Running of Glasgow too much for Munster

Munster played into Glasgow’s hands with an aimless kicking game

No one could begrudge Glasgow this triumph. This was the culmination of four years contesting the knock-out stages, and whereas Munster were completing their first season under Anthony Foley, Glasgow were finishing the third year of Gregor Townsend's project. And how it showed.

So often finals constrain a team but these Warriors were true to their principles of running, offloading rugby.

One also has to look at Glasgow’s triumph in the context of Scottish rugby. The last time a Scottish side won a trophy was when their national side won the last Five Nations in 1999.

Ever since Scotland have only twice finished in the top half of the table, and although they were competitive in their first four games of this season’s tournament, it’s also worth noting that Scotland finished bottom of the pile again with five defeats, the last of them at Murrayfield by 40-10 to Ireland. That was only 10 weeks ago.


Glasgow had taken a similar beating from Leinster in last season’s final and similarly Foley took encouragement from reaching the final.

“It is a progression, we are going in the right route, if we can maintain a lot of the good things we are doing as well, we won’t throw everything out. We need to find a few more subtleties to our game.

“And now it’s just about making use of the ball, making better decisions and equipping the players with the right abilities to do that.”

Whereas Glasgow came on to the ball at more pace, had more footwork and a much wider range of handling skills, especially their offloading game, Munster had to toil assiduously through straight runners and multiple recycles.


That made the triumph all the sweeter for Townsend, who maintained that Glasgow, Scottish rugby and the Pro12 will benefit from this success.

“I think it has been a great season for the Pro12 – the competition for the top four places went down to the last couple of weeks, and there wasn’t much between first and fourth as you could tell by the semi-finals, and other teams could have made the final.

“It adds a bit of variety that a Scottish team has won, and I think it’s fantastic that the work the players have put in.”

Last season he detected a big-game calmness in Leinster’s temperament on match day which he now believes his team has obtained.

“We have got to be ambitious and as a group we have an ambition to be one of the top sides in Europe. We played some top sides this year – Bath, Montpellier, Toulouse, Munster and Ulster are top sides in Europe, and the players delivered today and they are getting better and better,” he said.

“They have had the experience of going to a final, they were calm and focussed all week. They knew last year we didn’t do ourselves justice but now is the time, and how they worked last week to get the win to be here showed they are a maturing team. The trophy, while it is fantastic and satisfying, will also make this a better team; they have gone and delivered and they know when big games come up in the future what to do.”

Poor defence

That Glasgow had the better running game and Munster the better set-pieces was hardly surprising. However, the difference was compounded by Munster’s poor defence and poor kicking game.

For the first 35 minutes or so there was only one team in it. A lead of 21-3 was huge for a final but while the Warriors scored three tries in that time they might have had six.

Munster's line speed and tendency to tackle low – or not at all given 16 missed tackles by half-time alone – played into Glasgow's hands, and they just couldn't cope with the bearpaw-like offloading game of Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa in particular.

Munster also played into Glasgow's hands with an aimless kicking game, often as not down the middle of the pitch, and Stuart Hogg and his kindred spirits accepted the invitation to run the ball back as they went through the phases.

Or else Munster missed touch as happened in the build-up to Henry Pyrgos's try when Stuart Hogg exposed David Kiloyne in the outside centre channel.

Allowing for the efforts of Paul O'Connell, Glasgow also won many of the collisions, and aside from missing Peter O'Mahony they also missed Tommy O'Donnell. But Glasgow enjoyed a significant superiority in game management and execution at half-back, where Pyrgos and Finn Russell excelled. They also targeted Duncan Williams in the first quarter quite effectively,

As well as lacking line speed, Munster also became quite narrow, with tight five forwards left exposed in the wide channels, although culpability ran through backs as well as forwards.

But arguably what was more disconcerting was the gulf in attack for defence can be more readily fixed. For a spell either side of half-time Munster underlined their customary and expected set-piece superiority. Their scrum yielded penalties either side of a well-taken Andrew Smith try after Williams, to his credit, had been the catalyst in a multi-phase attack with a couple of snipes.


However, their chances evaporated when DTH van der Merwe and

Richie Vernon

between them prevented O’Connell from grounding the ball over the line in the 46th minute. That would have made the score 21-17 and also made the game interesting. Instead they settled for their second three-pointer soon after and thereafter normal service was resumed.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times