Could Glasgow Warriors’ battling win in France at the weekend turn out to be a metaphor for their whole season? Captain Callum Gibbins hopes so after a match where his side started slowly but found a way to force themselves back into contention and then come out triumphant.
Overall results at the weekend mean they are now sitting second in their Champions Cup pool, six points behind leaders Exeter Chiefs, who have still to visit Scotstoun, where they lost on their only previous visit.
It does, however, mean Saturday’s return match against La Rochelle, who are effectively out of the tournament, is a case of not just looking for a win but also a chance to to start catching up on bonus points.
It has not been a great start to the season for Glasgow, who have lost four out of seven matches in the Pro14 and were well beaten by Exeter in the away pool game, which is how comparisons to the La Rochelle match can be made.
Once Glasgow got stuck in in earnest, they were able to turn things round, showing exactly the kind of brutal determination that they will need if they are to produce a similar turnaround to their season.
“We were pretty disappointed with how we started the game,” said Gibbins. “They got quick points through pretty bad defence on our part but the way we took that pressure, absorbed it, then turned it into points is something that you need in competitions like the European Cup and Pro14.
“We’re pretty happy with that and hopefully we can learn a few things from it to take into the future.
“It got quite stressful towards the end when we gave them a few chances to get back in the game.
“They almost did – had it not been for a superb tackle by Ali Price. It was a tough game, the ones you like winning.”
To put it in context, in 24 years of trying, Glasgow Warriors have won only five games out of 21 they have played in France, and La Rochelle was as hostile and vociferous a place to play as any they have experienced before.
As is the case with many French teams, they are formidable at home, they have not lost to there to a French club since March, when Toulouse won at the Stade Deflandre on their way to the Top 14 title, although Glasgow’s win was their second home defeat in this season’s European campaign.
To have overcome that sort of environment augurs well for Glasgow’s resilience, particularly in the final minutes when they were under siege on their own line and refused to buckle.
“Hopefully we can learn a few things from it to take into the future,” Gibbins added. “The result is up there with the best of them for me, especially when it came down to those last five minutes and our defence was solid. That’s a crucial part of the game; I’m very proud of how the boys stuck in there.
“We had to rely on things we have been training and go back to the basics of the game. Things like good defence and holding on to the ball, I thought we did those really well.
“It probably could have gone either way at the end but we ground it out and that was the thing we were most happy with.
“It’s right up there as a result. It was a great place to play. As soon as we came out, you could hear the crowd was pretty intense and we know about their home record so the result is up there with the best of them for me, especially when it came down to those last five minutes and our defence was solid.
“That’s a crucial part of the game and I’m very proud of how the boys stuck in there.”
The important thing was that, once Price had stopped the only real scoring chance La Rochelle created in the second half, Glasgow were under pressure but never looked in real danger of conceding a try – that’s the level of defence that wins things.