Glasgow Warriors indebted to trio as they break new ground - but Manie Libbok has horror night at Scotstoun

Glasgow take down Stormers to set up huge URC semi-final away at Munster

This was more like it. Glasgow Warriors broke new ground under Franco Smith by reaching the semi-finals of the United Rugby Championship with a performance that was far more akin to what we have come to expect under the head coach.

Their form had shaded in recent weeks and back-to-back defeats had seen them slip from first to fourth in the league table but they rediscovered their mojo with a 27-10 victory over the DHL Stormers at Scotstoun.

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Having been eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the play-offs in the first two seasons of the URC, they went one better this time. They showed the calmness that Smith had called for pre-match, holding their nerve in a tense period in the second half during which the visitors scored two tries in five minutes, either side of one from Sebastian Cancelliere for the home side. They then finished the match strongly with further scores from replacements Henco Venter and Ross Thompson and they were indebted to their scrum-half George Horne, who was flawless off the tee and kicked 12 points. Horne was named player of the match but there were also huge performances from Jack Dempsey - particularly in the second half - and Sione Tuipulotu.

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If Horne was the trusted man in front of goal, the same could not be said for Manie Libbok. The Springboks No 10, who had carved open Scotland at the World Cup, had a torrid time at Scotstoun, missing with all four of his attempts at goal. It meant the Stormers could never get their noses in front, an important psychological boost for the home side who have extended their season by at least another week.

An away semi-final against Munster next weekend is their prize. Playing the defending champions at their own place is a tough assignment but not one Glasgow will not be daunted by. They beat Munster at Thomond last season and will travel west buoyed by this display against the Stormers, URC winners in 2022 and beaten finalists last season.

The other semi will see the Bulls host Leinster. The Bulls beat Benetton 30-23, while Leinster defeated Ulster 43-20 at the Aviva.

If the game was a slow burn, there was certainly plenty of emotion on display with several stalwart Warriors saying farewell to Scotstoun. Fraser Brown, their long-serving hooker who announced his retirement in April, presented the match-ball accompanied by his sons Teddy and Archie. There were also final appearances at Scotstoun for George Turner, Oli Kebble and Thompson, with all three due to move on at the end of the season. That trio came off the bench to play an important part in the win.

Based on league positions, with fourth taking on fifth, this should have been the closest quarter-final and that’s how it turned out, in the first half at least.

It took until the 20th minute for the deadlock to be broken and Horne’s penalty after a series of pick and drives was the least Glasgow deserved. They had dominated the opening quarter and it was Horne who had squandered their best opportunity. With the tryline at his mercy, the scrum-half dropped a pass from Cancelliere after Scott Cummings had stolen a Stormers lineout to spark an impressive counter-attack.

Libbok, meanwhile, missed two very kickable penalties either side of Horne’s opener.

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The Warriors No 9 doubled their lead in the 28th minute after Glasgow had won a scrum penalty for which Zander Fagerson deserved kudos. Horne, who converted from the 40-metre line, then put in an impressive clearance kick after the home side found themselves in a bit of trouble from the restart.

The Stormers were feeling their way back into the match and enjoyed their best spell of the first half in the five minutes before the interval. They pummelled the Glasgow line but the home defence was excellent and eventually Hacjivah Dayimani was penalised for crossing as the visitors got their wires crossed.

The second half began in equally breathless fashion but the home supporters paused to applaud the arrival of Turner who stepped off the bench to make his 100th appearance for the Warriors, and his last at Scotstoun before his imminent move to Japan.

Nathan McBeth followed him on to the field a couple of minutes later but the prop lasted only two minutes before going off for a head injury assessment. McBeth was caught high by Stormers captain Salmaan Moerat who made head-to-head contact in attempting a clear-out and was yellow-carded.

The game then suddenly burst into life with three tries in five minutes. The Stormers made light of their numerical disadvantage by bagging the first and the timing and execution were excellent, particularly Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu’s pass to play in Ben Loader for the score. Libbok, who’d left his shooting boots in Cape Town, was wide again with the conversion attempt which preserved Glasgow’s lead and the home side scored immediately from the restart. Warrick Gelant fumbled the kick-off and Tuipulotu took full advantage, barging through three attempted tackles before offloading to Cancelliere who juggled the ball then wriggled his way over for the try which Horne converted.

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It was a bad score for the Stormers to lose but they came back strongly, exerting pressure on the Glasgow line and sub scrum-half Paul de Wet darted over for their second score. Libbok’s miserable night off the tee continued as he struck the post this time.

With Glasgow’s lead cut to 13-10 the game was on a knife edge going into the final 15 minutes. The home side had taken some of the sting out of the Stormers’ momentum and regained territorial advantage. They won a penalty within kickable range but trusted their lineout maul and kicked to the corner. It paid off - but they had to be patient, and after a series of pick-and-goes Venter squeezed over. Horne’s conversion made it 20-10 and time was running out for the visitors.

Glasgow kept them pinned in their own 22 and scored their third try at the death. The Stormers tried to run it from behind their own tryline - as they had to do - but got into all sorts of trouble and Thompson pounced on the loose ball to score on his 50th appearance for the club. Horne converted with the final kick of the game to seal a famous win. Next stop, Limerick.

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