Munster v Glasgow: Warriors close in on home play-off with big win at Thomond

Visitors race into a 31-0 lead and late rally from hosts is too little, too late

Tongan No 8 Sione Vailanu scored one of Glasgow's five tries in a man-of-the-match performance against Munster. Image: © Craig Watson -
Tongan No 8 Sione Vailanu scored one of Glasgow's five tries in a man-of-the-match performance against Munster. Image: © Craig Watson -

Munster 26

Glasgow Warriors 38

THIS game couldn’t have gone much better for Warriors head coach Franco Smith as he tries to manage his team’s momentum heading into the business end of the season.

After an impressive first 50 minutes, the visitors had built an unassailable 0-31 lead, but their hosts battled back into the contest during the last half hour, ensuring that the Scottish side can draw some but not too much confidence from a first win at Thomond since 2014, which leaves them near-certainties for a home tie in the URC play-off quarter-finals.

Warriors are now six points clear of fifth-placed Munster with two games of the regular season left to play. They need to finish in the top four for that home play-off draw.

Finishing second would be a big achievement and mean a home semi-final tie as well (if they win their quarter-final), but that would require them to overtake the Stormers (seven points ahead) and Ulster (five points ahead) so it’s a long-shot. One thing is for certain, Warriors are now in the play-offs no matter what, because the lowest they can finish is seventh.

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“I’m obviously stoked about the win. It was a fantastic effort. I think we played some really good rugby in the first half,” said Smith. “All credit to Munster, they got stuck in as we knew they would, and we made it tough for ourselves so there is a lot of learnings to take from this game. We need to look at how we manage the position we had got ourselves into better during the second half.

“Confidence is something you build and create through hard work, and we have worked hard,” he added. “But we’re not the finished product, not by a long way, so we’ll keep working on it.”

The visitors delivered a fifth minute declaration of intent when Matt Fagerson collected possession at the tail of line-out 20 yards out then rumbled all the way to Munster’s line, with Fraser Brown applying the downwards pressure and Domingo Miotti slotting the conversion for good measure.

The hosts rallied, and picked up a series of penalties as they prodded purposefully inside the Warriors 22, and they twice came close,  but a loose pass from Joey Carberry to the unmarked Shane Daly on the right killed the first promising opportunity, before Gavin Coombes was held up over the line by Sione Vailanu and Zander Fagerson a few minutes later.

The next 10 minutes were all Munster, but Glasgow’s defence and competitiveness over the ball continued to frustrate the hosts, and after a Dave Kilcoyne knock-on gave the visitors a scrum just inside their own half, Ollie Smith stepped up as first recover to fire and excellent 50-22 into the corner. The attacking line-out malfunctioned but Munster’s momentum had been broken.

Warriors  struck again on 24 minutes when a lovely inside pass from Brown released captain Stafford McDowall, who stepped past last man Mike Haley like he was stranded in quick-sand, and then managed to get the ball down under pressure from Calvin Nash and Carbery. Miotti nailed the touchline conversion.

Warriors stretched even further ahead on 31 minutes, when Valianu punched through the middle and Miotti ghosted though Munster’s stretched defence, with the Argentinean playmaker firing home an ugly looking conversion to keep his 100 percent record off the tee in this match in tact.

Munster pushed hard for a try before the break which would have given them a chink of light to strive towards in the second half, but Warriors’ defence again stood firm, and their dominant scrum helped relieve the pressure.

Then a free-wheeling Glasgow attack –capitalising on some fairly tame home defence with some deadly accurate offloading – sent Cole Forbes home for the bonus point try on the stroke of half-time


Glasgow started the second half as they finished the first, with McDowall swatting off  tackle to transform static possession into a sweeping attack, and when Munster managed to snuff out the immediate threat, Miotti opted to keep the scoreboard ticking over with a drop-goal rather than try to force another phase with ball in hand when there was nothing much doing.

Munster finally got a foothold in the contest in the 52nd minute when Coombes peeled from a maul and muscled over for his 13th try of the season, with Carbery adding the extras, and the clearly energised home side burst straight back onto the offensive from the restart leading to live-wire replacement scrum-half Craig Casey scampering in for a second try in three minutes.

Thomond was pulsating with Munster on the drive, but the men in red let the restart bounce then Crabery sent a wild pass at the unprepared Coombes who knocked-on to hand Warriors an attacking scrum right in front of the posts.  Warriors took full advantage by squeezing the scrum, then giving Jamie Dobie a chance to dance on the right wing, before Vailanu arrived on the scene for a trademark powerful finish.

Munster wouldn’t throw in the towel and after a punishing passage of play they scored again through replacement prop Josh Wycherley from close range and Crowley converted to make it 21-38 with just 10 minutes to play  which was always going to be enough of a cushion, although Warriors did look slightly rattled, with McDowall kicking out on the full, Smith giving away a cheap penalty lying over the tackled man and Johnny Matthews giving away another penalty for going off his feet.

A Nash penalty with two minutes left, converted again by Crowley, meant that Munster came away with a bonus-point.


Teams –

Munster: M Haley (S Zebo 66); C Nash, M Fekitoa, J Crowley, S Daly; J Carbery (R Scannell 62), P Patterson (C Casey 44); D Kilcoyne (J Wycherley, 40), D Barron (S Buckley 64), R Salanoa (S Archer 52), Jean Kleyn (R Snyman 59), F Wycherley, J O’Donoghue (A Kendellen 52), J Hodnett, G Coombes.

Glasgow Warriors: O Smith (T Jordan 25-37); C Forbes, S McDowall, S Johnson, J Dobie; D Miotti (T Jordan 77), A Price (G Horne 57); N McBeth (A Dell 57), F Brown (J Matthews 46), Z Fagerson (L Sordoni 65), J Du Preez (L Bean 57), S Cummings, M Fagerson ( A Samuel 77), R Darge, S Vailanu (T Gordon 65).

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy)


Scorers –

Munster: Tries: Coombes, Casey, Wycherley, Nash; Cons: Carbery 2, Crowley.

Glasg0w Warriors: Tries: Brown, McDowall, Miotti, Forbes, Vailanu; Con: Miotti 5; DG: Miotti.

Scoring sequence (Munster first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 0-19; 0-21; 0-26; 0-28 (h-t) 0-31; 5-31; 7-31; 12-31; 14-31; 14-36; 14-38; 19-38; 21-38; 26-38.

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About David Barnes 3385 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. I hope the SRU have Mr Smith on a good long term contract as the expected post world cup merry-go-round for international coaches has already started. I’m sure he’s on a few countries radar and it would be a shame if he moved on after just a year.

  2. If you’ve ever been to Thomond Park you’ll understand the effort required to get past Munster at home. This is a monumental shift in momentum for the Warriors. It’s also a validation of Smith and his team.

    I was a doubter, a hopeful doubter, but a doubter all the same. Happy to see this team fly. Always knew we had the right players.

  3. This was superb stuff from Glasgow. The first half was just absolutely brilliant rugby, our set piece and pack were purring in all facets of the game and our backline looked slick and clinical. As George Redpath posted below, rugby is a straight forward game and Glasgow just looked like a team playing with the supreme confidence that they could go out there and execute the basics well and bury the opposition. In recent years we have arguably thrown away wins away to Munster, the close run game at Musgrave Park in Cork a few seasons ago and also the one we lost in the dying seconds at Thomond to a long Rory Scannell penalty- both matches we should have won. The manner of that win yesterday was something to behold. Have Munster even been 0-28 down at half-time at Thomond Park? Serious question.

    Well done to Franco Smith and his coaching ticket, the turnaround in Glasgow even just in the last 4 months has been terrific. We look a different animal and on our day are as good as anything the URC has to offer right now outwith Leinster who are simply in an incredible position of having a freakish conveyor belt of talent at their disposal.

  4. Smith has Glasgow believing again. What a terrific signing by Dodson.

    The league is much harder with the SA teams and a tough as teak Leinster but I really hope he can emulate Townsend and bring back some silverware in the next few years.

    • A great win for Glasgow and beating one of the top Irish teams on their own patch is quite the statement. So many good players still to come back. Munster should not even have got a bonus point, but thanks to a complete lack of support from the assistants, Sig Piardi was left swimming against the tide. The penalty against Zander, who slipped during a scrum destabilised as McBeth had the Munster TH floundering like a beached sea lion just epitomised that. Really need neutral assistants at every game.

  5. Very happy to eat humble pie once again regarding Franco Smith. Really didn’t rate him but he’s clearly got something very very right. Over the years Munster has been a graveyard for even our very decent sides but that first fifty min was Leinster level sublime. The final scoreline doesn’t really tell the tale but to be fair when Munster were on it for periods they were also excellent. It was only when the pundits started really off the names of the absentees that it really hit home how impressive this squad performance is. Whatever is achieved this season is potentially only the beginning which is both scary but exciting. If SRU decide to retain GT both parties need to be aware of the pressure that FS will be putting on them if he can keep Glasgow at this level.

  6. Just heard a comment while rewatching the game – that puts some light on the “beasting” that the squad were supposedly given pre-season – Vailanu has lost 15kg since he arrived at Scotstoun…… does give some colour to the fitness levels that we are seeing across the squad.

    • I agree. He is looking like a real top quality player now. Is it not the case though that the bigger, less dynamic Vialanu was at Worcester under Steve Diamond? That would give me pause if I was an Edinburgh fan.

  7. That it would be seen as questionable to move to Sam J and Stafford out of the team to allow for most people’s Lions picks at 12 and 13 tells it own story. Glasgow are looking like winners in both competitions. An away win at Leinster is not out of the question anymore. They did it before.

    • McDowall has been a revelation. He has detractors despite many outstanding performances. There have been a lot of good Glasgow centres in the past, but doubt they have ever had such talent in the midfield.

    • I’m scratching my head now as to what our best team actually is and how Smith is going to pick the team when everyone is available. Lots of options and rotations to consider.

  8. Still trying to articulate this Glasgow performance, I’ll try again, pure dead brilliant 🏉🙂👍.
    Agree, Stafford McDowell is really making his mark, and Vailanu, a powerhouse.
    Rugger is a relatively straight forward game when your pack is on the front foot, so well done all those lads, it was some shift👍

  9. Wow a rare win in Munster and what a win. I was a bit apprehensive about this game but it was a great performance 31 nil up at one point. Great to see Darge back to his best and how do the Fagerson bros keep up this level of performance. Even Dobie did well for his try assist. The rest of the men were great as well and Vailanu well worth MOM though I thought McDowell and Darge ran him close. Thank you Franco what a transformation you have brought about.

  10. Intensity dropped – understandably – in the second half, BUT this is simply one of Glasgows best wins! Cast your mind back to that run of no-wins away at the front end of the season and look at the transformation. How Franco has transformed the team, their self-belief, all typifies by none other than big Stafford. Just brilliant to see.

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