Wrong to blame Waller for Glasgow defeat

Alex Waller
Alex Waller
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If you had predicted it back at the start of the campaign it would have been unthinkable, for the Heineken Cup’s two most successful teams not to make it out of the pool stage is a really big deal and it’s one story that has been a little overlooked in my view.

I always thought it was going to be tough for Leinster to create history this year and win the tournament for the third year in succession, but for them to drop down into the Amlin Cup is a huge blow.

It has been well documented many times before that the Heineken Cup is the only genuine focus for all of the Celtic League teams, it has been one of the reasons they have been so successful, their ability to rest players and target games, but for the champions not to be contesting for the honours at the business end of the season is big news.

It is no less of a shock that Toulouse are also missing out, with their huge playing budget the absolute minimum they should be expected to achieve would be a berth in the quarter-finals.

It goes to prove that it is becoming increasingly tougher to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament, that’s something Saints fans can take a little solace from.

It is no comfort for the teams that have battled through the Amlin Cup so far that two such big guns as Leinster and Toulouse are now in the mix and it will be interesting to see how seriously they take it.

My suspicion is that Leinster will try to win it and the focus for Toulouse will now be the French championship and they will likely rest some of their key men with that in mind.

The line-up for the Amlin quarter-finals could easily be the line up for the Heineken Cup; it shows how the Amlin Cup has gone from strength to strength.

The worry for Wales and Scotland is they have no representation in either tournament, it points to the argument from English and French clubs that the qualification process needs to be looked at as some teams are simply not at the level required.

That thorny issue has not gone away and promised to bubble up again soon; it seems they are further away than ever to agreeing a solution.

The reality for the Saints is that even if they had secured the winning bonus point they would not have qualified for the Heineken Cup, but it should not hide that their performance at Glasgow was another error-strewn effort.

There was plenty of endeavour and you cannot fault their ambition in the first half when Dylan Hartley refused to take the easy three points and pushed for the tries.

It was the right move, but Saints would not have counted on such dogged defence from Glasgow.

I always feared a sting in the tail from Gregor Townsend’s men and they put in the performance of their season to get a result.

As an ex-Saintsman, Gregor would have been delighted to put one over his old team, he was a much-maligned player while he was at the club and unfairly so in my opinion.

He never really did fit in to the cliques that controlled the club at the time, which was probably his downfall, but from one who played alongside him he was a supremely talented player.

Although plenty of water has flowed under the bridge since his departure it would still have been an incredibly proud moment for him.

It is wrong, as I have heard some people do, to point the finger of blame at Alex Waller for his late yellow card.

It was a really stupid thing to do and yes, Saints were in a commanding attacking position but that was just one mistake in a list of others throughout the game.

Waller is a player that has really impressed me this season; he has always made an impact from the bench and is very much a part of the future of the club.

He will have suffered more than any player in the aftermath and it will have been a tough lesson for him to learn, but the mark of the man will be how he reacts to that and I fully expect him to play in the LV=Cup this weekend and put in a big performance.

Full column in this week’s Chron