Hogg: ‘Saracens gave us the kick up the backside we needed’

Dave Kearney of Leinster on his way to scoring his side's first try despite the tackle of Stuart Hogg of Glasgow Warriors during the Guinness PRO14 Round 20 match between Leinster and Glasgow Warriors at the RDS Arena in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

As British parliamentarians are proving with almost daily inefficiency, leaving Europe can be complicated but as far as Stuart Hogg is concerned, the swift and summary elimination of Glasgow Warriors earlier this season has been the best thing that could have happened to his club.

Being beaten by Saracens has been a theme running through this season’s Guinness PRO14 play-offs with three of the league’s semi-finalists having exited Europe at the hands of the newly-crowned kings of the continent.

Both of tomorrow’s finalists at Celtic Park have suffered that fate this season with Leinster still wondering what might have been had they executed better in their final showdown with the English powerhouse.

Glasgow Warriors’ quarter-final defeat in north London was more comprehensive, however, but their 56-27 mauling at Allianz Park has proven to be a catalyst for an impressive run to the PRO14 final, a consistent spur for Dave Rennie’s squad as they have refocused their hunt for silverware.

No-one will be motivated more than Scotland full-back Hogg, who tomorrow will pull on the Glasgow jersey for the 121st and final time before a summer move south to Saracens’ English Premiership title rivals Exeter Chiefs.

That last-eight defeat to Sarries cut the 26-year-old British & Irish Lion to the quick but the reaction has been furious and effective, Glasgow unbeaten in the PRO14 since with four wins from four, including last Friday’s semi-final demolition of Ulster in Hogg’s last game at Scotstoun.

“This season the game against Saracens was probably the best thing to happen to us; they gave us the kick up the backside that we needed,” Hogg said. “Up front, we were bullied, we weren’t clinical enough as a back-line and that is the way that you have to play in these final games. We feel we are in a good place to go out and have some fun at the weekend.”

Glasgow regrouped with big league wins over Ulster and Edinburgh at home, either side of a victory over tomorrow’s opponents at the RDS which helped see off Munster to secure top spot in Conference A and an all-important home semi-final, the loss to Saracens serving as a regular reminder of the penalty for being even a percentage point off the pace.

“There have been a couple of times when things have not gone quite right at training and in games and we have just reflected back on that Saracens game. It’s been good for us.

It was a bit disappointing not to progress further in Europe, that’s probably the best thing for us to happen in terms of the league. When things aren’t quite going to plan we always think back to that game; it refocuses us and gets us back on the right track. We are better because of that.

“If you give a team like Saracens time and space they are going to hurt you. If you give a team like Leinster time and space they are going to hurt you as well.

We quickly realised how tough it was going to be on the run-in to get ourselves in a position to qualify for the play-offs and then get a home semi-final.

We knew that we had to have a real clinical edge in our game; that on the back of our solid defence, we fronted up, our decision-making at the breakdown has been a lot better. Our decision-making in attack, we have had that clinical edge but we have taken the right options, we have played right on top of teams.

“We are finding the balance with our kicking game and I think Adam (Hastings), George (Horne) and Ali (Price), Pete Horne, they have put us in the right areas over the last few weeks and it has been a lot tougher for teams to exit. We have found ourselves with a good amount of ball but in the right areas of the field. We have kept that scoreboard ticking over nicely and scored some nice tries along the way.”

Hogg will do his best to put thoughts of playing his final game for Glasgow to one side to concentrate on the business of collecting a first PRO14 title since 2014-15.

“The thing for me is that I am just concentrating on my job for the team and making sure that we have the opportunity to take home the PRO14 trophy. It’s been a target all season. For me, it is just about going out there, having some fun and doing my job for the team... and making sure that we give ourselves the best opportunity to lift a trophy.

"If I am going out there and expressing myself, having some fun and having a smile on my face then it means that things are going quite well for us. It will be my last game for Glasgow but I will worry about that after the game; hopefully when we have a trophy in our hands.”

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