URC play-off reaction: Franco Smith salutes Warriors’ resilience

Head coach says his team will fly to Pretoria for next weekend's URC Grand Final as soon as they can

Franco Smith says his Glasgow Warriors team will fly to Pretoria for next weekend's URC Grand Final as soon as they can. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Franco Smith says his Glasgow Warriors team will fly to Pretoria for next weekend's URC Grand Final as soon as they can. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

FRANCO SMITH is a man who likes plan. He believes that if you take care of the things that are within your own control then you remain the master of your own destiny. So, when he prepared his team for their URC semi-final against Munster at an inevitably raucous Thomond Park, he anticipated that they would face a first half onslaught which they would have to absorb, then take their chances when they came along.

So, you could argue that the match unravelled exactly as the South African coach expected, but the reality is that it is impossible to chart the exact course of a game of rugby. The key is making sure that you have got your preparation right so that you are able to react to the ebbs and flow of a game, as it runs its own course influenced by a host of variable factors, such as the opposition, the referee, the weather and sometimes just the bounce of the ball.

So, when he was asked after this match if it had all gone exactly according to plan, he gave a knowing smile and said: “What do you think?”


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“Mostly it did, but we turned the ball over too many times in the first half through too much eagerness and that led to penalties, which was a negative spiral for us.

“But the compliment sits in the way that the guys handled that period – with the yellow cards as well – we didn’t allow them points and that kept us in the game.

“You will have noticed that there is always a change after half-time,” he added. “Obviously, one tends to see what and where the nervousness in the team is and then we come with a plan to execute in the second half. I am grateful that the boys reacted well to what the coaching staff asked of them.

“Their ability to go and perform for their mates who have been off … with 14 men it is hard, someone else’s work must be done, but I’m very pleased that we reacted well to that.

“It was very tense towards the end but good to be a part of it. It was a great experience.

“I always believe in the saying that attack puts you in a position to win finals but defence wins finals so it was important for us to front up physically. The belief we created through that allowed us to back it up with some good ball-skill opportunities that were there.”

 

 

There were heroes all over the park for Warriors, and Smith was asked specifically about the contributions of man-of-the-match Sione Tuipulotu, tight-head prop Zander Fagerson and stand-off Tom Jordan (who was sent-off early on during last year’s play-off defeat to Munster at Scotstoun but played a key role in this famous victory).

“if I am going to start mentioning individuals I will name the whole team,” replied Smith. “They both stepped up to the plate like they did last week so it’s fantastic to have them doing what they do. But the whole team really stepped up tonight. I include the management, the medical staff.

“TJ [Jordan] is a converted guy. He reminds me a lot of myself when I played. I never knew if I was a 10 or a 12 so that’s maybe why we favour him at the moment. He applies himself physically, he’s a good communicator and I appreciate that he played really well tonight.”

Smith also paid tribute to youngsters such as Max Williams and Euan Ferrie, who came off the bench and helped close out the game, with big contributions in defence particularly.

“I think Scotland must be excited about that,” he said. “There are a lot of players coming through and that is important for the growth. You mustn’t compromise on results to bring young players through and with grace this year, we got that right.

“Max toniht was brilliant tonight and made some important defensive actions and he did his basics in the set-piece very well. Euan, in the 15 minutes he was on, contributed massively, so yes, that is part of the process to bring players through and not compromise the results.”

Warriors have not yet confirmed when they will fly out to Pretoria to begin preparation for next Saturday evening’s URC Grand Final, but Smith stressed that despite some tired bodies, that challenge cannot come quickly enough for his squad.

“We watched the first half of the [Bulls versus] Leinster semi-final. It is going to be a good challenge. We didn’t train this hard and work this hard to come up short. We’re going to give it a full go,” he promised.

“In this competition, travel forms part of the challenge, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse. We know that it is going to be challenging but we’ve got a plan and we’ll see how we can recover as quickly as possible and get ourselves physically and mentally ready for an important game.

“We will fly out as soon as there is a flight available. We have made plans – flights were kept – but we’ll only be able to confirm that tomorrow morning.”

 

 

Meanwhile, Munster head coach Graham Rowntree said: “It’s going to take a while for that to sink in.

“Hugely frustrating, you get yourself in a position, home semi-final and then the game got away from us.

“It’s about taking opportunities, using the possession and territory that we had. We didn’t take our opportunities.

“They got the tries that they did without having to do much, to be honest with you, it was just the freak nature of the tries and then we tried a bit too hard near the try-line.

“Credit to them, they were tenacious tonight, were Glasgow. I just said to the group there, we are saying goodbye to some big names who deserve better if I am honest with you.

“I am proud of how we finished the season, where we got to and the style of play.

“As I say, you earn yourself a home semi and it’s just frustrating, hugely frustrating.”


URC play-offs: Glasgow Warriors stun Munster to book Grand Final spot

About David Barnes 4029 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.

5 Comments

  1. Roundtree says: “…freak nature of the [Glasgow] tries”! Steyn’s was opportunistic due to a Munster error, but the Warriors second was masterful!

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  2. A properly coached, fit for purpose and focused team.
    Not often we can say that about a Scottish outfit.

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  3. After a being on the back foot for first 25mins Steyns try really galvanised Glasgow – determined, well organised defensive display with canny game management out-munstered Munster in their own back yard! Some sheer class from Jones for try and great finishes from Seb and Steyn. Have to say despite all the rivalry hype in media Munster supporters were very gracious in defeat – I can’t count how many offered congratulations, shook hands and wished Glasgow all the best for the final.

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  4. Huge effort, a deserved victory with prospects of saving something worthwhile out of a difficult season for SR generally.

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