Having reached a European final for the first time in the club’s history they had hoped to take the next step by becoming the first Scottish team to lift a continental trophy but Toulon were too good on the night, punishing Glasgow’s errors to win the Challenge Cup final 43-19 in Dublin. The loss followed on from the Warriors’ home reverse against Munster in the quarter-finals of the United Rugby Championship, quashing their hopes of winning silverware for the first time since 2015.
Captain Kyle Steyn bemoans Glasgow’s defending
While much of the focus was on Glasgow’s problems in the lineouts, the ease with which Toulon were able to score some of their other tries will be a cause for concern for Smith. Kyle Steyn, the Warriors captain, didn’t sugarcoat it in his interview with BT Sport immediately after the final whistle. “It’s pretty tough to process,” said Steyn, who scored two fine second-half tries as Glasgow tried to haul themselves back into the match. “We were a long way off where we needed to be in the first 20. Credit to Toulon but we were soft.” Waisea Vuidravuwalu was able to squeeze between Steyn and Sione Tuipulotu in the build-up to Baptise Serin’s third try and Toulon’s third which all but killed the game after only 24 minutes, and Jiuta Wainiqolo’s second-half score saw him leave a trail of Warriors defenders in his wake.
Let down by the lineout
The lineout has been a potent attacking weapon for Glasgow, with driving mauls producing a flurry of tries for the Warriors. Strange then that Richie Gray was left out of the starting line-up for their biggest match of the season and was only deployed off the bench in the last 15 minutes. By then, the game had gone. Gregor Townsend has spoken this year about Gray - at 33 - being in the form of his life and the lock has put himself firmly back in the international fold. Smith has also spoken warmly about the player’s contribution both on and off the park but the Glasgow coach bristled when asked about his decision not to start Gray. His side gifted Toulon two tries in the first half from botched lineouts and almost conceded a third in the second half, only for Charles Ollivon to be ruled offside. With Toulon also enjoying dominance in the scrum, it was a frustrating night in the set-piece for Glasgow.
Franco Smith is building something at Scotstoun
Never one to get too high or too low, Smith offered a measured response to Glasgow’s defeat in Dublin, noting that it took Toulon five finals before they finally managed to get their hands on the Challenge Cup. It should be pointed out that in the midst of this run the French side managed to win the top-tier Champions Cup three times in a row but it would be churlish to compare Glasgow to the galacticos-era Toulon who were able to spend lavishly to attract the world’s best to the club last decade. Smith’s methods are more organic and the work he has done in his first season at Scotstoun should be enough to encourage the club’s supporters that he is building something at Glasgow. “This is not the end for us, this is just the start,” he said after the game. “It’s a stepping stone. Obviously we wanted to win it - that would have been the perfect stepping stone - but there are still improvements to be made in the main components of our game.”