A packed Scotstoun saw a frenetic start from Glasgow who were hosting their first RaboDirect Pro12 semi final. The players who proved their worth many times over for Glasgow were typically to the fore, guys like Josh Strauss, Rob Harley and Jonny Gray.
Canny Munster on the other hand were content to defend and not contest rucks heavily, and it was the visitors who saw the early benefit as Damien Varley was adjudged to have crossed the line while most of the cameras were focussing on some off-the-ball argy bargy between Keith Earls and Alex Dunbar. Keatley converted to temporarily silence a vocal Warrior Nation.
Russell struck back with his second penalty attempt to put Glasgow on the board. The hosts continued to put impressive phases of play together but the solid citizens of Munster were hugely physical from 1 to 15 and Glasgow made ground but were never able to run amok despite the best efforts of Maitland and Dunbar to carry the game to Munster.
While youngsters Gray and Russell were impressive – Russell showed some nice touches to keep his defenders honest, it was also great to see old warhorses Al Kellock and Paul O’Connell going at each other hammer tongs in the tight and the loose. Big Al was hugely up for this game.
Again though Munster pounced when the time was right for them, Zebo knocking on over the line – at least as far as the TMO could see to offer a timely reminder that Munster would be no pushover despite Glasgow’s recent form.
If Strauss going off injured while the TMO pontificated was a worry for the Glasgow crowd, warm applause turned moments later to fury as the match officials missed a promising kick chase from the spritely Mark Bennett being deflected into touch by a Munster hand, adding insult to the occasional gamesmanship that the men in red are so good at.
The Glasgow team responded with equal vehemence as they pushed hard to make ground – although never enough to trouble the try line. Russell earned another penalty which he kicked to narrow the gap, and just before the half time whistle he took another from further out to signal his danger and put Glasgow into the lead going in at the break.
Half time Glasgow 9-7 Munster
Glasgow came out at the same furious pace in the second half and the constant pressure told even on the miserly defence of Munster.
Nakawara – on for Strauss – used that offload of his to free up a little space that Cusiter took close, and Gordy Reid barrelled round the ruck and slammed the ball down with help from the tall Fijian. Russell slotted a tricky conversion to open up a decent lead and Glasgow looked in control.
As had been the case all game, Munster were living very comfortably off scraps, and responded almost straight away with a try through Sean Dougall. They were taking every chance they got, as the good teams do.
To the relief of the Glasgow crowd Keatley missed the conversion to keep Glasgow in a small lead, but it gave Munster something of a boost as they took the game to Glasgow and forcing Glasgow to make some tackles for a change.
Glasgow were starting to make the odd error too as a great attacking lineout turned into a Munster scrum that saw Munster back into the Glasgow half as the hosts failed to profit. Munster too seemed to be having a growing influence on the Italian referee Marius Mitrea.
Minutes later Glasgow were penalised within range and Keatley scraped the penalty between the posts to narrow the lead to just a point.
Glasgow changed things up, emptying a dangerous looking bench to bring on Geoff Cross, Niko Matawalu and Ruairdh Jackson and loosen the game further; it was perhaps no surprise that Munster looked arguably the more in control of the teams having failed to cut loose.
A great combination from the Fijian connection saw the crowd once more spring to life as Glasgow burst into the Munster 22 but they were perhaps guilty of chasing the game as the final five minutes wore on and the move broke down.
Tommy Seymour almost scored but didn’t quite have the pace to get past Zebo, but those minutes camped on the Munster line were valuable in preserving that slenderest of leads. Munster battered away at Glasgow but the hosts defended their half way line as if it was the try line to hold out until Munster fumbled it to send the delighted players and fans to the final.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Jonny Gray was immense for the full 80 minutes. Russell, Maitland and Fusaro were close possibilities but none carried or tackled with the force and regularity of the young lock.