The Warriors’ RaboDirect PRO12 match with Edinburgh was due to kick off just after 6pm but, at 5pm, match referee Andrew McMenemy spent ten minutes testing out areas of the pitch with his assistants and, as the ball failed to move or bounce and the rain continued to pelt the ground, turning small puddles into a series of mini-lakes, it was clear that there was no way he could pass the surface as playable.
The weather forecast had said the rain would clear, which is what prompted the Warriors management to issue a hopeful tweet just after 4pm saying the game was on, but still the rain was coming down with the car parks cleared two hours later after the decision had been made public at 5.15pm.
Townsend said it was met by huge disappointment among both squads but he agreed that the match could not have gone ahead.
“I’ve no problems with the fact it’s not on,” he said. “We all wanted to play but, unfortunately, the weather beat us. The pitch inspection was planned for 5pm and he [McMenemy] said there was the potential for putting it back half an hour if the rain cleared.
“A forecast that came in said it was going to clear around 6pm, but the time he looked at it at 5pm he said he’d have to call it off. We understand that it was a big hassle for fans of both teams, but we were all hoping that we could play.
“We met as a squad at 4.30pm and spoke about how we would play in these conditions and we were focused on playing. So it is very disappointing, losing a game with our biggest crowd of the year. I’m disappointed that the game was not on but I’m not disappointed with the decision. It’s doubly disappointing that our last home game was off as well.”
Glasgow’s match with Treviso fell victim to similar weather conditions two weeks ago and Townsend admitted it was at times like these that he wished Scotstoun had an artificial 3G pitch like the one in place at Cardiff, who defeated the Dragons 21-13 earlier yesterday despite heavy rain having swept Wales over the past few days. That pitch still relies on a high-quality drainage system, however.
Scotstoun Stadium is managed by the charitable trust Glasgow Life on behalf of Glasgow City Council and its history as an iconic athletics venue has meant rugby had to accept various restrictions on moving in from Firhill just over 18 months ago.
Temporary stands are only permitted on a limited number of occasions to avoid damaging the athletics track and a grass pitch was laid to allow for athletic field events, which may prevent a 3G surface coming under consideration.
How much the past two call-offs end up costing the Warriors, however, with the rearranged league games now to be played either during a Six Nations weekend or during Heineken Cup knockout rounds in April – only Edinburgh have a slim chance of featuring in those – has yet to be established.
Townsend accepted that, as tenants, Glasgow had little control over the surface, but he has long been an advocate of 3G for rugby in Scotland. “There’s an issue with the pitch tonight, but there has been exceptionally heavy rain,” said the Glasgow coach. “I’m no expert on water tables or pitches getting drained. Yesterday it drained away very well, and we play in the west of Scotland so we will get rain. The pitch is better this season and has played better than last season, but we’ve now had two games off and that’s not good for our plans and spectators.
“I’m a big believer in 3G. We played on a 3G pitch this year at Cardiff. We enjoyed playing on it and I believe that we will see more and more of those pitches in the future. The work they did on [the Scotstoun pitch] in the summer had done much to retain grass and firmness. But, with 3G we could play all our games when we’re meant to play them. I see benefits not just for the games but also training during the week. We trained at Toryglen all week, and we have a 3G at the back.”
A 3G pitch can cost from £500,000 to £1m, and Cardiff, the Ospreys, the Millennium Stadium and Twickenham have laid or will soon be laying differing versions but, while they are proving to be extremely popular in Scotland as community pitches, increasing participation numbers and income, Scottish rugby and top-flight football have yet to embrace them for matches.