“This isn’t the end – this is just the start for us”
The defiant message from Glasgow Warriors head coach Franco Smith in the Aviva Stadium press room last night.
He’d just watched his team fail to turn up on a big European stage. 43-19 the final score to Toulon in the Challenge Cup Final.
As I write this in Dublin airport, I’m surrounded by Warriors fans still disappointed at the result.
“We didn’t turn up”. “Hard to take but the potential is there”.
“We can only get stronger but I’m hurting I’m not gonna lie”
That hurt may take a bit of time to heal.
This was Glasgow’s chance. A chance for their first ever European trophy and for Smith and his players to write their names in Scottish Rugby folklore.
But after 20 minutes the writing was on the wall. Sloppy errors crept in and the players seemed spooked by the big European stage.
Their opponents on the other hand relished the Aviva stadium.
Toulon are a European powerhouse. Three time Champions Cup winners, but looking for their first Challenge Cup success after four previous failed attempts.
Even in the early stages – you could tell they weren’t passing up that chance again.
Try after try came and went as the Warriors resigned to their fate. A runners up medal the only extra luggage needed on the shirt flight back across the Irish Sea.
But for Franco Smith, eyes quickly turned to the future.
The South African insists the players will be stronger for the experience here in Dublin.
A squad with plenty of talent and youth that should only improve as time goes by.
For the few thousand Glasgow fans who made the trip the memories of their first European final won’t fade in a hurry.
The takeover of Dublin City centre on Friday was an amazing experience to be involved in.
Kilts, flags and warriors strips were the order of the day and the supporters were a credit to the club.
But make no mistake – now these fans have had a taste of the high life at the top of European rugby – they want to come back.
That’s the pressure Franco Smith and his players have put on themselves.
There’s now an expectation around Scotstoun stadium.
With Smith at the helm and the talented squad at their disposal, their experience in Dublin must not be a flash in the pan.
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