EVERY team that ends up on the losing side in a final experiences disappointment and frustration, but what made those emotions all the more keenly felt for Dave Rennie was the fact his Glasgow Warriors side lost by only three points despite playing some way below their best. The head coach had seen his team excel in some recent games, and was convinced that – even allowing for the fact that Leinster are more formidable opponents than the likes of Edinburgh and Ulster – something close to that level would have seen them lift their second PRO14 title.
Instead, they went down 18-15, with Rennie insisting that his team had left several chances out there against the defending champions. “The disappointing thing from our point of view is that we could have played a lot better, because we only lost by three,” he said. “We’ve played a lot better footy than that over the last month – we just made too many errors.
“Leinster defended really well. I thought we had some opportunities that we didn’t take, and they’re pretty good at strangling the game. You’ve got to give Leinster credit: they kept coming at us and they nullified us. Our big men gave us some pretty good go-forward around the edges, but maybe we overdid it going through the middle at times. We handed them the ball eight or nine times tonight and you can’t afford to do that in a final.”
The most controversial moment in the final at Celtic Park came when Stuart Hogg, playing his final game for Glasgow before joining Exeter, was taken out in the air by Rob Kearney. The Scotland full-back’s head hit the deck, perhaps a fraction of a second after his arm, and he was unable to play on. Such incidents have often resulted in a red card in the past, but Rennie was unwilling to make a big issue of the incident.
“These decisions seem different every time you see a game,” the coach continued. “I guess the telling thing from that was that we lost Hoggy from that incident. The officials saw it as a yellow. We’ll have to live with that and no doubt there will be more debate about it.
“One week it’s a red, one week it’s a yellow, one week the ref says play on. It certainly had an impact on Hoggy. Nigel [Owens, the referee] and his officials clearly thought a yellow was satisfactory.
“He got ruled out immediately, before he got off the ground. He had a loss of vision and felt he was going to spew, so the match doctor and our doctor ruled him out immediately. I think if we had played better we might have seen him bow out in a better manner.”
Fraser Brown also went off injured having damaged an ankle – “not sure of the extent of that,” Rennie added – while Sam Johnson injured a leg. “It was a pretty physical encounter and we had a few boys sitting in the injury ward at the end of it.”
Leinster coach Leo Cullen was a little relieved to have ended up on the winning side, but also proud of the way in which his team had recovered from their defeat by Saracens in the Champions Cup final a fortnight earlier. “It wasn’t the prettiest of games, maybe,” he said. “I thought the players have applied themselves unbelievably well over the last couple of weeks after losing a final.
“I thought we had some chances early on, didn’t quite finish them. Glasgow came into the game and were very strong. From 7-0 [down] it was a big moment: we hit back straight away, then we had a period when we were in the ascendancy. We were able to manage that period quite well, and with the conditions the way they were it was going to be hard chasing the game. For most of the second half I thought we played the territory game pretty well.
“The yellow card to Rob [Kearney] could have been costly to us. When he’s chasing his eyes are on the ball, you have a collision in the air, and you have to deal with the consequences of what the referee deemed on the day
“I thought there were two teams going fully committed at the game. You could see how tight it was.”