Glasgow’s ‘forgotten’ semi-final against Leinster in Dublin

Richie Dixon coached Glasgow to the Celtic League semi-final in season 2001-02. Picture: SNS
Richie Dixon coached Glasgow to the Celtic League semi-final in season 2001-02. Picture: SNS
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When charting Glasgow’s semi-final history, it is often the loss at Leinster in 2012 that is counted as the first but another against the same opposition, also in Dublin, took place more than a decade earlier.

While what became the Pro12 introduced play-offs in the 2010-11 season, its forerunner, the Celtic League, had a knockout phase in the first two seasons.

In 2001, the Irish provinces joined what had been a Scottish/Welsh league since 1999 to create the new three-nation championship.

The league was split into two pools which were followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final.

In the inaugural tournament, Glasgow finished third in the eight-team Pool A, while the then Edinburgh Reivers slumped to sixth out of seven in Pool B. The Border Reivers would be created the following season and last for five years before being disbanded in 2007.

After winning their quarter-final 34-29 against Connacht in Galway, coach Richie Dixon took his Glasgow side back across the Irish Sea to face Leinster for a place in the final at Lansdowne Road , the old home of Irish rugby.

The match took place on Friday, 7 December, 2001, in front of 5,500 and a Leinster side containing the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Girvan Dempsey, Gordon D’arcy, Denis Hickie, Paul Wallace and Leo Cullen proved too strong and ran out 35-13 winners. Glasgow were captained by former Scotland scrum-half Andy Nicol and also had the likes of Gordon Bulloch, Jason White, James McLaren, Andy Henderson and Roland Reid in their ranks. A young Euan 
Murray was on the bench.

Tries from Dempsey and O’Driscoll had 
Leinster in early control but the boot of Tommy Hayes kept the Scots clinging on before the home side scored again through Shane Horgan. Wing Mike Bartlett scored Glasgow’s only try, but Hickie put the seal on the victory and Leinster went on to beat Munster 24-20 in front of 30,000 back at Lansdowne Road the following week.

Glasgow coach Dixon said after the game: “We were well below the standard you need to compete at this level – and well below what we are capable of. Leinster are a very strong and clinical team and if you give them chances they will take them. Obviously the guys are 
bitterly disappointed, and that is the way they should be feeling.”

The following season both Glasgow and Edinburgh reached the Celtic League quarter-finals, but suffered home defeats to Ulster and Cardiff respectively.

LEINSTER: G Dempsey; D Hickie, B O’Driscoll, S Horgan, G D’Arcy; N Spooner, B O’Meara; R Corrigan (capt), S Byrne, P Wallace, L Cullen, M O’Kelly, E Miller, V Costello, K Gleeson. Subs: 
P Coyle, G Hickie, B Casey, T Brennan, B Willis, P McKenna, S Keogh, A Magro.

GLASGOW: R Kerr; J Steel, J McLaren, A Henderson, M Bartlett; T Hayes, A Nicol (capt); G McIlwham, G Bulloch, L Harrison, N Ross, J White, G Simpson, R Reid, G Flockhart. Subs:
G Scott, E Murray, S Griffiths, A Hall, 
G Beveridge, B Irving, A Bulloch.