A Guinness Pro14 campaign which started with a blazing ten-game winning streak fizzled out meekly for Glasgow at Scotstoun last night as champions Scarlets dished out a chastening hiding in the semi-finals.
The Warriors’ proud home record, which had seen them win all ten of their games here during the regular season, nine of them with a bonus point, was shattered by a side who proved superior across the board and left Dave Rennie’s side with no answer to their relentless waves of attacking rugby.
Glasgow’s previous semi-finals have been tense, down-to-the-wire thrillers but it became clear from early on that this was not going to follow that trend as Scarlets ran in three first-half tries and one early in the second to kill the game long before two consolation scores in the final quarter.
Failing to reach a third final comes as a bitter disappointment and it was a sad end to Finn Russell’s time with the club, but confirmed suspicions that a Glasgow side, who had looked off the boil for a while, and not played since the end of last month, would struggle to pick themselves up to the necessary levels for what was always going to be a highly testing encounter.
There was an early blow for the Glasgow supporters as they poured into a sold-out Scotstoun when they learned the news that star full-back Stuart Hogg had pulled out with illness and been replaced by Ruaridh Jackson.
Things didn’t get much better following kick-off as Scarlets immediately took the game to the hosts and, after a penalty was won deep in the Glasgow 22, showed their intent by opting for a kick to the corner. What followed was a desperately soft try as stand-off Rhys Patchell went on a simple exploratory arcing run, skinning inside centre Nick Grigg and crashing over for a simple score, which he also converted.
Glasgow responded by making their first inroads as Russell began to get his hands on the ball and try to reverse the momentum, although there was nothing much to trouble the Scarlets.
Then came a blow for the Welsh side that nobody inside the stadium wanted to see as Scotland captain John Barclay’s match was brought to a close after less than ten minutes. The former Glasgow man, pictured inset, who joins Edinburgh next season, was given a rapturous ovation as he was helped off the field.
Russell got Glasgow on the board with a penalty after scrum-half Gareth Davies was offside, but the Wales No 9 was soon smiling as he scored his side’s second try in the 16th minute.
The Scarlets cut through Glasgow like a knife through butter as centre Scott Williams fed Davies and he cruised down the middle to score at the posts, Patchell adding the routine conversion.
Glasgow’s attempts to fight back were hampered by errors, a lost attacking lineout in the away 22 and several knock-ons, and then they lost tighthead prop Zander Fagerson after 25 minutes, replaced by Sia Halanukonuka.
Scarlets continued to look the more composed team and it was clear that Glasgow were now clinging on to the season by their fingertips.
That grip loosened and it appeared the freefall had begun when Scarlets struck again, putting together the kind of slick interchange and piercing offloads which Glasgow appeared incapable of and, to rub salt in the wounds, it was a prop, Rob Evans, who bounded gazelle-like over the line for his first ever Pro14 try.
Patchell’s conversion blew the scores out to 21-3 with nine minutes of the first half remaining.
Rennie had spoken in the build-up of Russell’s need to remain calm and enjoy the occasion of his final home match for the club, and not try to pull “rabbits out of his backside”, but there was little to enjoy in those lopsided opening 40 minutes and it was painfully clear that much of Watership Down would need to be conjured to dig Glasgow out of this one. Any hopes of a miraculous turnaround were brutally put down by the rampaging Welsh as they once again frogmarched Glasgow back down to their own line and laid siege. The pressure had already led to Grigg being yellow-carded during the desperate rearguard before hooker Ken Owens was driven over and Patchell again converted to open up an impregnable 25-point lead.
There was a twitch of life from Glasgow from the hour-mark when Jonny Gray got over to pull back an unconverted try, although Gray then had one disallowed. Grigg did squirm over for another but the game was long gone.