Challenge Cup: Franco Smith says reaching first final ‘means a lot’ for Glasgow Warriors

David Skippers
Franco Smith Glasgow Warriors v Scarlets Challenge Cup 2023 - PA.jpg

Glasgow Warriors boss Franco Smith was proud after the club reached their first European final courtesy of a 35-17 triumph over the Scarlets in Saturday’s Challenge Cup semi-final in Llanelli.

The Warriors are set to face the winner of the other semi-final between Toulon and Benetton in Dublin on May 19.

Deserved winners

As the scoreline suggests, Smith‘s charges were deserved winners as a brace of tries from Stafford McDowall and further five-pointers from George Horne, Rory Darge and Johnny Matthews helped them to seal their spot in the showpiece event.

Horne finished with a 15-point haul after slotting five conversions as the Warriors came back from a 14-7 half-time deficit.

“It means a lot to them. Everyone is very excited around that,” Glasgow head coach Smith said.

“But we know there are still a lot of learnings to take from this, a lot of improvement to be made. We have the ability, we have the skillset – we just need to now use the lessons learnt from this week better.

“The talk at half-time was about settling down. Even some of our internationals were just a little bit too nervous, which shows what this means to them.

“They didn’t want to lose tonight, and I thought we started off so well, but we got a little bit jittery.

“We calmed it down at half-time. The plan didn’t change. The plan was specific for this week and I thought we stuck to that even though Scarlets did extremely well to unsettle us and rattle us.

“Their line-speed from a defence perspective was very good, and we didn’t manage to get out of our half for various reasons, but it was important to show some resilience before the end.

“It’s about managing the emotional intelligence during the game and going into the next big challenge.”

Glasgow will now turn their focus to a United Rugby Championship quarter-final at Scotstoun against Munster on Saturday, while the Scarlets’ season has come to an end.

Steff Evans scored the Welsh region’s only try against Glasgow with their other points coming via the boot of Sam Costelow, who succeeded with four penalties.

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said: “I thought at half-time it was an even contest and we were right in it.

“We just didn’t manage to get over the line in their 22. They held us out, and we shifted the ball to the edge but got bundled into touch twice, which is disappointing.

“I can’t fault the effort of our boys. I thought we were right in the game.

Injuries proved costly

“We had three head injury assessments in the first 20 minutes, which is unheard of really. To lose all three, and then to lose Vaea Fifita as well is difficult.

“I think that definitely hurt us later on in the game, because they were bringing on fresh bodies and we didn’t manage to get the fresh legs on.

“But in saying that, I thought they did a job in the areas we thought. They were strong in set-piece and they managed to grind that one out in that respect.”

READ MORE: Challenge Cup: Glasgow Warriors’ stunning second half sees off Scarlets in semi-final clash