Scott Cummings had his Christmas jumper in hand and ready to welcome the season of goodwill as he spoke in the aftermath of Glasgow’s crushing loss to La Rochelle on Saturday evening. But the 23-year-old Warriors lock was clearly still reeling after it seemed he had salvaged his team’s skin in the dying minutes only to have his last-gasp potentially match-levelling try ruled out for a red-card offence by back-rower Matt Fagerson in the build-up.
Fagerson’s clear forearm smash to the neck of La Rochelle’s replacement prop Dany Priso nulled and voided what was a well-worked “score” at the end of what was a poor match dictated to by horrendous weather.
“I think it was more our performance in general than what happened at the end,” said Cummings. “We believe we could have played a lot better and won the game. That’s what we are upset with.”
Clearly, Cummings was getting on with the business of ploughing over for a try that would have salvaged Glasgow’s now threadbare grip on participation in the Heineken Champions Cup beyond the pool stage, but he had no complaints.
“That’s just rugby and these things happen at times. Matt went for the fend and he just unfortunately caught him,” he said.
Even in the most dismal of December weather, Fagerson’s offence was as clear as day. Fagerson will now be subject to a disciplinary process for a competition which, barring a miracle, Glasgow are now out of. The degree of leniency highly-regarded English referee Wayne Barnes allowed in the last quarter of the match – eight penalties conceded by the French in ten minutes before a sin-binning of visiting scrum-half Alexi Bales – remains a debating point.
Glasgow skipper Callum Gibbins said: “You give five penalties under your posts then something’s going to happen?... Maybe he [Barnes] sees it a bit different. But maybe if we keep that ball in and the nine doesn’t kick the ball out [of the retreating scrum] it could have happened.
“I didn’t notice Matty’s fend [for the disallowed try by Cummings]. I thought it was a well-worked play, down the short side getting some good tempo in the corner there. It’s disappointing for Matty but I don’t think he was even looking where his arm was. But that’s the law, if you throw your arm out like that and click someone on the face it doesn’t look good.
“He’s gutted. Upset about it. I said ‘don’t worry about it’ These things happen. I saw him talking to the bloke about it afterwards and they were all good. It wasn’t intentional, just the way things go.”
The way things went leaves Glasgow on the brink of exit from the Heineken Champions Cup. Hooker Fraser Brown’s try after 15 minutes was overturned by admirable spirit and resistance from La Rochelle, with brilliant tries before the break by Jules Favre and man-of-the-match centre Levani Botia.
Dave Rennie, who leaves Glasgow at the end of the season to become Australia coach, wasn’t throwing in the Warriors towel just yet, though.
“It’s not impossible mathematically [to reach the quarter-finals],” he said. “But if you look at a couple of the groups there are two sides dominating them.
“I think it’s going to take a big number to qualify. Not only do we need to win against Exeter, we probably need five points. Who knows? We will see what comes out of the rest of the weekend. There’s no doubt we have to win the last two games to give ourselves a chance. We always felt that if we won five we would get through, regardless of bonus points. We’re not giving up.”