Glasgow will face either Leinster or Ulster in their first ever RaboDirect Pro12 Final after a monumental 16-15 victory over Munster.
Glasgow will face either Leinster or Ulster in their first ever RaboDirect Pro12 Final after a monumental 16-15 victory over Munster at Scotstoun.
There was a fiery start to proceedings, embodied not only by the passion spilling down from the stands, but chiefly by the wrestling match taking place in the shadow of the home posts between Alex Dunbar and Keith Earls with the visitors on the attack. If the locals were somewhat unimpressed by the grappling, their disquiet turned to fury minutes later, as TMO Carlo Damasco ruled Munster skipper Damien Varley's try was good, the hooker burrowing over as the two were being split up.
Ian Keatley converted, but with the crowd now baying for blood at every perceived Munster indiscretion, the ante had been well and truly upped.
The attritional nature of the contest took its toll early on, as huge Glasgow carries were met with huge Munster defence; Casey Laulala, Ryan Grant and Josh Strauss limping their way to the sidelines, replaced by Andrew Conway, Gordon Reid and Leone Nakarawa respectively.
The hosts dominated possession and retained the ball well in the middle third of the pitch, Finn Russell getting his side on the board with a penalty on 17 minutes. But it was the visitors who looked most likely to score, Sean Dougall making a scything midfield break from which Simon Zebo forced his way to the line, but after lengthy consultation with Damasco, was adjudged to have lost possession short.
Assistant referee Stefano Penne brought forth the greatest scream of indignation from the Glasgow faithful after failing to spot a half-chargedown off a Munster hand from less than five yards away. The hosts rumbled on, however, stunted by more monstrous tackling from James Downey, but reducing the gap to a single point via another Russell penalty.
Felix Jones soon joined the casualty list with a head knock that saw him led dazed from the field – thankfully and correctly not to return – before Russell banged over his third goal of the night from the ten-metre line to give Glasgow a 9-7 half-time lead.
The pace of the game did not drop after the break, nor did the noise from the crowd or the ferocity of the tackling. Russell nudged a glorious chip to within a yard of the corner flag, and as Munster fumbled the resultant lineout, the Warriors were handed a scrum five metres out.
It wasn't pretty, as the ball squirted loose through Nakarawa's legs and Chris Cusiter had his work cut out, burrowing his way through tackles to within two metres of the line. The forwards did the rest, picking and driving until Gordon Reid stretched and thumped the ball down in the corner.
Russell slotted a super conversion from out wide, Glasgow held a nine-point cushion and Scotstoun was rocking.
Things quietened down barely three minutes later, as Munster hit back from a well-worked lineout move and more powerful carrying from Downey and CJ Stander to allow Dougall to crash over, Keatley pushing his conversion wide.
Scotstoun was on its feet once more as Zebo made a hash of mopping up a Sean Maitland grubber in his own 22, and only a hack into touch from the covering Keatley prevented a try for the hosts.
Referee Marius Mitrea replaced his colleague Penne as the most unpopular man inside the stadium as he missed a pair of crooked Munster lineouts, before penalising Nakarawa just outside his 22, Keatley reducing the gap to a point.
The introduction of free-spirited Fijian Niko Matawalu brought with it its usual blend of verve, vigour and unpredictability for the hosts, and though he had the home crowd's hearts in their mouths in taking a quick-tap on his own ten-metre line, he linked brilliantly with countryman Nakarawa to produce a monstrous midfield break.
Munster attacked as the minutes ticked away, but Tommy Seymour picked off a looping, wayward pass on halfway to scamper up to within ten metres of the visitors' line, hauled down by Zebo. Victory beckoned with 60 seconds remaining, but fantastic defence from Rob Penney's men yielded a penalty and one last chance to attack, still trailing by just a point.
It wasn't to be, as the usually reserved and pensive Gregor Townsend urged his troops to hold their line from the touchline, and they responded, bundling Donncha O'Callaghan into touch, and so treating the sell-out Scotstoun crowd to a slice of history in the making.
Pens: Russell 3
Tries: Varley, Dougall
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Al Kellock (c), 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Ryan Grant
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Leone Nakarawa, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Sean Lamont
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 CJ Stander, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Dave Foley, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley (c), 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Andrew Conway
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Ita)
Assistant referees: Giuseppe Vivarini, Stefano Penne (both Ita)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Ita)