GLASGOW breathed life into their push for the Guinness Pro12 play-offs last night with a nail-biting bonus-point victory over Munster at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock.
A double by prop Sila Puafisi and further tries by stand-off Duncan Weir, who also contributed seven points with the boot, and centre Glenn Bryce got the Warriors home for a much-needed five points.
It is only nine months since that blissful Belfast evening when Glasgow roared to Pro12 title glory against the same opponents – indisputably one of the great moments in Scottish rugby since the advent of professionalism. Since then the Warriors have endured a frustrating title defence, shorn of top players during the long World Cup, and now Six Nations, period, suffering the disruption of their home fortress’s pitch being decimated by rain and untimely injuries.
However, the sight of the Munster red shirts seemed to spark a flashback as Glasgow started last night’s match with a tempo and quality which harked back to that May magnificence.
Leone Nakarawa, who was man of the match when Gregor Townsend’s men dismantled Munster 31-13 and secured Scotland’s first ever major professional club trophy, was at his off-loading best as Glasgow blitzed the visitors in a ferocious first seven minutes.
The Fijian lock paved the way but it was his fellow Pacific islander, Tonga prop Puafisi, who got on the end of things twice to get the home side off to a dream start, Weir’s two conversions making it 14-0 before all of the 7,212 crowd had settled in their seats at the re-arranged venue due to Scotstoun’s quagmire state.
Two-time European champions Munster are not the powerhouse they once were. Like Glasgow they bowed out of the Champions Cup in the pool stage, had lost four of their last six Pro12 games coming into last night’s encounter and, of course, were missing key men not released from the Ireland Six Nations squad.
However, any side that pulls on the Munster jersey is going to provide a fight and they responded magnificently to the early Warriors onslaught. Anything home tighthead Puafisi could do, visiting loosehead Dave Kilcoyne could match as he ploughed over for a first-half brace of his own.
Following such a strong start by Glasgow, who lost flanker Chris Fusaro to injury in the 38th minute, it was a wacky reversal in fortunes as the Irish side got their tails up and Ian Keatley’s two conversions either side of a successful penalty took Anthony Foley’s men into the break 17-14 up.
Glasgow came out firing in the second half with the kind of intent they had shown at the start of the match and within three minutes were back in front.
Peter Horne switched in at first receiver to put Weir free on the right and the stand-off finished off superbly before just missing with the touchline conversion attempt.
Munster’s defence survived a hairy period following a six-minute deluge then hauled themselves back into the lead when sub Mike Sherry crashed over in the right corner and Keatley’s brilliant touchline conversion put the Irishmen 24-22 up. With the clock ticking into the last ten minutes, Glasgow needed a response and got it when, after driving up to the opposition line under the posts, they went wide and Bryce scrambled over on the left to seal the win.