PRO14: Glasgow Warriors 37-10 Munster

Nick Grigg scores Glasgow Warriors' third try in their 37-10 demolition of Munster Image: Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

STUART BATHGATE @ Scotstoun

THE conventional wisdom was that if Glasgow were to get the better of Munster it would be by a narrow margin. That was what the recent history of the fixture suggested, and the fact that both teams were just a point apart at the top of Conference A enhanced that impression. Instead,  an outstanding performance by Dave Rennie’s side, coupled with an uncharacteristically flat display by the Irishmen, produced by far the most impressive result of the season so far from a Scottish team.

A point behind Munster before kick-off, the Warriors are now four points clear, having claimed a try bonus thanks to scores from Leonardo Sarto, Lee Jones, Nick Grigg and Scott Cummings. They had lost five of their last six fixtures against the Irish side, all but one by a very narrow margin, but got things under way last night with an early score and rarely looked in trouble after that.

“I’ve been a bit grumpy over the past few weeks, but that was quality,” head coach Dave Rennie said afterwards. “We used the ball really well and built pressure and defended really well. We put them under pressure from turnover ball. It was great.

“There’s a long way to go, but we made some good shifts tonight. We needed to against a very strong Munster side. We want to make this place a fortress and we made a statement tonight.”

Sarto was the first replacement of the night when Rory Hughes needed to go off for a head-injury assessment, and the Italian left-winger soon became the first scorer too, bursting through a half-tackle on the edge of the Munster 22 after the ball had gone wide. Finn Russell converted, then soon added a penalty, and Glasgow were 10-0 up with less than 10 minutes on the clock.

Replacement wing Leonardo Sarto for the Warriors’ first try of the night. Image: Craig Watson, – craigwatsonpix@icloud.com – www.craigwatson.co.uk

Hughes passed his HIA but was kept off because of a shoulder injury, and Sarto himself soon looked in trouble with a knock as Munster began to press. A drive through the middle took the Irishmen close to the posts, and then, with referee Nigel Owens playing advantage, a swift shift to the right gave centre Rory Scannell the space to dive over in the cover for an unconverted try.  

The Warriors were awarded two penalties in quick succession as their next attack penetrated deep into Munster territory, and after the second a mass brawl broke out. Owens decided that both teams, not just their captains, needed a talking-to after that, and his words had the desired effect as the ensuing 15 minutes or so were played out in far calmer fashion. In fact, it was too calm as far as both sides were concerned, with barely a hint of a score during that time, the closest either side came being a missed penalty from Munster captain Tyler Bleyendaal, who had also been off target with the conversion attempt.

That mini-drought was ended, however, in the last six or seven minutes of the half. First Russell added a penalty, and then, after Callum Gibbins had broken into the Munster half, Jones grabbed the Warriors’ second try. Munster back Darren Sweetnam managed to tackle Jones five metres out, but the winger’s strength and momentum carried him over. Russell’s conversion was the last score of the half, and although the stand-off had to sit out the last stages before the break to get an HIA, he was able to resume duties in time for the start of the second half.

Given the recent history between these sides, a 20-5 lead at the interval could hardly have been predicted. It soon became more lopsided, too, thanks in part to the sinbinning of Munster lock Billy Holland for what looked like a repeated team offence. In the next attack, Peter Horne showed his awareness of the extra space by sending a looping pass out to the right wing. Ruaridh Jackson and Jones took it on, and  Grigg was in the right place to finish the move from a yard out.

Russell’s conversion should have meant that was that, but Munster were briefly thrown a lifeline two minutes later when a pass from George Turner was intercepted on the Glasgow 10-metre line by Chris Farrell, who ran in unopposed. In normal circumstances such a fortunate score might have sparked a revival by the visitors, but Rory Scannell’s missed conversion was another sign that Munster were having an off night, and a third Russell penalty soon eased any worries that Glasgow might have developed.

With the game in the bag, all that was needed was the fourth try to give Glasgow the bonus point, and it came when Cummings finished off a magnificent break by Sarto. Russell took his personal tally to 17 points with the conversion. Munster pressed late in the game in a bid to make the final score more respectable, but with five minutes to go they had Fineen Wycherley red-carded for elbowing Tim Swinson on the attack.

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That capped a rare off night for the visitors, who should nonetheless qualify with for the play-offs something to spare. On this display, so too should Glasgow, who will be overwhelming favourites to make it five wins out of five when they welcome Benetton to Scotstoun next week.

Teams –

Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; L Jones, N Grigg, P Horne, R Hughes; F Russell, A Price; J Bhatti, G Turner,  Z Fagerson, T Swinson, S Cummings, R Wilson, C Gibbins, A Ashe. Substitutes used: L Sarto, S Johnson, P MacArthur, R Harley, A Allan, D Rae, B Alainu’uese, H Pyrgos.

Munster: A Conway; D Sweetnam, C Farrell, R Scannell, A Wootton; T Bleyendaal, D Williams; L O’Connor, R Marshall, S Archer, J Kleyn, B Holland, S O’Connor, T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue. Substitutes used: R Copeland, F Wycherley, S Zebo, J Hart, J Taute, D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan.

Scorers –

Glasgow: Tries: Sarto, Jones, Grigg, Cummings. Cons: Russell 4. Pens: Russell 3.

Munster: Tries: R Scannell, Farrell.

Scoring sequence: 5-0, 7-0, 10-0, 10-5, 15-5, 17-5, 20-5, half-time, 25-5, 27-5, 27-10, 30-10, 35-10, 37-10.

Yellow card –

Munster: Holland.

Red card –

Munster: Wycherley.

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

Attendance: 7,351.

 

About Stuart Bathgate 1407 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.