Glasgow 21-18 Munster: Warriors take top spot

Glasgow Warriors' Sean Lamont (left) drives forward. Picture: SNS

Glasgow Warriors' Sean Lamont (left) drives forward. Picture: SNS

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AFTER two close games went against them in Europe, Glasgow got themselves back to winning ways with this narrow victory over the league leaders Munster.

They did it the hard way, allowing the visitors to race into an 18-9 lead at the break before exhibiting great character to claw their way back into this match thanks to two second-half tries from the two second-row forwards.

Munster were kept pointless in a second 40 which Glasgow dominated but it wasn’t for a want of opportunities.

Last weekend Finn Russell missed two simple penalties. The Glasgow stand-off was far from perfect with four from seven yesterday, but Munster will wonder what might have been had their stand-off, JJ Hanrahan, last season’s Golden Boot winner, done better with two simple second-half penalties when they already enjoyed a two-point lead.

These two teams have enjoyed more close encounters than Richard Dreyfuss and yesterday was no different.

The lead changed hands no less than five times in the opening half alone and this game went into the final ten minutes with Munster holding a two-point advantage over their hosts.

Glasgow were stuck in their own half before replacement scrum-half Henry Pyrgos pirouetted his way past a couple of red shirts and DTH van der Merwe carried the ball to within inches of the Munster line.

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Glasgow earned a five-metre scrum and the big men tried to muscle their way past a well organised defence.

Leone Nakawara had already scored one try and the big Fijian lunged for his second only to be driven back. Jonny Gray grabbed the ball from his clutches, found a gap on the blindside and dived over for the winning score which brought the crowd to their feet.

Russell’s conversion hit the post and he missed a late penalty which would have made the match safe, but neither affected the final outcome and, after a setback in Europe, Glasgow have got themselves back on track ahead of the derby matches against Edinburgh.

As welcome as the result was, the performance was less than perfect, especially in a ropey first half when Munster were not asked to work terribly hard for their two tries. They simply did what Munster do, run hard and straight to commit defenders and took their opportunities when they came.

There was no shortage of effort: Fraser Brown and Gray both put O’Connell on his backside and Sean Lamont did the same to prop John Ryan, but Glasgow struggled to hold on to the ball long enough to put the squeeze on Munster. They compounded things by having two kicks charged down in a sloppy first-half performance.

The game was six minutes old when the Glasgow forwards earned a penalty and the crowd held their breath while the young stand-off teed up the ball and waited. He was in no hurry but when Russell eventually struck the ball the crowd behind the posts told everyone the kick was good and a collective sigh of relief went around the ground.

Glasgow were awarded five kick-able penalties in the first half. Russell slotted the first, third and fifth between the posts.

He opted to kick into the corner once and he completely mishit one other attempt. It summed up his afternoon, more good than bad but plenty of both.

Russell was guilty of spilling the ball in contact a couple of metres from the Munster line but he wasn’t the only one.

Twice Brown threw squint at the sidelines and when the hooker spilled the ball on his own 22 as Glasgow attempted an exit, it gave Munster the chance to grab the first five-pointer.

The grateful visitors repeatedly charged at the Glasgow line and a few short phases later stand-off Hanrahan slipped through a half gap between Josh Strauss and Nakarawa to give the visitors an early advantage.

The kickers swapped penalties which resulted in Munster leading by 11-9 as the clock counted down to the break. Unfortunately the men in red had an attacking lineout after Niko Matawalu had been forced into touch after dealing with a clever grubber from Hanrahan.

Once again Munster worked through a few phases before No 8 Robin Copeland found a gap in the middle of the breakdown for a timely Munster try.

The conversion gave the Irishmen an 18-9 lead and gave Glasgow a Munro to climb.

They donned the crampons and started climbing, starting the second half brightly and, taking a leaf from the opposition play book, they showed good patience when they had an attacking opportunity inside the Munster 22.

Gray left O’Connell for road kill and two plays later Nakawara reached out a long arm to dot the ball down on the Munster line in 51 minutes.

Russell’s conversion made it a two point game and Gray’s try six minutes from time gave his side a precious victory and earned him the man-of-the-match award.

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Scorers: Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Nakawara, Gray. Cons: Russell. Pens: Russell (3). Munster: Tries: Hanrahan, Copeland. Cons: Hanrahan. Pens: Hanrahan (2).

Glasgow Warriors: Murchie (Seymour 61), Lamont, Vernon, Horne (Downey 61), van der Merwe; Russell, Matawalu (Pyrgos 66); Reid (Allan 56), Brown (Hall 50), Murray (Welsh 56), Nakarawa (Swinson 74), Gray, Harley, Holmes (Wilson 54), Strauss.

Munster: Murphy, Conway, Howard, Hurley, Zebo (Keatley 63); Hanrahan, Murray; Ryan, O’Byrne (Scannell 74), Archer (Botha 56), Holland, O’Connell, O’Mahony (Doncha O’Callaghan 47), Dougall (Dave O’Callaghan 38), Copeland.

Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU). Attendance: 6,176.

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