Glasgow Warriors: It's not where they wanted to be but Danny Wilson vows to give Challenge Cup their best shot

Glasgow Warriors’ European adventure will continue in the second-tier Challenge Cup, but Danny Wilson believes progress has been made since last season.

La Rochelle hooker Pierre Bourgarit goes on the attack against Glasgow at Scotstoun. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)
La Rochelle hooker Pierre Bourgarit goes on the attack against Glasgow at Scotstoun. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Results over the weekend conspired to eliminate Wilson’s side from the Heineken Champions Cup after they won just one of their four matches in Pool A.

Saturday night’s 38-30 defeat by La Rochelle at Scotstoun left Glasgow needing a favour from Exeter Chiefs but Stuart Hogg and Co lost 37-26 to Montpellier who leapfrogged Warriors.

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Glasgow will now join Edinburgh in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup and will have an away tie against a pool runner-up.

Glasgow Warriors sub Ollie Smith scored two late tries on his Heineken Champions Cup debut. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

It’s not where they wanted to be, but the concession of 90 points in their last two matches undid much of the good work from the first couple of games when Glasgow secured a losing bonus point in France against La Rochelle then beat Exeter at home with one of their best ever European performances.

“It will still be good to be in the Challenge Cup,” insisted Wilson. “But the top end of Europe is where we want to be. We don’t necessarily want to be in the Challenge Cup, but we will give it every shot to go and win it.

“We have taken some big steps forward this year I think, in comparison with last year. That culminated in a good home win against Exeter.”

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While Glasgow are in a better place than last season, the common thread, in Europe at least, has been heavy defeats at Sandy Park. It was 42-0 in December 2020 and 52-17 last weekend.

Glasgow had led early in the second half of that game and repeated the trick on Saturday night against La Rochelle when Ross Thompson set up Josh McKay for a try to edge them 16-15 ahead after Raymond Rhule and Paul Boudehent had crossed for the visitors in the first half. The lead was short lived as Warriors conceded 20 points in short order through tries from Pierre Bougarit and Pierre Boudehent, plus two conversions and two penalties from Pierre Popelin. There was no way back and Wilson was left to rue slackness from seemingly promising field positions.

“Coming out in the second half I was really pleased that we scored straightaway to get back into the lead. It was similar to last week and we should have springboarded from there. But ultimately we gave them two very soft tries.

“We were five metres from their line and it looked like we were doing something there, but the next minute we were under our own sticks conceding a try.

“When you play the heavyweights of Europe you cannot give them those sort of error opportunities. We scored 30 points and lost at home – that’s disappointing.”

There was consolation in the final minutes when Ollie Smith, on for McKay, scored two tries as La Rochelle had Gregory Alldritt and Dillyn Leyds yellow-carded.

“He certainly took his opportunities when he came on,” Wilson said of the young full-back. “He is another one we want to bring on. He’s not come through as fast as Rufus [McLean] and Ross [Thompson], but he’s in a similar age bracket.

“He is someone we are excited about for the future, but he needs to get the right exposure at the right time.”

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