Glasgow Warriors are charting the same rise that led to their only Pro12 title win of 2015, believe Pete Horne and Ryan Wilson.
Under Gregor Townsend, Glasgow were beaten semi-finalists, runners-up, then champions in successive years.
Dave Rennie’s Warriors were beaten by 18-15 defending champions Leinster in a bruising final at Celtic Park, where streetsmarts, game management and errors proved pivotal.
But Horne and Wilson see encouraging parallels between the vintage of 2015 and the talent emerging in the current squad.
“We touched on that, just saying there’s a wee portion of us that have been through that cycle,” centre Horne said.
“Under Gregor, we made a semi, got beat off Leinster, made the final the next year and lost that, and it made it all the sweeter when we did get there and win it.
“There are a lot of young men that will be all the better for that experience tonight, especially in the last couple of months, we’ve played some really good rugby, we’ve defended so much better, night and day to where we were at the start of the season. Hopefully next year we can come good.”
Co-captain Wilson added: “We said we were unlucky tonight, but we also said what a great group of young men we’ve got coming through the ranks.
“It took us two or three shots to finally win it [in 2015], so they’ll learn from this as well. We’re on the way for that, definitely.”
Glasgow’s blisteringly fast, off-loading style under Rennie has often dazzled, but his team’s ability to front up and live with the brutality of champion opposition has not. Warriors were hammered by Scarlets in last season’s semi-final and their Champions Cup campaign was disastrous. Sure, they could score from anywhere, but could they handle the physical oppressiveness of the continent’s biggest beasts?
The wheels threatened to come off this year when Glasgow lost both festive derbies to Edinburgh and again when they took an almighty pasting from Saracens in the Champions Cup quarter-final two months ago, but that chastening day at Allianz Park and the rollicking Rennie gave his players in the aftermath galvanized them.
Heading into the final, they had won four in a row, including a stunning win at the RDS, and scored at least 30 points in each victory. On Saturday, they were too loose, made too many fumbles and too many wrong decisions at crucial times. Leinster feasted on their mistakes as the great sides do, but the three-point margin of defeat shows the tightness of the contest.
“In big games we’ve maybe flopped a wee bit in the past. We got pumped off Scarlets this time last year, we got hosed off Saracens in a big game,” Horne said.
“We’re so much harder to beat. We were maybe a wee bit flash at times, we’d score some great tries – even in that Sarries game, we came out of the blocks and scored a great try – but we were just a bit soft.
“We now realise what it takes in big games. You can’t just score a worldie and then you’re not going to score 40-50 points and win 45-30 or whatever. These games are really tight and you’ve got to make it difficult.
“I feel we’ve been doing that recently. Our defence is so much better, we’re a lot harder to break down, and even when we’re not playing that well, we’re hanging in there and giving ourselves opportunities to win games.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now