Challenge Cup Final reaction: defeat is disappointing but not a disaster insists Franco Smith

"I think it’s unfair to say we’ve picked the wrong team"

Jack Dempsey was despondent after Glasgow Warriors' Challenge Cup Final defeat to Toulon. Image: © Craig Watson -
Jack Dempsey was despondent after Glasgow Warriors' Challenge Cup Final defeat to Toulon. Image: © Craig Watson -

FRANCO SMITH was determined to stay positive after Glasgow Warriors’ 19-43 Challenge Cup Final defeat to Toulon in Dublin, but conceded that the pain of coming such a distant second will be hard for him and his players to stomach, at least until such time as they get a chance to make amends next season.

“Very disappointed,” was the South African’s immediate reaction. “I think it’s natural when you come to the end of a season, and it doesn’t go your way you are disappointed

“Compliments to Toulon, I thought they were excellent with their breakdown at the beginning of the game, they stopped the set-piece well and took the three chances we handed to them. They also adapted well to a couple of head injuries.”

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

Super Series Sprint: Ayrshire Bulls book final place with win over 14-man Watsonians

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

Recognising that this was the second win-or-bust match the team has lost on the bounce, following their URC play-off quarter-final defeat at home to Munster a fortnight ago, Smith added: “Well, for one, I won’t have to motivate them for pre-season. It’s one thing to play to get into a final, it’s another skill to win a final. This was Toulon’s fifth attempt at it. It doesn’t come overnight and I think we’ll take a lot of learnings.

“We were unfortunate against Munster. We had a week off before this game and it’s hard to compete on two fronts.”

He got prickly when asked about his decision not to start Richie Gray in the second-row. “Everyone’s got an opinion on that,” he snapped. “I could have picked 15 other guys and everyone would have been complaining. I made the decision with the information I had. I think the players we picked deserved the opportunity. I think it’s unfair to say we’ve picked the wrong team.”

Smith had no answer to a question about why his team had started so slowly, falling 21 unanswered points inside the first 24 minutes.

“It’s something I will ask the players,” he said. “It was surprising because mentally I think we were in a good place. The first try, Baptiste Serin put that little grubber through and we always knew they were going to score one try from his brilliance and they did. That can happen. The next two, we were inaccurate at the line-out and handed them two tries. So we were chasing a 0-21 scoreline in a final and it’s not easy. That’s a lesson learned – we gave them two chances and they took them both.

“Execution in one-off games is very important,” he added. “In Europe, it’s much more clinical and the standard of the play is elevated in the EPCR competitions. It’s a short tournament and you don’t get another chance in the knockout rounds

“We have to be clinical but that has been a learning for the team throughout the season. This is season one for this group. This is not the end for us, this is just the start. It’s a stepping stone. Obviously we wanted to win it – that would have been the perfect stepping stone – but there are still improvements to be made in the main components of our game.”


Smith also had a few words of praise Toulon No 8 Sergio Parisse, who he played alongside during the veteran Italian’s first season in senior rugbyback in 2002.

“I’m really proud to have been involved with him. I was involved in his debut season, I think it was 2002, with Benetton. He was a 19-year-old chap, a young exciting guy, full of skill, like he is now, although he was a little bit more reckless with it, I suppose.

“He’s nurtured and challenged himself and looked after his body so well that 20 years later [he can enjoy nights] like tonight. What a gentleman. We had a quick word after the game. He’s a very important cog in the wheel at Toulon and he made a difference with his presence, his organisation of the lineouts.

“He is a fantastic man. I’ve always said good people make good players and he is a classic example of that. He can be proud he gave it his all and what a way to say goodbye to rugby. The ovation he got was fantastic – the world of rugby applauded him. But also to take away a win in the Challenge Cup final was very important and I’m really happy with him.”

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

About David Barnes 3959 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.


  1. At least Glasgow fans have progressed, have cause for optimism and know they have a good coach to take them forward. On the other hand, Edinburgh fans are being encouraged/pressurised into buying season tickets without a clue who their coach will be. The same sales pressure techniques were used two years ago when it was thought Cockerill was taking the team forward only for his departure to be announced later after the coffers had been filled.The fans were duped.

  2. Do get over yourself….it’s boring seeing the pathetic condescending attitude you have to people who aren’t Dodson Fanboys. It might have some traction if it wasn’t for the disastrous state you’re pal is pushing Scottish rugby into….compare n contrast with his Irish mirror on 1/3 the money…..Grand Slams….cups…beating NZ…. meanwhile we can scrape a win against Italy with a barely Scottish side that even Argentina takes the piss out of….other nations even 2nd tier ones now laugh at us….you and you’re ilk are like Comical Ai whilst our sport falls apart. Keep insulting and degrading people if you like….five years from now we are going to be hoping to hit tier 2 thanks to you and you’re pals.

  3. Hard to believe that people are making excuses for a Glasgow team that was mentally and physically weak from start to finish.
    Yes, Toulon have the cash, but you have to compete.

    Glasgow were beaten from the first whistle and making excuses for this abject performance just throws a cover over how awful a team and individual performance it was.

    La Rochelle showed today what mental toughness is.
    Glasgow simply capitulated.

    • “La Rochelle mental toughness”
      Yes indeed, but no comparaison with Glasgow.
      La Rochelle were Champions last year defending their title!
      A team full of international calibres (bench included).
      It was the first Europe final for Glasgow.
      Unfortunately it was a bad day/performance.
      But we have to be realistic, it takes time anf MONEY to win in pro rugby.

      • Complete comparison I think. Glasgow didn’t pick their first 15 of deploy the tactics that served them reasonably well. So many individual and collective errors proves the point. Those on the field lost composure. That’s free.

      • Sorry, but Glasgow’s squad was also full of international calibre players – who simply didn’t turn up on the day. So take that comparison out of your list please! The question is WHY they turned in such an abject, absent performance in the biggest game of most of their club lives?

  4. The fact that we’re all disappointed to have lost this and the Munster semi says lots about how well the team have come on this year. I do feel though that we’ve been slowly running out of steam for the last month or so. I like Fraser Brown but he had a shocker last night. I also think that 10 remains a real problem position for us – Miotti was totally anonymous at stand off and bringing McDowall in there isn’t the answer.

    Hoping we make some smart signings over the summer and continue to build on this really positive season.

  5. It was a hard watch. Lineouts were a shambles with a combination of overthrows or mistimed jumpers leading to 2 tries for them and another one disallowed. A dropped restart leading to another try. You have to give them credit to them for pulling defenders out of positions for 2 other tries. Scrum struggled at times and it was awful after Fagerson went off. Second half was better but we lost that as well. On the positive side all the subs (except the props at scrum time) played well. Steyn had a good game with a couple of decent finishes and lots of work around he park. McDowall didnt seem to do any worse at 10 than Miotti, rapidly turning in to the new Pete Horne.

  6. In hindsight I dont reckon Glasgow bottled it, to me it was Toulon had 2 or 3 exceptional players Serrin Olivier Kolbe, and Smith made an error by omitting Darge and Gray from the starting line up.
    No sure if Mioti good enough, (need to sign a top class 10) inexplicable errors (as stated above) Cancilliere coming in when he should’ve stayed out, Brown’s throwing, not taking the points (3) when on offer.

  7. A bad loss and a lot of poor perfromances from the players. I think Franco has to re-examine two of his principles: the first, eschewing the three-pointer to go for the seven. This is plain wrong, Warriors have a kicker who can kick eight out of every ten, an 80% success rate. Going for the seven has a 45% success rate and depletes energy. The second, loading the bench for second-half impact. Play your best players in the first fifty minutes.

    • This is a tempting idea but I suspect winning teams (apart from France?) tend to win by scoring more tries. We need more variety in attack, look at Leinster or Munster in their 5 and 2 metre drives for examples of that.

  8. I think Franco has to re-examine two of his principles: the first, eschewing the three-pointer to go for the seven. This is plain wrong, Warriors have a kicker who can kick eight out of every ten, an 80% success rate. Going for the seven has a 45% success rate and depletes energy. The second, loading the bench for second-half impact. Play your best players in the first fifty minutes.

    • I think you might have to go back to high school and relearn maths Disregard. Your own stats, assuming there true, suggest going for the try is the better option (by almost 2 extra points).

      I agree however that we should be taking kicks on occasion just to keep the pressure on the opposition (when it’s quality opponents). As those stats will be misleading when we are scoring tried for fun against the likes of the Dragons.

  9. A difficult game and I’m gutted at the loss. But let’s celebrate the progress made from last season, especially as Franco Smith wasn’t even involved in our preseason and we’ve had a rookie playing at standoff for most of the season. Roll on next 2023 / 2024!

  10. No disguising it, they choked on the big night – and anyone who says different is not being honest with themselves. Full marks to Toulon who were excellent, but dear oh dear what a shabby end to such a promising season for Glasgow – a performance strewn with coach-killing errors. Simply not good enough and what hurts most is the guys know they did not do themselves justice. in the modern game when early possession is vital, only Franco will know why he didn’t start with his head-and-shoulders best jumper Richie Gray and the ever-reliable Johnny Matthews at two. The lineout looked so much more secure when they came on, whereas it was all over the place in the first half – fuelled by Fraser Brown’s predictably errant darts. The key moment came with Glasgow attacking in Toulon’s half when a botched throw-in handed the opponents possession and they went straight down the other end to score that vital third try. There was no coming back from there. At this level you can’t go into a fixture with your third-choice – maybe fourth choice – stand-off if you are looking to spark some fireworks. Not the coach’s fault, but to have no specialist 10 cover on the bench was just plain loopy. One plus point – Steyn increasingly looks like an international class winger, but the Warriors need to recruit a few more quality players in the summer break to bolster the ranks and replace departing players. They are on the verge of becoming a great team and to reach a European final speaks volumes. This experience will hopefully harden them for next time.

  11. Glasgow have done really well this season but that was a tough watch and the game was over as soon as they went 21 points behind. Toulon are a good side but not a great side. They dominated the breakdown, disrupted the set piece and defensively picked off the round the back runners. Scottish teams struggle when you get down to the business end of the season and Toulon just had a bit more nous. You only get that by being in these big games so hopefully Glasgow learn from that. Big shout out to Parisse, what a legend.

  12. Sorry Sussex and TR, I have to agree with Scott I think they bottled it. Toulon sit 8th in the French top 14 behind Bayonne and Lyon , a league which is no better than the URC where we made the play offs. Toulon have some big name players but mostly from yesteryear, To pretend that they are top drawer European team would be bogging them up too much.
    It took Glasgow 30 minutes to make the first visit to the opposition 22, you can’t win matches from your own half.
    They lost 2 tries as a direct result of poor lineout drill not through any great Toulon stealing. Brown has previous for poor darts Turner offers so much more. Our defence was at sea for almost every try, so unlike how we have performed in the league.
    We saw Tuipulotu drop the high ball, Huw Jones fail to take a try scoring pass by taking his eye off the ball, Cancelliere playing schoolboy rugby in not keeping his width from Ollie Smith for another certain try . We failed to take the 3 points in offer on 3 occasions, failing to learn the lesson from 2 weeks ago, George Horne was again guilty of kicking too poorly and too often from the base of the ruck and when we did have the ball in open play I never once felt that the try was on such was the disjointed attack line. Our back row, which is normally World class didn’t perform.
    As many pundits are saying, the score line flattered Glasgow because they were never really in the match .
    Unfortunately the inconsistency is a failing we have witnessed from the Scotland team, world beaters one week then failing to beat the easier team the next week.
    We need to find a 10, and 2 props for next season. We won a scrum penalty with Fagerson then we’re almost sprinting backwards when he went off what is that about?

    • I am sorry I can’t let your suggestion that Top14 as a league is on a par with the URC, that just isn’t remotely factual in my opinion. I can only think that Leinster would be able to stay in the mix of the Top 14. Yes Toulon are 8th and Racing put 40+ points on them last week and whether Top 14 is wall to wall with ‘has beens’ what does that say, to me it says experience of winning.
      I haven’t seen the game so whether they ‘bottled’ it or not or whether the team selection was wrong, well the score line and the reports here and elsewhere suggest that something was lacking with the Warriors performance, especially in view of your suggestion they were playing ‘yesterday’s men’.

      • Sorry I think Leinster, Ulster, Munster the Stormers and Bulls would all be at the top end of the top 14. They have the grunt to compete in that league and they are miles Better than Brive, Pau, Bayonne, Castres, Perpignan, Montpellier and Lyon. We have found a way to compete against the heavy teams in the URC and I’m sure would not be relegated from the Top 14 either we just wouldn’t be winning it any time soon.

      • Racing put 40 points on the reserve Toulon team. Like Munster scraped past the Leinster b team.

      • George. Toulon fielded a 2nd Xv v Racing, focusing in the Challenge Cup as a T14 play off place was well night impossible, and you are right about the T14/URC comparison. Some URC teams might survive but there is no question which is the harder competition.
        Leinster won every regular season game bar one (when they sent a 3rd XV to SA). Toulouse and LA Rochelle are 1st and 2nd in T14, having lost 8 and 9 games respectively out of 25. Just a tad more competitive and higher overall standard

    • I would agree that the URC is on a par with the top14 and we shouldn’t use this one result to make a comparison. La Rochelle and Toulouse are a notch above the rest in the Top 14. Glasgow for whatever reason just didn’t turn up last night, these things happen in sport.

      I also see comments about budgets which may be correct but this was a Glasgow team almost completely made up of current internationals. On that basis they should be a match for most sides but it’s that lack of consistency and accuracy that always worries me about some of these players whether wearing a Glasgow or Scotland jersey.

  13. Everyone will have their view – and all Warrior fans are gutted – but some of the comments are neither informed nor realistic.

    Suspected that the wage bill and motivation that Toulon had would win the day for them. The occasion got to us, we were simply far from our best which is where we needed to be, and they rose to the occasion and played better than they have all season in the Top14, and that’s that. We were well beaten on the day. Nobody will know that better or feel that worse than the players….

    You would expect Toulon to play the situation better, in a position where they were familiar having lost last years final to Lyon and three more before that – we were in strange surroundings. Lest we forget, we lost semi-finals and a final in the Pro12 before that group of players won, it is part of the journey and we have moved a massive way forward since last season.

    Franco’s challenge is to keep that momentum going now and build to something better next season, but a great foundation to build from.

    Yes, gutted, but looking forward to next season with renewed anticipation which is a great place to be after the previous couple of years.

  14. No they didn’t “bottle” it. They played a side with vast experience in big European games who knew better than us how to manage a game of that magnitude. To accuse Glasgow of “bottling” it isn’t just wrong, it’s insulting to the players. No it wasn’t a great performance, but had more to do with Toulon’s excellence than anything else. A bit less small minded sniping would be refreshing. Considering where we were 12 months ago it’s been an exciting and successful season with more to come from this squad. Last night was disappointing but Franco and the boys deserve immense credit for the rugby they’ve produced this season. Looking forward to next season already. Pleased for Parisse. What a player he’s been.

    • They bottled it. Didn’t have confidence in their usual game so tried to force it by changing things around but couldn’t execute. Naive. La Rochelle showed belief in their game plan and didn’t buckle.

  15. Disappointing end to the season, and while it’s easy to jump to claims of ‘bottling it’, let’s keep things in perspective here. Given the mess they ended last year in, finishing 4th in the league and making a European final – during a transition season with a new coach who didn’t take pre-season – is a good outcome.

    The Munster defeat involved going down to 14 men for two-thirds of the game and McDowall having to fill in at 10 despite, never having played there… and they only lost that entire period by two points.

    The final last night was a poor performance but ultimately they were up against a highly motivated Toulon team whose budget is far, far bigger.

    Not convinced on the continued 6-2 bench split decisions, but the improvements Franco Smith has made have been immense. Some good recruitment for next season and things will be looking very tasty.

  16. Well, that was the classic ‘rabbit or rabbits caught in the headlights’?
    From the get go Glasgow looked way off the pace, the line out a total lottery and defensively we were falling off them all over the place.
    A very poor collective performance, although the captain showed his mettle and tried to rally his troops.
    The disparity in playing budgets between the rugby rich & poor was very evident in this a game too far for Glasgow. In the cold light of day, I suppose just getting to the final is a mark of success?
    Let me finish by saying, absolutely bizarre selections in the pack by Franco, and I mean really bizarre, in my opinion left us uncompetitive, especially the line out & breakdown?

  17. Could this be simply.put down to a bad day at the office?
    Brown showed why he’s not in the Scotland RWC squad, yes R Gray strangely remained on the bench for the majority of the game but Hen Broon couldn’t have caught some of the inexplicable lime out throws. Matthews threw a quite ridiculous ball later on too.
    George Horne is a a very good player but why did he box kick (poorly) from the start?? Hornes game control was/is questionable.
    McDowall coming on at 10 😶, I suppose both 1st and 2nd choice 10s are injured. Serving and Olivier were different class

  18. Poor team selection was evidenced by the the disaster that was the Warrior line-out. Another insipid under-performance points to weakness in the team which, after playing gloriously, collapsed at the business end of the season.

    Someone in the SRU seems to have had a word as are we seeing another Blair K project to convert a centre into a 10?

    • More deep thinking insightful comments. I believe Franco intentionally picked what he thought was a poor team so Glasgow would lose. So many great armchair experts who come out in their droves when a Scottish team fails. I personally would blame Dodson and JJ but then what do I know. 😂

      • No one said that but Darge and Gray not starting went against the grain in terms of best performances. It was a disjointed performance, which hints at uncertainty of the game plan?

Comments are closed.