Glasgow secured a landmark home Guinness Pro14 final at Celtic Park next Saturday as they crushed Ulster in a dominant last-four display that thrilled a 10,000 sell-out crowd at Scotstoun.
The Warriors were in control from the start and kept a vice-like grip throughout as Dave Rennie’s men showed a steely desire to ensure they would make that showpiece occasion in their home city against Leinster or Munster next weekend. Tommy Seymour scored two of Glasgow’s seven tries as the Warriors racked up 50 points in a masterful display.
Glasgow were on it from the get go, putting the visitors straight on the back foot and within three minutes there was a sense of déjà vu from the famous 2015 semi-final meeting between these sides as the opening try bore an uncanny resemblance to the DTH Van der Merwe late leveller that night which opened the door to a historic title triumph.
This time it was Seymour who surged over in that same right-hand corner, with Adam Hastings playing the Finn Russell role and magnificently slotting the touchline conversion for a dream start.
Glasgow continued to dominate possession and territory but Ulster were able to just about hold them out during the rest of a thoroughly one-sided opening 15 minutes but something had to give and it did when some sharp sniping from scrum-half Ali Price left the visitors completely exposed and he scurried over in the left corner, Hastings, pictured, slotting another peach of a conversion for a most welcome 14-0 early cushion.
On his last game for Glasgow at Scotstoun, Hogg then leapt like a Tweed salmon for a brilliant high-ball take as everything the Warriors touched seemed to be turning to gold and, with the first quarter not even complete that dream Celtic Park final already seemed within grasp.
A penalty to the edge of the opposition 22 couldn’t tighten the screw, though, as a forward pass gave the Irish a bit of respite. But not for long as a scrum penalty 25 metres out and straight gave Hastings a routine chance to stretch the lead out to 17 without reply in the 29th minute. A home infraction straight from the kick-off gave Ulster scrum-half John Cooney the chance to get his side on the board, after a lengthy struggle with the kicking tee, to reduce arrears back to the two converted scores.
Glasgow continued to ram home their dominance heading to the interval and opted for the scrum when awarded a penalty in front of the Ulster posts. After a re-set the squeeze was applied and blindside Rob Harley was the man to make the final breach, Hastings gobbling up the extras for an imposing 24-3 half-time lead.
You felt that Glasgow just needed one more score to put this game to bed but were content in the first ten minutes of the second half to play a containing game and keep Ulster under the cosh. The final place was all but sealed in the 55th minute as Sam Johnson and Hogg carved the opposition up like a turkey and Seymour was there to finish off clinically.
Hastings drew the conversion across the posts but 29-3 looked an unassailable lead as the final quarter approached.
It was fill-your-boots time now as Hastings and Hogg combined beautifully, the full-back taking the stand-off’s delicious chip then unleashing Ryan Wilson to deliver a delightful one-two with Kyle Steyn, the centre finishing to take the game out of sight.
Marcell Coetzee nipped a try back for the already beaten visitors and then the Scotstoun crowd rose to acclaim the legendary Ulster and Ireland captain Rory Best as the 36-year-old hooker left the field for the last time in the home province jersey he has graced for 15 years ahead of his post-World Cup retirement.
Some trademark telepathy from the brothers Horne, George and Pete, who had both come off the bench, added the cherry on the cake as the elder centre collected his younger scrum-half brother’s chip to crash over.
Rob Herring added another consolation score for the visitors but it was a Glasgow glory night as George Horne finished off a slick attacking move.
Full-back Michael Lowry’s riposte was too little, too late.