Challenge Cup Final: Glasgow Warriors come up well short against Toulon

Slow start leaves Franco Smith's side with too much of a mountain to climb

RC Toulon lift the Challenge Cup after beating Glasgow Warriors in Dublin. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
RC Toulon lift the Challenge Cup after beating Glasgow Warriors in Dublin. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Glasgow Warriors 19

Toulon 43

DAVID BARNES @ The Aviva Stadium

A PROMISING first season for Glasgow Warriors under Franco Smith ended in disappointment last night in Dublin, when they were bullied out of their first ever European final by a physically stronger Toulon side, who played with an intensity and accuracy that they just couldn’t cope with.

A fortnight ago, Warriors were daring to believe that they had what it takes to compete for silverware in two competitions – but they have ended the season empty handed after also losing to Munster in the play-off quarter-finals of the URC a fortnight ago.

They shouldn’t be too despondent, however, considering where they have come from. Smith inherited a rabble who had been humiliated 76-14 by Leinster in the final match of the 2021-22 campaign, so the general trajectory since the South African’s arrival in the west of Scotland last August has definitely been upwards – and there is no reason to doubt that they can carry on in that direction.

Certainly, there is enough international quality in their squad to provide hope that better days lie ahead, and painful experiences like this sometimes have to be endured before you reach the promised land.


Super Series Sprint: final spot up for grabs when Heriot’s host Stirling Wolves

Selkirk bring the curtain down of Kings of the Sevens series

Douglas McCrea reflects on Glasgow Warriors’ journey from wet nights at Hughenden to European finals


After losing Dan Biggar, their highly experienced Welsh stand-off, for an HIA from which he didn’t return on four minutes, Toulon raced into a 7-0 lead in the very next play when the excellent Baptiste Serin spotted a gap in Warriors’ backfield, grubbered through, then collected himself to dot down next to the posts.

Warriors full-back Ollie Smith thought he had managed to roll the Frenchman onto his back to stop the ball being grounded, but referee Wayne Barnes was having none of it and stuck with his decision to award the try.

Serin then slotted the conversion for good measure, but was off target with a fairly straight forward penalty attempt a few minutes later which would have made it 10-0.

However, it was pretty much one-way traffic and a collapsed scrum created the platform for another series of Toulon attacks. Some rash passing and inaccuracy in the contact area from the Frenchmen meant it took a while for the next score to come, but all that pressure eventually paid off when scrappy Glasgow line-out ball created an opportunity for Italian legend Sergio Parisse to score under the posts, with Serin again adding the conversion.

Straight from the restart, with 19 minutes played, Warriors finally flashed their teeth when Sebastian Cancelliere found himself in space on the right. The Argentinean winger sent a speculative kick back in field which George Horne managed to hack ahead, but the scrum-half then collided with Toulon full-back Cheslin Kolbe, and Gabin Villiere was able to get back to snuff out the danger.

Warriors were under serious set-piece pressure and it was another line-out malfunction which led to Toulon’s third try on 24 minutes. This time an overthrow was gathered by Charles Ollivion to set up a sweeping attack which took Waisea Vuidravuwalu to within a few yards from the line, and Serin then picked up and nipped over for his second try of the night.

Glasgow had a chance to get off the mark when they were awarded an offside penalty in front of the posts, but they opted to kick to the corner – recognising that they weren’t going to salvage this desperate situation by scoring in multiples of three points. They needed to score in multiples of seven, but lost the ball at a ruck a few phases later and remained stuck zero.

Another penalty kicked to the corner with five minutes left in the half also came to nothing when Zander Fagerson fumbled the ball forward as he attempted to pick up from the base just a few yards from the line, and on two other occasions they coughed up ball in midfield when the usually in-tune Huw Jones and Sione Tuipulotu failed to connect.

Warriors did manage to catch Toulon napping at a scrum on their own 22 in the last minute of the half, but they couldn’t make anything of it.

After winning a penalty on the deck straight from kick-off at the start of the second half, Warriors couldn’t control the line-out maul possession, and the pattern – with Warriors huffing and puffing but not really troubling Toulon, who were happy to give away penalties whenever it looked like they might be stretched, safe in the knowledge that they had the measure of their opponents’ line-out maul.

After Benoit Paillaugue stroked home a 51st minute penalty to make it 24-0, the French national anthem – La Marseillaise – began reverberate around the half empty Aviva Stadium, and Warriors miserable evening almost descended to farce when replacement hooker Johnny Matthews attempted a long early line-out throw five yards from his own line which was picked off by Ollivion, who dived over the line unchallenged. Fortunately, referee Wayne Barnes, after consultation with his TMO ruled that the French flanker had been in an offside position when the ball was thrown in.

Then, finally, Warriors gave their demoralised travelling supporters something to raise their spirits, when they worked a neat move coming back down the short-side of a line-out, with Ali Price feeding skipper Kyle Steyn, who stepped inside last man Jiuta Naqoli Wainigolo and darted home, with George Horne converting.

But any thought of an unlikely comeback were quickly put to bed a few minutes later when Toulon attacked off first-phase scrum ball, and Wainigolo powered through three Warriors tackles on his way to the line.

Nayacalevu was the next try-scorer for Toulon, but Warriors dug deep and made sure the final score-line was not too lopsided, with late consolation tries from Cancelliere and Steyn, before Ihaia West scooted over to finish off the scoring for the worthy winners.

 

Teams –

Glasgow Warriors: O Smith (S Cancelliere 66-76); S Cancelliere (A Price 53), H Jones, S Tuipulotu, K Steyn©; D Miotti (S McDowall 45), G Horne; J Bhatti (N McBeth 45), F Brown (J Matthews 45), Z Fagerson (S Berghan 45), J Du Preez (R Gray 66), S Cummings (L Bean 66), M Fagerson, S Vialanu (R Darge 45), J Dempsey.

Toulon: C Kolbe; J Wainiqolo, W Nayacalevu, D Paia’uau (J Sinzelle 31), G Villiere (M Bastareaud 40); D Biggar (I West 4), B Serin (B Paillaugue 40); D Priso (J Gros 51), T Baubigny (C Tolofua 45), B Gigashvili (K Brookes 51-72), M Tanguy (F Isa 56), B Alain’uese, C Du Preez, C Ollivion© S Parisse (M Tanguy 69).

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

 

Scorers –

Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Steyn 2, Cancelliere; Con: Horne 2.

Toulon: Tries: Serin 2, Parisse, Wainiqolo, Nayacalevu, West; Con: Serin 3, Paillaugue 2; Pen: Paillaugue.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 0-19; 0-21 (h-t) 0-24; 5-24; 7-24; 7-29; 7-34; 7-36; 12-36; 17-36; 19-36; 19-41; 19-43.

 

Attendance: 31,514


Douglas McCrea reflects on Glasgow Warriors’ journey from wet nights at Hughenden to European finals

About David Barnes 4011 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

13 Comments

  1. Glasgow have obviously been great this season and Franco deserves a lot of credit for that. However, it disturbs me when I read that he’s doubling down on his obviously-backfired decision to bench some of our best players for reasons that remain unclear. You can’t fall back on what the “data” told you – it was a call that he as the manager based on whatever info he had – regardless, it was the wrong call, and he should front up to that. don’t like the attitude of not taking any blame. Ultimately, Glasgow saved their worst performance of the season for the most important game, and that is an issue – we’re all fine with losing to a team with toulon’s class as long as they come and put in a performance with some determination and guts, but while effort I’m sure was there, freezing like that in a half-empty stadium is not a good look.

  2. Glasgow have obviously been great this season and Franco deserves a lot of credit for that. However, it disturbs me when I read that he’s doubling down on his obviously-backfired decision to bench some of our best players for reasons that remain unclear. You can’t fall back on what the “data” told you – it was a call that he as the manager based on whatever info he had – regardless, it was the wrong call, and he should front up to that. don’t like the attitude of not taking any blame. Ultimately, Glasgow saved their worst performance of the season for the most important game, and that is an issue – we’re all fine with losing to a team with toulon’s class as long as they come and put in a performance with some determination and guts, but while effort I’m sure was there, freezing like that in a half-empty stadium is not a good look.

  3. As I said before the game the lineout without Gray and with Brown would be awful – it was. What i didn’t expect was so little imagination from the backs. Overall a much better season than last year but can we compete with LaRochelle, Leinster etc no.
    We can’t afford Finn but letting Hastings go was a huge mistake. Both the Scottish teams lack a top class 10 and the recruitment strategy does not look good

  4. As I said before the game the lineout without Gray and with Brown would be awful – it was. What i didn’t expect was so little imagination from the backs. Overall a much better season than last year but can we compete with LaRochelle, Leinster etc no.
    We can’t afford Finn but letting Hastings go was a huge mistake. Both the Scottish teams lack a top class 10 and the recruitment strategy does not look good

  5. Unfortunate to concede so early and be increasingly on the back foot as match continued – nervy performance then exacerbated by having to chase game. Felt very flat in the stadium despite sizeable Glasgow crowd. In truth Glasgow just didn’t fire on all cylinders which they needed to do in order to win this one. Feel sorry for players having delivered a good season overall. As others have mentioned there are some areas of perennial weakness in the squad which need to be addressed such as depth in front row if Glasgow are really going to be contenders – a top drawer fly half who can control a game being top of the list in my view (no coincidence we had Russell when we won in 2015 / Hastings when we narrowly lost in 2019).

  6. Some great comments from you guys, I’ll try and find the positives from last night. We were in the final , we won the Scottish/Italian shield, we are in the Champions cup next year we won the 1872 cup and we are in a much better place than last year.
    Something went wrong from when we hammered Muster at home to when we lost to them in the play-offs. Munster managed to counter our 5 meter maul in the second game and we stuck to plan A as we seemed to have no plan B, we persisted with the maul instead of kicking points and Toulon did the same to us last night. We seem to developing an almost South African hardness judging by the injury toll we impose on other teams.
    We need Gray in the line out it just goes way better when he is there, Brown was as bad as he has been last night, Smith and Steyn were our best backs. Some of Miotti’s touch kicking was excellent. Till we get a kicking 10 we are stuck with Horne as the kicker hence his move to the wing when Price came on. A crowd of 31k was excellent last night. There was also an interesting comment from BOD in commentary last night that Steyn had phoned him for some advice about being captain. So where do we go from here next year , are we good enough to beat La Rochelle, Leinster and Toulouse probably not, but with some development and some new signings we could be in that second tier. There are a lot of surplus players around at the moment. We need a kicking B plan game and Horne and Price need lessons on box kicking.

    • You say we hammered Munster at home. Do you mean “away”? March 25: Munster 26 Glasgow 38.

  7. Awful nervous performance at the end of a long season but that can happen but it wasn’t just poor from Glasgow. The long season seemed to have created a distance and enui a long of whatever happens attitude in other areas too. Needed some 50/50s to go out way to build momentum. First turnover should have been a not rolling penalty against Toukon first score clearly held up but not reviewed Horne taken high when kicked through not reviewed. All went against us. Not a chance would have changed result set piece was abysmal but would have given the fans who traveled a real day out and a real contest. Grim

  8. There wasn’t the same sense of purpose about their play last night, and I’ve felt the season has been tailing off a bit since the very tight win over Scarlets on a rainy night in Glasgow. There wasn’t the same sense of freedom and even quite a lot of confusion e.g. the decision to take scrum after scrum just before half time.

    Thought Brown, Miotti and Vailanu were particularly bad in that first half.

  9. Given how many injuries Toulon suffered to some of their best players, that was a pretty horrific performance all round snd could’vebeen a lot worse. Getting sick of the Scottish rhetoric of “learning from these experiences” – looking at Glasgow, hammered at Saracens in Euro QF, by Leinster last year in URC QF, beaten by Munster in URC QF, lost to Leinster in home Pro12 final – how many more experiences of knockout rugby do they need before they are ready?

    Fraser Brown was appalling – and really can’t understand why he was given a new contract. For an experienced player, he never seems to actually use it when he plays this season, lineout was a mess, knock on in their 22, offers little around the park. Turner has his issues throwing in, but is a very explosive carrier and tackler which helps. Matthews on rich vein of form and try scoring, with pace.

    Extremely concerning players couldn’t adapt the game plan. Constantly caught behind the game line with obvious passes out the back, the only time we actually hit a front runner, Huw is thru but wasn’t even expecting the pass and knocks on. Toulon just drifted all day, never stressed. Lacked a kicking game to move us around the park – lack of quality at 10 is a concern (Jordan is really a 12, Weir is past it, Thompson barely played this season, jury is out on Miotti).

    Criminal dropping kick offs post scoring. Still not sure why we don’t take points for penalties in KO games, I know its not in Glasgows DNA, but surely in a tight game, build the scoreboard.

    Toulon had so many injuries, but never troubled them, which is the most dissapointing thing.

    Felt for Miotti with his little game time, however why on earth he kicked it with the clock in the red, 5m from the tryline, no advantage at a critical time we had to score, was crazy.

    Drop off at TH, for Glasgow and Scotland is so concerning. Gray, Darge and Matthews on the bench backfired badly.

    Positives – Dempsey is in a class of his own in that pack, needs to teach the rest of the pack his footwork. Steyn took his tries really well. Though Zander made some good carries from deep, recovered in the scrum against a top pack. Price had one of his better bench appearances, probably needed him earlier for some control.

    Kolbe was unreal, even if his is a wind up merchant – what pace! And hits so hard for a small man. Villiere was the same before he went off. Scottish young wingers should take note.

    Glasgow desperately need more depth in the back three / 10 / TH, not sure whats incoming, if anything.

  10. Glasgow learnt nothing from the Munster defeat. While I admire Franco Smith he got this one wrong. After half an hour it was plain that we could not win a line out and yet we still wanted to go for a mauled try. Toulon knew what was coming just like Munster.
    Richie Grey should have been on well before half time. Also again far too frenetic. We must learn to go through the phases and take the points on offer. At half time we should have had 9 points.
    George Horne is found wanting against class sides that is why he is not chosen for Scotland. He is a great little player but lacks judgement in this company.
    We were far too slack and two of the first half tries were given to Toulon. Why on earth did we through long so near to our line?!!!
    Leadership is another question. Kyle is a great player but captaining the side far out wide on the wing is too ineffective.

    Role on next season with a little bit more pragmatism please!!

  11. As an Edinburgh man I have just returned disappointed from the Aviva hoping I’d witness a first Scottish Euro win.

    I’m afraid Glasgow simply bottled it. They completely failed to turn up and I feel sorry for the players. They simply froze on the night and I just hope some of them get another chance to learn from this performance,

    The line out was beyond calamitous and I lost count of how many we messed up in the first half alone with tries given away directly from our lost line outs. How many times has this happened to a Scottish team? They scored so easily in the first 25 minutes and yet when we did have the ball we were so inaccurate. Toulon were good but we were terrible. The error count was through the roof with knock-ons, wild passes and fumbles galore. Hard to say anyone played well.

    Let’s hope players will learn from this and come back stronger next year.

  12. Congratulations Toulon, the only team that turned up for the final. That was obvious in the stadium as well, the pre-game cheering and flag waving from the Warriors contingent quickly had cold water poured on it.
    No point in starting the blame game, those responsible know that they badly underperformed and one or two in particular should hang their heads in shame as their actions directly lead to Toulon tries. Off the bench some of the subs such as Price, Darge and Ritchie Gray added some much needed urgency and possibly should have started. We also badly need a better standard replacement front row as the scrum was an embarrassment when Zander and Batty were replaced.
    Overall a spanking that we need to take the lessons from into the new season. However black the mood here in Dublin tonight at least we are in a far far better place than 12 months ago.

Comments are closed.