ROB HARLEY is typically self-effacing when asked about his try in the 2015 Celtic League Grand Final, which set Glasgow Warriors on their way to a 13-31 victory over Munster, to secure the clubs first – and, so far, only – serious piece of silverware.
“It was great, I remember it well, I think Leone [Nakawara] burst through about five or six tacklers and just passed to me when everyone else was beaten, so it wasn’t much to do with me,” he smiles.
The 28-year-old is one of ten players involved in that match still in the Glasgow Warriors squad – alongside Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Pete Horne, DTH van der Merwe, Niko Matawalu, Fraser Brown, Jonny Gray, Chris Fusaro and Ryan Wilson – and he believes that continuity will be invaluable as the side go in search of their second major trophy against Leinster in Saturday’s PRO14 denouement at Celtic Park.
“It is hard to judge those two teams against each other, but I think what we can do, and what we have got, is guys who played across both teams,” he says. “So, we have guys who remember the feeling of being in the final and having that big pressure game.
“Last time we were in that situation we managed to play well and were uninhibited, so we’ve been training this week to replicate that, making sure we’re sharp and hitting our stride on Saturday.
“It’s great to play in Glasgow. It was special for the semi-final last weekend, having built up a few extra stands and that bit extra noise at Scotstoun. The crowd was driving us from the first minute – they got engaged and excited and it pulled us through the whole game. So, I think that’s something we can look forward to again.”
With 211 appearances to his name, Harley has represented Warriors more times than anyone else, so is already firmly established as a club legend.
While the Hoggs, Seymours, van der Merwes and Matawalus in the squad tend to grab the headlines and capture the imagination of fans, the big back-five forward focuses on with the unnoticed dirty work which allows others to shine [with the notable exception of that try versus Munster].
It is a role he is entirely comfortable with.
“It’ll be about trying to perform the way that we know we can on Saturday, so we need quick ball to be able to stress the opposition,” he says. “We’re not afraid to play and, if we see space, we have the runners that can hurt teams from anywhere on the park.
“We know that we have the quality in the side that can win the title. We’ve talked about it all year and now we’re one game away. Leinster have got a lot of quality, it’ll be a huge battle for us, but it’s what we’ve been building for all season … as a whole squad.”
Of course, Leinster – who lifted both the Champions Cup and the PRO14 crown last season – have a few individuals of their own with a fair bit of pedigree. So, the key for Warriors is going to be in their ability to impose their game on one of the physically and mentally toughest teams in world rugby.
The Warriors squad have been at pains to stress in recent weeks that suspicions that that they have a soft underbelly are misguided, but the only way for Dave Rennie’s team to really convince us that they are more than flat-track bullies is by demonstrating in the heat of battle that they can mix it with the best when the live ammo is firing.
“When we analyse ourselves, when we analyse what we need in games, we’re always talking about the physicality in contact, the brutality in defence that you need at this level,” acknowleged Harley. “At this end of the season you have to put your body on the line and leave everything out there, so that’s what we’ve been looking at the last couple of weeks. It’s something we take pride in.”