ROB Harley has revealed that the unbreakable resolve that helped Glasgow overturn a nine-point half-time deficit to claim a crucial 21-18 victory over Munster was sparked by a half-time “bollocking” by head coach Gregor Townsend and a call to arms by captain Josh Strauss.
Scorers: Glasgow – Tries: Nakawara, Gray. Con: Russell. Pens: Russell (3). Munster – Tries: Hanrahan, Copeland. Con: Hanrahan. Pens: Hanrahan (2).
With Glasgow’s proud 12-game Pro 12 unbeaten home record hanging by a thread after a first period marred by a succession of handling errors, a malfunctioning line-out and the failure to produce any incisive attacking moves of any note, the odds looked stacked on the Scotstoun side slipping to what would have been their fourth defeat in five games.
Instead, despite failing to find their best form against a streetwise Munster side, Glasgow found a way back and scored 12 unanswered second-half points to claim a victory that has given them the perfect launch-pad into the pivotal 1872 Cup double-header derby with Edinburgh and set a new Guinness Pro 12 record of 13 home victories in succession.
“We got a bit of a bollocking at half-time and it did the trick, got us going again and gave us the belief that we could play our rugby and get back in the game,” admitted Harley.
The Warriors blindside continued: “Plus, Josh Strauss was adamant that we really needed to raise our intensity but still keep cool heads and just believe in ourselves and our ability to do what we had to do and I guess that all really fired us up.
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“But Munster were top of the table coming to us and they were in our faces from the first whistle, so it was great to come out in the second-half put things right and get the win. Now we can take a huge amount of self-belief and confidence from this win, as there are not many sides who turn around a nine point deficit to Munster in the second-half.” Although Glasgow claimed a third successive victory over the Munstermen for the first time that temporarily put them top of the Pro 12, Harley admitted it had been a case of winning ugly.
He was also keen to pay tribute to man-of-the-match Jonny Gray, whose 72nd-minute try proved decisive: “It’s really hard to believe he is just 20 years-old with the tackles he makes. Plus, there are the line-out calls and the way he deals with the pressure in tough situations. Also at the restart, when we had gone ahead, he has taken that at full height and won us the ball back and that was really important in the context of the game.”
With the contest developing into an attritional affair, Warriors’ stand-off Finn Russell showed that his confidence had not been dented by his recent travails against Toulouse by finding touch with nerveless accuracy and he soon laid his recent goal-kicking demons to rest in seven minutes when the Glasgow scrum forced a penalty and the 22-year-old duly obliged with a fine kick to put Glasgow in front 3-0.
However, the home side’s lead was short-lived and, a moment later, JJ Hanrahan touched down, although the Munster stand-off failed to convert his own try.
Yet the tourniquet being applied by Warriors tightened another notch and when a further penalty was squeezed and Russell put his side 6-5 in front at the end of the first quarter.
Home hopes were handed a further boost when Munster talisman Paul O’Connell was sin-binned a minute later for going in off his feet but, with referee Leighton Hodges interpretation of a collapsed scrum mystifyingly favouring the men from Limerick, Hanrahan made it 8-6 after 27 minutes with some aplomb.
Although Russell’s third penalty for another Munster infringement made it 9-8 for the home side, when O’Connell returned to the fray after serving his time, the home side’s measly single-point advantage pointed to a missed opportunity.
A further Glasgow transgression allowed Hanrahan to reclaim a two-point advantage and worse was to come for the Scotstoun men when Munster No 8 Robin Copeland powered over and Hanrahan converted to take the visitors in 18-9 at the break.
Glasgow found a way back in after 51 minutes when Leone Nakarawa’s telescopic reach saw him finish off from close range and Russell’s conversion took Gregor Townsend’s side back to within two points of Munster.
With Hanrahan twice missing kickable penalties, Glasgow continued to remain alive more by good fortune than design, but, with eight minutes left, Warriors’ refusal to go quietly reaped rich rewards when Jonny Gray finished off a period of sustained pressure that followed a brilliant DTH van der Merwe break, with a pick-and-go.
Russell’s attempted conversion struck an upright but Glasgow demonstrated their increasing maturity in tight situations to close out the game, although the stand-off will be disappointed with another missed penalty that should have applied the coup de grace.
Just how important to Warriors this victory, borne of a refusal to yield and iron will to win, will prove in the context of the season remains to be seen, but it has bolstered self-belief and confidence at a stage in the campaign when both were creaking.
Glasgow: Murchie (Seymour 62); Lamont, Vernon, Horne (Downey 62), van der Merwe; Russell, Matawalu (Pyrgos 67); Reid (Allan 57), Brown (Hall 50), Murray (Welsh 57), Nakarawa (Swinson 74) Gray, Harley, Holmes (Wilson 55), Strauss.
Munster: Murphy (Jones 5); Conway, Howard, Hurley, Zebo (Keatley 62); Hanrahan, Murray; Ryan (Guinazu 79), O’Byrne (Scannell 73), Archer (Botha 57), Holland, O’Connell, O’Mahony (Donncha O’Callaghan, 48), Dougall (Dave O’Callaghan 38), Copeland.
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