Pro12 final: Glasgow Warriors 31-13 Munster
|Glasgow Warriors (21) 31|
|Tries: Harley, Van der Merwe, Pyrgos, Russell Cons: Russell 4 Pen: Weir|
|Munster (10) 13|
|Try: Smith Con: Keatley Pens: Keatley 2|
Joy and emotion were undiluted as Glasgow Warriors won the Pro12 against Munster in Belfast.
Gregor Townsend's men were thunderously good, triumphing by 18 points at the Kingspan Stadium.
They scored three first-half tries through Rob Harley, DTH van der Merwe and Henry Pyrgos, while Finn Russell sealed the win with a fourth.
Andrew Smith crossed for Munster but they were rarely close to the Scottish side.
It was a remarkable day for Glasgow, a coming of age for an indomitable team. And at last, a trophy for a Scottish club in a professional rugby age that has brought little more than misery and embarrassment.
Glasgow captain Al Kellock stepped up and lifted the silverware to the Belfast skies. It was a full stop on his career but really just the beginning of a new chapter for this club. It was hard-earned and thoroughly justified, a day of days.
Glasgow's intensity and quality in establishing a game-winning lead was something to behold. They were a cosmic blend of brutality and subtlety, hard running and soft hands. In an extraordinary first half-hour, Townsend's team were a lethal force.
They struck first after Munster got done for a crooked throw at a lineout. Off the scrum, the marauding presence of the magnificent Leone Nakarawa got his hands on the ball and blasted his way through the cover and fed Rob Harley on his shoulder. A second-row and a blindside flanker and a try once Harley ran over the top of Felix Jones to touch down under the posts.
With Russell's conversion, it was a seven-point game, a beginning to this final that Townsend could hardly have imagined.
Glasgow unleashed their ball-carriers, the likes of Josh Strauss, Dougie Hall and Nakarawa, with a relentlessness that Munster could not live with.
The lead was cut to four points when Ian Keatley put over a penalty early in the second quarter, but that was a mere prelude to Glasgow's second devastating breakthrough.
Again, it was Nakarawa at the heart of it, the giant lock fishing ball out of a breakdown, side-stepping the first Munster defender, taking the hit from two more Munstermen while stretching out his telescopic arm to drop a sumptuous pass into the hands of winger Van der Merwe, who ran in the try.
Russell added the points and Glasgow were ahead 14-3. Their stuff of fantasy carried on a while yet. A third try was scored six minutes later when Glasgow fed off a Munster knock-on in midfield and attacked wide through Stuart Hogg.
The full-back in full flow is a gorgeous sight. He went through a gap and linked with Pyrgos who galloped away to score at the sticks. A third Russell conversion stretched Glasgow's lead to a scarcely believable 18 points.
Munster found themselves at last just before the break, battering the Glasgow defence and finding enough space for Smith to squeeze over. Keatley made it a seven-pointer and the fly-half added another three early in the new half for Paul O'Connell's team.
For a brief moment, it looked ominous - Munster have so often clawed themselves back from the cliff edge.
But this Glasgow team has as much character as it has class. They kept their composure and kept playing. They kept believing.
And kept scoring. Their fourth try was the killer for Munster. When, after incessant pounding, Russell saw the defence ajar, he ghosted in and then lobbed over the conversion.
It was hard not to feel for O'Connell, a great player and a great man playing his last game for Munster. If the endgame was all about a stellar second-row forward, though, it was not about O'Connell, it was about Kellock.
He entered the fray on 67 minutes as a replacement for Nakarawa. His first contribution was a lineout steal, such a fitting way to end a tumultuous career.
Before the end, Duncan Weir landed a penalty, a score that got the blue flags waving once more.
In truth, they never stopped - the fans and the team. This was the Warriors' greatest day. A long time coming, but all the sweeter because of it.
Glasgow Warriors: Hogg, Seymour, Vernon, Horne, Van der Merwe, Russell, Pyrgos, Reid, Hall, De Klerk, Nakarawa, Gray, Harley, Wilson, Strauss.
Replacements: S Lamont for Hogg (62), Matawalu for van der Merwe (70), Weir for Russell (66), Yanuyanutawa for Reid (77), Brown for Hall (62), Welsh for de Klerk (52), Kellock for Nakarawa (66), Fusaro for Harley (60).
Munster: Jones, Earls, Smith, D Hurley, Zebo, Keatley, Williams, Kilcoyne, Guinazu, Botha, B Holland, O'Connell, D Ryan, Butler, Stander.
Replacements: R O'Mahony for Zebo (56), Hanrahan for Keatley (56), Sheridan for Williams (71), J. Cronin for Kilcoyne (62), Casey for Guinazu (62), Archer for Botha (60), O'Donoghue for B. Holland (60), Dougall for Butler (71).
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).