A much improved performance from last weekend, but Warriors prove just too much for Munster in Glasgow as the province exit the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs.
Warriors might not be strangers to the knock out stages of the competition, but this was their first home semi-final with the local fans more than playing their part in creating an intimidating cauldron for the visiting side.
An intense opening ten minutes saw Munster and Warriors spread the ball wide with both sides getting little change out of either defence, constant pressure causing each team to cough up possession.
Ultimately Munster were first to strike, patient play and phase building from a line out eventually providing captain Damien Varley with the opportunity of picking and diving from the back of a ruck. Try number one secured and with Ian Keatley landing the conversion it was 0-7 after 9 minutes.
The next 10 minutes was to go the way of the Warriors with Casey Lauala only lasting 10 minutes on his 50th and final appearance for Munster, Andrew Conway replacing the injured centre. The province went on to concede two penalties in quick succession. First time out Warriors’ 10 Finn Russell failed to capitalise when BJ Botha was penalised for holing on, the kick going right and wide. However, he made amends by kicking the next opportunity on 15 minutes when Keith Earls failed to roll away.
On 30 minutes Munster were almost in for a second time. Sean Dougall broke through the Glasgow defence with Ian Keatley feeding Simon Zebo from the base of the ruck, the winger doing well to get low under the home defence, but ultimately unlucky not to get the decision of the TMO who adjudged Zebo to have knocked the ball on.
Despite Warriors losing one of their talisman, Josh Strauss to injury, the home side rallied towards the end of the half. After forcing James Coughlan to concede a penalty for not releasing, they also drove Munster off their own ball, winning a penalty for the resulting scrum. Russell was accurate with both kicks and sent the hosts to the dressing rooms with the lead.
Munster also lost Felix Jones to concussion just before the break. Warriors 9 Munster 7 at half time.
A shaky start to the second half for Munster allowed Glasgow find space in behind their defence. The province then knocked on from their own defensive line out with Warrior’s Gordon Reid eventually touching down from the subsequent scrum. 16-7 after 47 minutes.
After JJ Hanrahan’s restart went out in the full, one might have thought that was it for Munster, but that was far from the end of this physical and intense battle.
The Munstermen’s reply was swift – Dave Foley claiming well in the line out to set up good work through the phases particularly from James Downey and James Coughlan, and with the Warriors defence spread thin, Sean Dougall sniped round the fringes to score. Keatley was just right and wide with the conversion.
The visitors also made good use of the chop tackle in the second 40, the first man effective in bringing down the runner and the next man over the ball causing the home side to cough up a number of penalties for holding on.
Ian Keatley was presented with such a penalty on 64 minutes and made no mistake to bring the margin down to one point.
Munster continued to starve Warriors of possession for most of the second half and appeared to be the side in control with 15 minutes to go. That said, Glasgow scrum half replacement Niko Matawalu proved to be a serious threat going forward, and an intercept from Tommy Seymour could have secured a place in the final for the Scotsmen with two minutes to go were it not for a fantastic tackle from Simon Zebo. Good composure from Munster saw them win a penalty as they defended on their own line and brought play back to the half way line.
With one point still the margin and one final chance for Munster snatch victory, the Warriors defence remained strong and most importantly disciplined when it mattered most. No home side has ever lost a semi-final in the PRO12 and the Glasgow outfit were determined not to be the first. As hard as Munster attacked, the Warriors defence held out even firmer with Munster going from left to right with little penetration, eventually knocking their own ball into touch such was the strength of the defence.
That was to be Munster’s last action of the game and of the season under Head Coach Rob Penney. Glasgow Warriors now progress to the final of the RaboDirect PRO12 where they await the winners of Leinster and Ulster.
To come so close and still lose is often the hardest defeat to take and speaking after the game a disappointed Munster captain Damien Varley said:
"It's a sad way to send off our departing players & management”.
Full time score – Glasgow Warriors 16 Munster 15
Munster XV: Felix Jones (Hanrahan 38), Keith Earls, Casey Laulala (Conway 9), James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne (Cronin 65), Damien Varley – Capt, BJ Botha; Dave Foley (O’Callaghan 65), Paul O'Connell; CJ Stander, Sean Dougall (Butler 61), James Coughlan.
Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, James Cronin, John Ryan, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paddy Butler, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Andrew Conway