Glasgow make PRO12 history

Date published: May 30 2015

Glasgow became the first Scottish side to be crowned PRO12 champions after beating Munster 31-13 in Saturday's final at Ravenhill in Belfast.

Having finished the regular season at the top of the standings, Warriors outscored the Irish Province four tries to one to seal a an emphatic, deserved victory.

Three tries in the first half an hour blew Munster out of the water, as Rob Harley, DTH Van Der Merwe and Henry Pyrgos all went over to put Glasgow firmly into the ascendency in a thrilling demonstration of power rugby. 

Andrew Smith fired back with Munster's first before the break, but the Irish Province couldn't build on that in the second.

Finn Russell grabbed Warrior's fourth on the hour mark, as Gregor Townsend's men deservedly washed away the memories of last year's defeat to secure their first Pro 12 title. 

The contribution of fly-half Russell was particularly significant: he was simply imperious with the boot, landing four conversions in a flawless kicking effort. 
Glasgow were simply magnificent, and started the game like a team possessed, their performance full of energy, physicality and precision. If Russell’s performance was top drawer, the standout performer was second row Leone Nakawawa who put in a truly wonderful man-of-the-match performance. 
By half-time Munster were left with a mountain to climb in the second half. By the time Russell got over for Glasgow’s fourth try, however, the Irish province’s ambitions were dead and buried. 

In the end, the Warriors closed out the game with relative ease, much to the delight of their delirious fans. Defeat wasn’t in the Munster script, and the Irish side will now bid farewell to Paul O’Connell with a loss. 

But as Glasgow celebrated this thoroughly deserved victory, it was hard to resist the thought that this outcome was just what the tournament needed. 

The game started edgily, with both sides indulging in aerial ping-pong. Munster made the better opening, characterised by late call-up Duncan Williams sniping around the fringes. 
This pressure allowed the Reds the first attempt at points when Van der Merwe was penalised for going off his feet. Keatley missed the, admittedly difficult, kick, however. But Glasgow responded magnificently, going through the phases with tempo in the Ulster half. The ferocity of the onslaught saw Munster stretched, allowing number eight Harley to burst through for the first try on eight minutes. Russell converted to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead. 
The Scottish side failed to capitalise, though, their fluidity tarnished by errors, like Russell kicking out on the full on fifteen minutes. But the Warriors remained utterly dominant, enjoying the lion’s share of territory and possession. 

Munster hung in well, though, and earned a penalty on 22 minutes following an almighty shove from their scrum. Keatley did the needful and reduced the deficit to 7-3. 

But Glasgow hit back in the best way possible on 26 minutes. The Warriors made a searing break down the left flank, typified by Nakarawa fending off three Munster defenders before unloading to Van der Merwe, who touched down in the corner. Russell converted to make it 14-3. 

And it got even worse for Munster on 31 minutes as the Reds were literally sliced in two. Full-back Stuart Hogg accelerated brilliantly through the Munster rearguard, and got it away to Pyrgos to score amid a gaping chasm in the Reds’ defence. Russell again converted to make it 21-3.

Munster were now facing a steep uphill climb, but they responded well. They won good ball deep into the Warriors’ 22 on the 37 minute mark, and with the Scotsmen infringing, Nigel Owens played advantage, allowing Aussie centre Smith to power through the Glasgow defence to score. The try was referred to TMO Derek Bevan, but he allowed it to stand, and Keatley converted to make it 21-10. At the end of a breathless half, Glasgow were well on top but the Irishmen had given themselves a lifeline. 

With the game slipping away, Munster made the better start to the second period. The Irishmen were virtually camped in the Warriors’ half early on, as they started the half with purpose. And they nearly had another try on 46 minutes but the talismanic O’Connell was held up over the line. 

From the ensuing set of scrums, the Irishmen turned the screw on Glasgow. And this pressure resulted in a Keatley penalty on 49 minutes as BJ Botha forced Gordon Reid to infringe. The Munster fly-half duly converted to bring it back to 21-13. 

No sooner had he done that, Glasgow re-established field position in the Munster half. The Warriors showed good ball control to inch into the Red’s 22, and on 59 minutes Russell jinked through another gap in the Munster defence to score Glasgow’s fourth try, converting his own effort. 

Munster looked quite jaded thereafter, and although they expended plenty of effort, Glasgow’s formidable defence kept the door firmly shut. The Irishmen showed plenty of endeavour in the final twenty minutes, but their demeanour suggested the game was up. 

And Glasgow’s win was emphatically sealed on 73 minutes when replacement Duncan Weir landed a fine kick to extend the lead to 31-13. 

With it went Munster’s dreams of Pro12 glory. Cue wild Glaswegian celebrations, as the Warriors secured redemption for last year’s heartbreak. There will be one hell of a party in Belfast tonight. 

The scorers:

For Glasgow:
Tries: Harley, Van der Merwe, Pyrgos, Russell
Cons: Russell 4
Pen: Weir

For Munster:
Try: Smith
Con: Keatley
Pens: Keatley 2

Glasgow: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Richie Vernon, 12 Peter Horne, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Josh Strauss (c), 7 Ryan Wilson, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Leone Nakarawa, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Gordon Reid. Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Al Kellock, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Sean Lamont

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Denis Hurley (c), 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Paddy Butler, 6 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Billy Holland, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Eusebio Guinazu, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Duncan Casey, 17 James Cronin, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Sean Dougall, 20 Jack O'Donoghue, 21 Cathal Sheridan, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Ronan O'Mahony

Venue: Ravenhill, Belfast
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies (WRU), Sean Brickell (WRU)
TMO: Derek Bevan (WRU)

By @Rory McGimpsey at Ravenhill