that they would squeeze into the European Champions Cup quarter-finals as one of the three second-placed teams but in their wildest dreams they can’t have imagined walloping the fallen giants of English rugby by a humiliating six tries to nil in their own backyard.
It was a performance that will have made every other team still in this tournament sit up and take notice. The Warriors must travel to reigning champions Saracens for their quarter-final in April but the English club also play on a plastic pitch and Townsend will already be concocting a surprise or two for them. Leicester’s woes are well documented. They sacked Richard Cockerill just weeks ago and, as one pundit suggested after Saturday’s performance, they might just have fired the wrong coach.
Tigers have been well below their best this season but the bulk of Saturday’s squad was still good enough to inflict the only defeat Munster have suffered since the death of their coach Anthony Foley.
No one saw it coming, least of all Zander Fagerson, pictured, who was asked if he had anticipated such a one-sided match?
“Not with that score, no,” confessed the Glasgow prop. “We came here with a game plan and we knew what we needed to do and there was a lot of belief in the squad. It’s been hard work for about five or six years and it all came together in that win.
“We always knew we could do it. We just needed a full, 80-minute performance and to keep them to nil at home was absolutely unbelievable. Phenomenal.
“I think it was a whole-team performance and the backs played their part as well. Our running game was class and we carried out our set-piece moves really well. We always knew they were going to want an arm-wrestle and there were a few physical encounters. They were bigging it up all week but I think our physicality won us the game.
“So, yeah, proud to be part of it, and a whole team effort. Loved it.”
Four of Glasgow’s tries came in the first half in which the visitors enjoyed the lion’s share of territory and possession. A lack of accuracy has undermined Gregor Townsend’s team in the past. Their game plan involves a lot of moving parts, any one of which can go wrong, but on Saturday the players were pretty much word perfect, running through a jaw-dropping 27 phases before Tommy Seymour scored the opening try of the match. He was followed over the line by Mark Bennett, who scored the best try of the match, but for all the eye-catching moves of the Glasgow backs, when the medals are awarded they will go to the big men.
Glasgow’s forward pack totally subdued their illustrious opponents and bossed this match from first whistle to the last.
The forwards earned the second score, a penalty try, after Leicester dropped their driving maul. Jonny Gray, Tim Swinson and Ryan Wilson all barrelled their way over the line.
It was a triumph, Fagerson insisted, not for 15 or even 23 men but for everyone who has contributed to Glasgow’s cause over the years.
“There was belief the whole week. We knew that if we did an 80-minute performance we’d get the win.
“I’ve only been here two and a half, three years, and I’m trying to contribute as much as I can, but I’m nowhere near some of the other boys.
“Pat MacArthur, 150 games, he’s been here ten years nearly, this is his tenth season. So it was massive for him. He was good at talking this week and making sure the boys got buzzed up and knew what a big occasion it was.
“It was bigger than the club. The boys who weren’t playing, the guys who have retired, they’ll have been pretty proud of us getting into the quarter-finals as well. So it was massive. Really enjoyed it.”
At just 21, young Fagerson is absurdly inexperienced for a tighthead prop of his calibre but, not only did he hold up the scrum, the big man went looking for the ball with any number of carries, one of which in the second half, a canny out-to-in angle, almost resulted in yet another Glasgow try.
“Yeah, I was chuffed to do that,” said Fagerson when complimented on his carrying.
“A few boys told me I should have passed to them but it was good. I feel like my ball-carrying has come on a bit. I enjoyed getting my hands on the ball a few times last week [against Munster] and a few carries and I wanted to improve on that this week. So it was good. Running hard. We played some good continuous rugby with quick offloads and stuff and they couldn’t handle that.”
Fagerson will have precious little time to recover and relax from his exertions because he joined the Scotland squad in camp last night and now has two weeks of preparation for a Six Nations tournament with the hopes and expectations of the Scottish fans falling firmly upon his broad shoulders after the news that WP Nel will miss the whole shindig.
“I’m not under that assumption at all,” he argues, without too much conviction.
“I’m chuffed to bits to be involved again for my second campaign and looking forward to getting into camp and seeing the boys and getting into the hard work.
“We’ve got two weeks till Ireland and, if I’m the right man for the job, yeah, I hope to be involved.”
He will be, rest assured, he will be.