Glasgow 6 - 13 Munster: Munster move to top

Byron McGuigan  is challenged by Munster's Ronan O'Mahony. Picture: SNS
Byron McGuigan is challenged by Munster's Ronan O'Mahony. Picture: SNS
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GLASGOW lost their first league game of the season, suffered their first defeat at Scotstoun since December of 2012 and with it went their place at the top of the RaboDirect pro 12. What’s more, they have only themselves to blame.

Scorers: Glasgow – Pens: Weir (2).

Munster – Try: Hanrahan. Con: Hanrahan. Pens: Hanrahan (2).

The home team bossed the opening half of this game but instead of ratcheting up a commanding lead when they had the whip hand, they turned around 6-3 ahead thanks to an series on uncharacteristic handling errors that spoiled almost every promising move. Three minutes into the second half, Munster fly-half JJ Hanrahan scored a quick ten points with a try, conversion and second penalty to go with his first-half boomer, all of which proved enough on the night. It was deeply disappointing as Munster fielded perhaps half their first choice XV.

The home side enjoyed a flying start with points on the board inside two minutes after Duncan Weir hit a 47-yard effort from in front of the posts. Munster’s discipline was as bad as ever, the visitors conceded four penalties in the opening 12 minutes, all coming at the breakdown, and the fly-half watched another effort hit the right upright.

Glasgow’s pack were on the front foot in the tight exchanges and the loose ones, with Ryan Grant barely able to match the speed with which his opposite number was retreating at the set scrum. The Munster pack was not helped by losing their giant lock Paul O’Connell just before kick off. While Glasgow also lost winger Tommy Seymour in the warm-up, it was probably a fair trade from Gregor Townsend’s point of view.

Without O’Connell, the Munster pack were a poor imitation of the force they once were, at least in the first half. Instead, it was Glasgow’s big men driving the ball and keeping it close before offering it to the back line, while Munster occasionally looked dangerous on the wide so it was an odd reversal of roles for the two teams.

The set scrum resulted in a simple enough second penalty for Weir but much of the forwards’ good work was wasted because Glasgow’s handling in the wide channels was poor, notwithstanding the wet ball.

The most promising move of the half came to nothing after Mark Bennett and Sean Lamont got their wires crossed when attempting a simple switch and, three times during the opening 40 minutes, the wide backs spilled the ball wastefully into touch. On the second such occasion, Rob Harley pulled his lineout opponent out of the air and was lucky not to see yellow, although Munster did get off the mark from the resulting penalty.

Hanrahan signalled for posts, despite being inside his own half, and he half did well to heft the ball over the posts from long-range.

With Glasgow nursing a 6-3 lead at the break, this match desperately needed a try and, when it came, it went to Munster. Hanrahan had already ghosted through a few tackles in the first half to give Glasgow a fright and he did the same in the second half to score within three minutes of the restart.

Bennett looked in instead of out, DTH ven der Merwe was turned inside out and Weir missed a diving tackle. It was a comedy of errors from a side that pride themselves on their defence and this momentary loss of concentration cost them dearly.

Hanrahan converted his own try and, with their tails up and self-belief flooding through their veins, the men in red caught the kick off and ran it back and kicked another penalty just minutes later. From being in complete control, Glasgow were suddenly trailing 6-13.

Glasgow’s response was to batter their way into the shadow of Munster’s own posts and then batter away some more at the try line with a long series of pick and drives that eventually ended in a yellow card for Munster prop James Cronis and a brief free for all between the two packs, much to everyone’s relief. At least it now looked like everyone cared.

With a one-man advantage, Glasgow chose a set scrum under the Munster posts but the visitors held firm and Townsend went to his bench to break the deadlock with four substitutions, including Niko Matawalu at scrum-half. Still, a rejuvenated Munster cleared their lines and called on a few subs themselves, including former Springbok BJ Botha, who helped stabilise the set scrum and the visitors escaped the yellow card without conceding any points.

Glasgow had their opportunities. Weir kicked to the corner, Matawalu tapped a penalty that his fly-half could have kicked and Sean Maitland ran sideways. Munster wound the clock down and they wound the crowd up but they sit on top of the table today.

Glasgow: Maitland; McGuigan, Bennett (Ascarate 53 min), Lamont, Van der Merwe; Weir (Jackson 65 min), Cusiter (Capt) (Matawalu 53 min); Grant (Yanuyanutawa 53 min), MacArthur (Hall 60 min), Low (Welsh 60 min), Swinson (Ryder 65 min), Gray, Harley (Low 75 min), Holmes (Fusaro 53 min), Strauss.

Munster: Murphy; Conway (Downey 47 min), Laulau, Dineen, O’Mahony; Hanrahan, Murray; Cronin, Sherry (Varley 56 min), Archer (BT Botha 56 min), O’Callaghan, Holland, O’Mahony (Capt), Dougall, Stander (Coughlan 60 min).