RugbyMatch Report

Munster left with a pocketful of regrets as Glasgow march on to final

Defending champions fail to take advantage of Glasgow’s indiscipline on the scoreboard

Glasgow Warriors celebrate as referee Andrea Piardi blows the final whistle on the BKT United Rugby Championship semi-final against Munster at Thomond Park. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho
URC semi-final: Munster 10 Glasgow Warriors 17

Munster’s defence of their United Rugby Championship title came to an end against a Glasgow Warriors side that demonstrated resilience and character qualities that haven’t always been hallmarks of their performances in knock-out matches, but no one could dispute their ticker here.

Playing 20 minutes with a player down underlined that fact. Their reward is a trip to Loftus Versfeld where they will face the Bulls, conquerors of Leinster earlier in the day.

Two moments of clarity in attack, the first from a mistake, the second an 80-metre counterattack, proved decisive. They also possessed the game’s best player in centre Sione Tuipolotu who proved a real handful for the home side.

Munster will have a pocketful of regrets, not being able to convert pressure and possession into points at crucial times, and an imprecision that cost them dearly. Tadhg Beirne was a colossus and for much of the game looked like he would single-handedly be able to carry his team over the threshold of victory.


Alex Nankivill, Jeremy Loughman, Shane Daly and the outstanding Mike Haley were others to stand tall but the home side just couldn’t get out of their way for long enough. Their game management in terms of decisions also succumbed to some notable lapses. It will be a frustrating defeat, one that hurts.

There was plenty to admire about Munster’s early energy, from scrum dominance to the shape of their attack, based on sharp handling, good depth on to the ball, underpinned by speed and width.

Shunting the Glasgow eight backwards won a penalty, the visitors conceded another at an ensuing breakdown, but Jack Crowley was unable to punish the transgressions, pulling the penalty kick wide from 25 metres.

Undaunted, Munster’s effervescent start continued but little errors – a misplaced pass from Crowley and a lineout turnover – allowed Glasgow a respite that almost turned into points from a sweeping counterattack. Rory Darge ran over John Hodnett and Tuipolotu did the same to Craig Casey but Munster fullback Haley won a brilliant penalty turnover metres from his line.

Glasgow Warriors' Sebastian Cancelliere scores his side's second try at Thomond Park. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Glasgow give away four penalties in the first eight minutes, the last of which invited the home side into their 22. A fifth for an early drive at the ensuing lineout was a further example of crass indiscipline and after a sixth, referee Andrea Piardi was never going to let that go without a card and secondrow Richie Gray was dispatched to the sinbin.

Crowley’s penalty on 12 minutes nudged the home side in front but it felt a little underwhelming for all their possession and pitch position. Beirne came up with a couple of big plays but as the home side motored towards the Glasgow line with a series of powerful carries, Fineen Wycherley was pinged for not releasing, the clearout half a second too late.

On 23 minutes, Munster undid all that first quarter endeavour and for the most part dominance when Antoine Frisch’s inside pass to Nankivill went to ground. Glasgow captain Kyle Steyn scooped up the loose ball and raced over for a long-range try against the run of play. George Horne converted.

The visitors eked out a little self-belief from grabbing the lead despite being on the back foot. Daly made an excellent read and tackle in defence that forced an error as Steyn snatched at a pass that gave Munster a scrum outside the Glasgow 22, but again it didn’t lead to anything tangible in the way of points.

Josh McKay led with the forearm, an action that started on the chest but rode up and the fullback was correctly penalised; what Matt Fagerson perpetrated on Peter O’Mahony soon after with a swinging arm was worse and he was sent to the sinbin. Munster, though, couldn’t tag on anything tangible and Glasgow escaped to the dressingroom with a 7-3 interval lead.

It was Munster who were left to rue indiscipline at the start of the second half, giving the 14-man Glasgow access deep into their 22. Beirne’s brilliant lineout steal averted the danger. Munster head coach Graham Rowntree summoned three of the bench on 45 minutes, Diarmuid Barron, Oli Jager and RG Snyman coming on to provide fresh impetus.

Horne missed a penalty on 49 minutes but it mattered little, McKay’s decision to run the ball back from his 22 led to a try for Sebastian Cancelliere. The Glasgow scrumhalf was unerring on this occasion with the conversion pushing the visitors out to a 14-3 lead with a little under half an hour remaining.

The crowd willed a Munster response and when Frisch broke into the Glasgow backfield it looked promising, but Darge’s penalty turnover stopped progress eight metres from the visitors’ line. Snyman’s impact was immediate, half blocking down Horne’s kick and from the turnover in possession, the South African was again involved, putting Jeremy Loughman through a gap.

Simon Zebo catches a ball on his final appearance for Munster. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The prop accelerated into the Glasgow 22 and for a moment looked like making it all the way, but Frisch did seconds later from a ruck, the centre unmarked on the short side from Casey’s quick transfer. Crowley kicked a brilliant touchline conversion to bring the home side back to within four points at 14-10 behind.

The game continued to fizz and crackle and although there were arguably too many basic mistakes it was never less than a compelling spectacle because of the frequent turnover of possession.

Indiscipline continued to dog Munster’s post-interval performance and as the game entered the final quarter, those infringements gave Glasgow the chance to kick their way into the home side’s 22. On 73 minutes, with the visitors on a penalty advantage inside the Munster 22, Nankivill flew into a ruck clearout attempt on Horne; the upshot was a red card following a review of the incident.

The Glasgow scrumhalf kicked the easy penalty to make it 17-10 to the visitors. A penalty offered Munster a shot at redemption but after making headway into the Glasgow 22, Snyman’s offload to John Ryan went to ground and with that their hopes of returning to the final perished.

Simon Zebo deserved a better send-off in terms of the result but the warmth of the ovation he received at the end of the game was an outpouring of affection for one of the game’s great entertainers.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 12 mins: Crowley pen, 3-0; 23: Steyn try, Horne con, 3-7. Half-time: 3-7. 50: Cancelliere try, Horne con, 3-14; 55: Frisch try, Crowley con, 10-14; 74: Horne pen 10-17.

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Shane Daly, Antoine Frisch, Alex Nankivell, Simon Zebo; Jack Crowley, Craig Casey; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Fineen Wycherley, Tadhg Beirne (capt); Peter O’Mahony, John Hodnett, Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron for Scannell, Oli Jager for Archer, RG Snyman for Wycherley (all 45 mins); Seán O’Brien for Nankevill (46-56, HIA/blood); Gavin Coombes for O’Donoghue (54); Conor Murray for Casey (56); O’Brien for Zebo (61); J Ryan for Loughman (65); Alex Kendellen for Hodnett (72).

Red card: A Nankivill (73 mins).

GLASGOW WARRIORS: Josh McKay; Sebastian Cancelliere, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Kyle Steyn (capt); Tom Jordan, George Horne; Jamie Bhatti, Johnny Matthews, Zander Fagerson; Scott Cummings, Richie Gray; Matt Fagerson, Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey.

Replacements: Max Williamson for Gray, Henco Venter for Darge, Jamie Dobie for Cancelliere (all 56 mins); George Turner for Matthews (57); Euan Ferrie for Fagerson (60-70, HIA); Oli Kebble for Bhatti (70).

Yellow cards: R Gray (11 mins), M Fagerson (40+1).

Referee: A Piardi (Italy).

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer