No trophy but Dave Rennie leaves Glasgow Warriors with a positive report card

Aborted season means lost opportunity as head coach departs for Australia

Exeter’s Stuart Hogg.takes on Kyle Steyn of Glasgow during the 31-31 thriller in January. Picture: SNS

So farewell then Dave Rennie, as his three-year stint at Glasgow Warriors is brought to a premature end by the coronavirus crisis.

An assessment of his time in charge at Scotstoun has to be viewed in a positive light, though he couldn’t emulate predecessor Gregor Townsend in landing any 
silverware.

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He came mighty close on that epic occasion at Celtic Park on 25 May last year when a packed house roared the Warriors on one of the great days of Scottish rugby outside the international arena.

A crowd of 47,128 witnessed Glasgow lose 18-15 to Leinster in the Guinness Pro14 final in the city’s east end footballing Mecca on a day when superstar Stuart Hogg’s last game for the club came to a premature end through injury.

Following Finn Russell’s departure to Racing 92 and Jonny Gray’s impending move to join Hogg at Exeter Chiefs it means Glasgow have lost all of their “Big Three” and face a period of rebuild under new head coach Danny Wilson once rugby finally resumes.

Rennie, pictured, who now heads off with best wishes to take on the Australia job, departs Scotland having distinguished himself as a sage rugby mind and a gentleman of the game.

In the last couple of years he has been overshadowed in terms of good copy for journalists, and in the majority of 1872 Cup inter-city clashes by Edinburgh counterpart Richard Cockerill, with whom he had a few subtle jousts. Which is no bad thing in the often cosy world of Scottish pro-team rugby. A bit of genuine rivalry is always a good thing in sport.

But the 56-year-old New Zealander was always generous and thoughtful with the media and, you would expect, will be a success with the Wallabies.

Clearly respected by his players too, with a notable comment to be made about the annual Christmas Day gathering he and his wife would host at his Stirlingshire home with the foreign players apart from their families.

As far as this abandoned season goes it was a case of a lost opportunity as the Warriors had battled to get into Pro14 play-off contention after long spells without the vast number of their frontline players who were on international duty (or rest) during the World Cup and Six Nations.

A 55-19 hiding by Leinster at RDS Arena in late February was an unfortunate end to the Rennie reign after a mid-season rally as Warriors recovered from a trying start to the Pro14 campaign during that World Cup period with a heavy defeat by Cheetahs in South Africa and at home 
to Scarlets.

In Europe, it was close but no cigar in the Heineken Champions Cup as Glasgow finished as the ninth-ranked side in the pool stage and a glimmer of hope was extinguished as sullied Saracens were reprieved of elimination from a quarter-final stage that would not take place.

Things got off well enough with an albeit narrow win over Sale Sharks, before a 34-18 cuffing at Exeter put Glasgow on the back foot.

A fine away win at La Rochelle was negated by a narrow loss in abysmal winter conditions in the back-to-back home return.

Arguably the best game of the season at Scotstoun was the 31-31 thriller against Exeter on 11 January.

An opportunity lost in some ways, but who can forget that it was the English side, and who else but the returning Hogg, who had the chance to edge a must-win for the Scots with an incredible penalty shot from just inside his own half which came off the crossbar.

The return of Pro12-winner and Fiji star Leone Nakarawa at the start of the year on a short-term deal proved a boost for Warriors fans at the start of the year but, after his sacking by Racing 92 following a late return from the World Cup, he wasn’t in shape to play straight away and then injured his knee soon after he did.

When Scotland forwards coach Wilson does finally get to see some action he knows he will have to work with a squad shorn of its brightest stars and, in the current climate, can’t expect any big signings.

A core of Scotland regulars remain and up-and-coming talents such as centre Stafford McDowall, scrum-half Jamie Dobie and now Scots-qualified wing Ratu Tagive are only a few of the diamonds to be polished.

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