PRO14: Warriors denied at the death in epic battle

Late penalty breaks visiting team's hearts in close run contest

George Horne
George Horne scored two of Glasgow's four tries. Image: ©INPHO/Craig Watson.

Munster 25

Glasgow Warriors 24

GLASGOW Warriors were within seconds of winning at Thomond Park for the first time since 2014 this evening, only to see victory snatched from them by Rory Scannell’s penalty in time added on. The one-point defeat produced two league points, one for the narrow loss and one for the four tries that they scored, but it was a cruel way to end what was in many respects an excellent performance from a Warriors side lacking so many of their big names

Munster, who were far closer to full strength, fought from first to last, and steadily clawed their way back into contention from 14 points down early in the second half. The home team might have been further behind at that point if Pete Horne had been more accurate with his kicks at goal, and in a desperately tight contest two chalked-off Warriors touchdowns also played a significant role in the outcome.

In the end, though, it was the failure to run the clock down that proved most costly. Marginally better ball protection at the final ruck would have allowed George Horne to kick the ball dead when 80 minutes were up, but Munster’s ferocity at the breakdown had already pushed the Warriors back, and there was an air of inevitability about the penalty award.

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There were failings in the lineout, too, that Dave Rennie will want to address this week, but as the coach acknowledged after this second PRO14 loss of the season, this was a performance of real character from his team. Under heavy pressure for long periods of the game, they displayed some inspired attacking rugby, and while the Horne brothers (George with two) and Matt Fagerson got the tries, Nick Grigg provided some vital assists. Adam Ashe, too, was impressive in the loose, while Ruaridh Jackson also showed some real enterprise.

“I was really proud of the guys,” Rennie said. “It’s tough to come over here against a really strong Munster side and I’m really proud of the effort.

“We’re one ruck away from winning: it’s a game of inches at this level. Munster are smart – they isolated the ball-carrier by taking out his support and they won the penalty. We’ll take two points, but five was on offer with 10 seconds on the clock.”

Munster momentum

Munster were the stronger side early on in a first half in which they were playing into a difficult wind, and the versatility of their play was demonstrated well in the build-up to the opening try. Scored by James Cronin in the 10th minute and converted by JJ Hanrahan, it highlighted the province’s prowess in defence, before speed in attack and then sheer brute force also played their part. First Peter O’Mahony stole a Warriors lineout well inside his own half, and then Keith Earls broke from midfield to carry play deep into Glasgow territory. With the momentum behind them, they kept up the pressure, and a few phases on from a lineout Cronin was unstoppable from the five-metre line.

An attempt by Jackson to run from deep was brought to a crashing halt, producing a five-metre scrum on which Munster failed to capitalise, and then

Pete Horne was relieved to see an O’Mahony charge down of his clearance go dead for a 22 drop-out. But despite those mishaps Glasgow stuck to their nerve and continued to attack from when possession was kicked to them, a policy that paid off just inside the second quarter when George Horne ran in a try from 40m or so out after excellent build-up work begun by Jackson and carried on by Matt Fagerson and Rory Hughes.

By that time the Warriors had been forced into a change, with Stafford McDowall coming on for the injured Sam Johnson. McDowall himself had only come on to the bench when DTH van der Merwe withdrew from the starting line-up because of an injury during the warm-up and Niko Matawalu was promoted to the wing. Johnson, not long back from a double injury acquired in the pre-season friendly at Northampton, appeared to have taken a knock to his knee.

Pete Horne, who had been wide with the attempt to convert his brother’s score, was also off target with a penalty on the half-hour mark. But Glasgow’s lead was only delayed, and it came five minutes before the break when George Horne grabbed his second. Munster lost possession in midfield, and Jackson initiated a fine broken-play counter-attack. Grigg made a crucial contribution with a half-break, then offloaded to the scrum-half who again had the pace to reach the line before any defenders could catch him.

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Pete Horne converted, and just before the interval appeared to be on the verge of scoring only to be called back for a forward pass. Even so, a 12-7 lead was a good return from the half, albeit a lead which had been established at some cost, with Oli Kebble having joined Johnson in being forced to leave the field in the closing minutes.

Jackson thought he had got the first score of the second half after sliding over the line, but a replay revealed he had lost it backwards. In the same passage of play, however, Chris Cloete was sent to the sinbin for an off-the-ball tackle on Ashe, and Glasgow soon took advantage of the extra man, with Fagerson finishing off from five metres after the Munster scrum had been shunted backwards.

A tale with a twist

Still playing with 14 men, Munster thought they had hit back through a JJ Hanrahan break, but Ashe got back in time to hold the ball up over the line after George Horne and Jackson had slowed the stand-off down. Hanrahan was on target a few minutes later, but the brothers Horne then combined to claim the bonus-point try, with George chipping over the time for Pete to catch in goal. Substitute Brandon Thomson took over the kicking duties and added the two points to make it 24-10 with an hour played, and one more score would surely have been enough for Glasgow to go home with five points.

Instead, Alex Wootton grabbed a lifeline with an unconverted try in the left corner after 65 minutes, and then scrum-half Alby Mathewson scored another after his pack had done all of the heavy lifting. The conversion by Ian Keatley made it a two-point game, and set the stage for Scannell’s late intervention.

Teams –

Munster: M Haley; D Sweetnam, S Arnold, R Scannell, K Earls; J Hanrahan, A Mathewson; J Cronin, N Scannell, J Ryan, J Kleyn, W Holland, P O’Mahony, C Cloete, C Stander. Subs: K O’Byrne, D Kilcoyne, S Archer, F Wycherley, A Botha, N Cronin, I Keatley, A Wootton.

Glasgow Warriors: R Jackson; N Matawalu, N Grigg, S Johnson, R Hughes; P Horne, G Horne; O Kebble, G Stewart, D Rae, R Harley, S Cummings, A Ashe, C Gibbins, M Fagerson. Subs: K Bryce, J Bhatti, P du Plessis, G Peterson, C Fusaro, N Frisby, B Thomson, S McDowall.

Referee: D Jones (Wales).


Scorers –

Munster: Tries: Cronin, Wootton, Mathewson. Cons: Hanrahan, Keatley. Pens: Hanrahan, Scannell.

Glasgow: Tries: G Horne 2, Fagerson, P Horne. Cons: P Horne, Thomson.

Scoring sequence (Munster first): 5-0, 7-0, 7-5, 7-10, 7-12 (h-t) 7-17, 10-17, 10-22, 10-24, 15-24, 20-24, 22-24, 25-24.


Yellow card –

Munster: Cloete

John Hardie joins Newcastle Falcons with immediate effect

About Stuart Bathgate 1430 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.