History man Gregor Townsend glad to start new era

Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend celebrates their victory over Leicester Tigers. Picture: David Davies/PA
Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend celebrates their victory over Leicester Tigers. Picture: David Davies/PA
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It has been a long time coming but given the manner in which Glasgow booked their first ever slot in the European Cup quarter-finals it was almost worth the wait.

This victory has been many years in the making, it was built upon foundations of frustration, near misses and sob stories, and Gregor Townsend was keen to show that he studies history almost as closely as the opposition.

Back in November of 1998 Glasgow travelled down to Welford Road for a quarter-final play-off and left this very same stadium with their tail between their legs after losing 90-19, something Townsend was all too aware of.

“It’s a great end to the chapter, from where Scottish rugby started in professional rugby and where it is today,” said the coach, who couldn’t keep a broad smile off his face.

“Twenty years ago, Glasgow were losing by 80 points, ten years ago there wasn’t that much hope in the future of pro rugby with one of the teams closing down and the other two not doing well. Now we’ve got a situation where we’ve had a huge number of fans down here and the team winning. Edinburgh got a great crowd last night, so it’s been a brilliant weekend. A weekend we’ll all remember.”

The scale of this win masks the fact that just a few weeks ago the Tigers beat Munster on the same ground and are notoriously hard to beat on their own turf. If the home side looked a little leaden-footed it was at least partly down to the slick nature of Glasgow’s game plan, the execution of which could hardly have been better. They planted their flag in hostile territory in the opening play of the game.

“We definitely wanted to play, and the players drive this more than the coaches, as you know,” said Townsend. “The first action, normally we have a set strategy when we are exiting, and then we decided to play five or six phases and Finn [Russell] decides to take on the defence in the 22!

“The coaches beside me are saying, ‘what are we doing?’ but it’s not bad actually, it shows we have come here to play. When you get your rewards for that, when you see something tangible, a try, then everyone goes right, we’re going back to do the same again.”

And they did exactly that. Glasgow scored six tries, Leicester rarely looked like scoring. A record win for Glasgow in Europe was also a record loss for Leicester in this competition. Tigers coach Aaron Mauger was flummoxed when asked what was wrong with his side. “Err... yeah... no. I think if we had all the answers we would have performed better tonight.”