Sione Tuipulotu and Glasgow Warriors down in dumps despite silverware - 'at least we won one of the derbies'

Warriors know the importance of picking up vital URC points

The almost sheepish way in which Sione Tuipulotu lifted the 1872 Cup at Murrayfield on Saturday told its own story about Glasgow Warriors and their priorities this season. Their head coach Franco Smith spoke after the match about his players savouring the moment after retaining the trophy following another aggregate victory over Edinburgh, but the half-hearted celebrations and Tuipulotu’s subsequent downbeat demeanour did not suggest an open-top bus tour of Glasgow’s west end would be happening any time soon.

Edinburgh lost the trophy but won the match to enhance their own United Rugby Championship playoff credentials, something their rivals had clearly prioritised, too. A second successive derby win would have sent Glasgow shooting back to the top of the log and, although the manufactured hype over the derby rivalry undoubtedly helped entice more than 37,000 to leave their homes on a bitterly cold afternoon to traipse out to the national stadium, it is points rather than prizes that clearly mean more to the players at this point of the campaign.

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“In a weird way, we didn’t come to the ground to win the 1872 Cup, we came to win the game,” admitted Tuipulotu. “Full credit to Edinburgh for what they put out and they took some joy away from us heading into New Years. We came here to kick on with our season and we’ve got bigger dreams than to win the 1872 Cup. It’s nice to get a trophy early in the season but we are chasing something bigger.”

Glasgow Warriors' Sione Tuipulotu with the 1872 cup at full time.Glasgow Warriors' Sione Tuipulotu with the 1872 cup at full time.
Glasgow Warriors' Sione Tuipulotu with the 1872 cup at full time.

Glasgow looked to have sealed another derby win when Tuipulotu teed up Stafford McDowall to power over the line only for Edinburgh to respond with the try of the day, Darcy Graham feeding Duhan van der Merwe to burst 70 metres down the wing to score. “That’s sometimes rugby,” added Tuipulotu. “You play against these special players, we limit them for 150 minutes but then they get one turnover and go the length. That’s ultimately what the game came down to, some individual brilliance from two really good players, who we have loads of respect for - especially the guys from Scotland.”

Smith has spoken repeatedly about the need for squad depth and an injury list longer than most people’s New Year resolutions underlines just why. A serious knee injury sustained by Rory Darge sees him join the likes of Jack Dempsey, Matt Fagerson, Sione Vailanu, Kyle Steyn, Jamie Dobie and Sebastian Cancelliere in the Scotstoun treatment room.

“It’s been quite crazy,” added Tuipulotu, again deputising for Steyn as captain. “If you look at our supposed strongest 23 then there are loads of guys who are injured from that list. It’s part of the game and we were actually quite lucky with injuries last year. It’s been the other side of the coin this year but that’s just how it is when you play a contact sport. We can’t bring guys back faster when they’re injured and I’m really proud of the guys who’ve stepped up. Guys like Ally Miller, Kyle Rowe and Ben Afshar really hold the club together.”

The other positive for Celtic fan Tuipulotu was seeing his favourites win the Old Firm match earlier in the day. “We had that on before we got on the bus – at least we won one of the derbies,” he added.