A soggy encounter at Scotstoun tonight looked a distinct possibility, given the weather across Scotland today but it was in fact a pretty fiery affair as the Warriors took on the red army of Munster.
The incidental niggle began almost from the kick-off and while it didn’t look like boiling into anything more malevolent, there was a constant undercurrent of tussling, tugging at jerseys and back chat.
As you’d expect both sides were hugely physical with Glasgow on the right side of the ref early on, with two Weir penalties and a miss off the post in the opening half an hour. Both sides showed some late changes with Bennett in for Seymour and Casey Laulala replacing Keith Earls. You wouldn’t have said this a few years ago about a Glasgow vs Munster match but that didn’t decrease the attacking intent any.
Tyrone Holmes, who really came on to a game against Exeter last weekend lined up in a powerful back row and Glasgow looked a serious proposition all across the park, as they tend to these days. As usual Strauss was a battering ram and the second row partnership of Gray Jnr and Swinson didn’t seem to feel the loss of club captain Al Kellock.
The sharp half back pair of Cusiter and Weir moved the team around well – Cusiter looks in great shape as does Sean Lamont, good news for Scotland fans – but outside the backs were struggling with the last pass to get in behind Munster with any great effectiveness. This allowed the visitors to stay in the game whilst rarely challenging the Glasgow 22 to make it 6-3 at half time.
It was Munster who came out firing in the second half though with their rising star fly-half JJ Hanrahan out-foxing a stumbling DTH Van Der Merwe, then making a scamper down the touchline the Canadian would have been proud of. Soon after Hanrahan kicked another penalty and the momentum was well and truly shifting.
It seemed against the run of play only 6 minutes in, after a half that Glasgow weren’t really troubled, but Munster hadn’t been wilting or anything like that. They’d just been fairly quiet, holding firm.
Glasgow looked to hit back but a fumble from Cusiter who had been solid till then, killed the move and the pressure threatened to dissolve into scrums until Swinson was held out inches from the line. Munster killed the ball and it spilled over into a bit of a fracas, with plenty of sneaky holding on to the collar punches between DTH and DO’C. The TMO was called to look for the slap (possibly from Strauss) that had the visitors so incensed, but found no case to answer and James Cronin was sent to the bin for the prior offence.
Needless to say Munster would have felt hard done by but Glasgow are happy to dish out their own medicine to them, and duly set about the 14-man defence with a series of punishing pick and drives led by Strauss but failed to cross the line.
Glasgow emptied the bench on 53 minutes with Bennett and Cusiter off without really seeing their best. Among others Matawalu and Fusaro came on in an attempt to raise the pace while they were still a man up. With Grant off too, needless to say the first scrum went down and gave Munster a penalty and a chance to play for time and territory. Would the gamble pay off?
It certainly upped the pace as Glasgow’s offloading game appeared from nowhere and Niko started taking quick taps. Sure it was fun to watch – until he spilled it – but Munster were soaking up anything thrown at them and the 7 point gap was looking trickier and trickier to bridge as the replacement props took the scrums into the mire and Glasgow began kicking ineffectually.
The Seans Lamont and Maitland, who would both have been hoping for big games going into the National Training squad, were quiet and ineffectual respectively and won’t have helped Scott Johnson any in his selections at fullback or centre. Lamont didn’t fare as well at 12 as he has at 13 and if he is rewarded for his early season form it is more likely to be at outside centre. Maitland meanwhile must long for the days when he had great big gaps to coast through at pace playing for Canterbury, rather than living off scraps. Munster seemed well alert to his threat.
With Weir signing off with a magnificent touch-finder, it was down to Ruaridh Jackson to lead the final assault, if they could get any ball worth attacking from which was proving difficult. Maitland and Lamont finally made half breaks but the moves all fizzled out and Hanrahan was controlling the Munster response well.
The final ten minutes saw two late cards for a prop from each side as the referee lost patience.
Stealing a late Munster lineout with possession key to at least preserving the losing bonus point let alone winning, Fusaro knocked on, summing up a game in which Glasgow had plenty of chances but failed to take advantage. Maitland grew into it in the final moments as Glasgow chased the draw it seemed too little too late, chasing the game.
With a penalty and 84 minutes on the clock Glasgow made one last desperate attack led by that man Strauss but by the time Maitland was tackled, isolated out on the wing the result had been clear for some time.
In the end, Glasgow’s unbeaten record this season in the Rabo went with a whimper.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Josh Strauss was the standout for Glasgow and Cusiter had a fine first half, but JJ Hanrahan ran the show for Munster. Ronan who?