Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


RaboDirect PRO12 final: Leinster 34-12 Glasgow

The glorious Dublin sunshine set the scene for the RaboDirect PRO12 final on a pristine pitch with undeniably the two top teams in the league, packed with internationals and the best ref in world rugby presiding (sorry Steve Walsh).

It was set up to be a corker.

As you would expect both sides came out charging, with Glasgow keen for their first silverware and Leinster keen to give the great Brian O’Driscoll a fitting send off.

The opening half was exciting and saw plenty of handling and attacking, it was from a kick that the first points came. Peter Murchie’s up and under into the sun was scuffed by Kearney’s boot ahead to Mike Ross – who was offside – and Russell had his first chance of points. The eerie silence of the RDS failed to unnerve the young standoff and he slotted it between the posts.

Scottish teams often go from the sublime to the ridiculous, and so it was with Jonny Gray’s bulk interfering with Cusiter’s foot as swung at a box kick. That led to a scrum that gave Leinster their own penalty moments later.

They opted for the corner, which was either a worrying signal of intent, or the sort of over-confidence that tends to play into Glasgow hands.

As Leinster put it through the hands, Alex Dunbar stripped the ball from his man and earned the scrum. Glasgow cleared their lines and burst down to the other end of the park. Chris Cusiter, who had one of his best halves of rugby in memory broke through a gap and sent Strauss barrelling into the heart of Leinster. They were only let down by a beautiful but wayward pass from Horne that unfortunately spun just ahead of Dougie Hall. Had it been Seymour or Maitland, they could well have been in.

The great man O’Driscoll limped off after only 8 minutes to a roared ovation from all present, but perhaps it helped put the focus back on the rugby rather than the occasion. You hoped that would help Glasgow.

Seymour was tackled high as Leinster cleared and Russell slotted that from out wide to increase the lead to 6. The mood of the 3,000 or so Glasgow fans who had travelled was overwhelmingly positive and they punched well above their weight in terms of noise.

Perhaps being down woke Leinster up, as a series of quick drives took them up the park and quick ball through the hands put Kirchner over in the corner to get the game really going. Gopperth converted to give the hosts the lead, and Leinster had shown their true danger going forward.

There followed a breathless spell of attack from both sides as they attacked each other at pace and Glasgow’s offloading game put in an appearance, but for the most part Leinster’s defence was having a more comfortable time than Glasgow’s.

Glasgow lost the impressive Chris Fusaro and Dougie Hall just after 20 minutes; O’Driscoll wasn’t the only one feeling the impact of the bruising defence and there were a lot of tired looking bodies even as soon as the half hour mark.

Although on perhaps earlier than Townsend would have planned, Nakarawa had his usual impact, soaring through the Leinster defence ball in one hand and although Glasgow didn’t score, they earned a ruck penalty close to the posts and Russell put Glasgow back in the lead.

It didn’t last long though as Leinster found space with Horne down injured, Gopperth put a simple play together for Jennings to scamper over for the try.

It looked like a good cushion but Russell clawed back a long range penalty on the stroke of half time, to narrow the gap and set up an intriguing second half contest.

HT: Leinster 14-12 Glasgow Warriors

Leinster came back out for the second half and quickly restole the momentum, a Jimmy Gopperth kick giving them great attacking position. From there a woozy Pat MacArthur overthrew the lineout, Cian Healy went close to the posts but the TMO found Dunbar had prevented the ball from hitting the posts.

Clearly on the ropes, Glasgow clung in there without much possession as Russell also looked groggy despite throwing himself into everything, while Leinster looked sharp and aware of the space, let down only by the occasional over-hefted kick.

The Warriors came perilously close to a score as Niko Matawalu (on for Cusiter far too early) led the charge but took a possibly rash decision to duck for the try. He knocked it on, Leinster broke and only last ditch tackling from Murchie, Maitland and Horne prevented a certain try.

Leinster were looking increasingly confident even as Glasgow continued to throw everything at the game, and they took a penalty on the hour as Moray Low was found unable to cope with the pressure at scrum time, perhaps allowing the scoreboard to more accurately reflect the balance of the game as it stood at that point.

The exuberance of the Fijians cost Glasgow further as Nakarawa was adjudged to have taken out the scrum half despite Reddan having his hands on the ball. A marginal call, but it took Leinster’s lead out to 20-12 and all but settled the result.

Gopperth had controlled the game finely but it was a measure of Leinster’s confidence that he tried a wonky drop goal attempt rather than kill off the game.

If you want a symbol of this match, it was one of the Warriors campaign heroes in Josh Strauss knocking on a simple pass. The early pace of the game had taken it’s toll; Leinster were ready for whatever trickery Glasgow threw at them and they had to force it.

Nakarawa’s offloads, Strauss’s runs, even Niko’s darts. Leinster read them, tackled them, turned them over. By the time Kirchner took his second try, and D’Arcy took his with 5 mins to go, Glasgow were out on their feet and looking a little lost.

It was a real shame for a team that has looked so in control of their own destiny all season to come up against one even more convinced of theirs, and able to command it.

O’Driscoll watched most of this match from the sidelines, but he was able to celebrate come the end while Glasgow were sent homewards to think again.

Once again.

SRBlog Man of the Match: Jimmy Gopperth was the man of the match for me having directed Leinster brilliantly, but this is the Scottish Rugby Blog. The top marks for a Glasgow player would go to Chris Cusiter, who had probably his best half of rugby in years. Taking him off just after half time (if not an injury substitution) was criminal and Glasgow lost much of their direction after that. Much credit also to Jonny Gray, Finn Russell (who finally made a few mistakes) and Pete Murchie, who never gave up even during Leinster’s last flourishes.

9 Responses

  1. Firstly well done to Leinster who were worthy winners. They played a smart game and once they got in front were never going to get beaten.

    We held them till half time, but even then the signs were there. We just could not break their line, no matter how we tried and the off loads just got to ambitious as the game went on. Our last chance of getting back in the game came when Niko spilled the ball going for the try when he should have put it out. After that the door was well and truly shut.

    Still got to say what a great season it has been and what a pleasure it has been to follow them. Hopefully losing this one is part of the learning curve for them and they can take that forward into the future seasons.

  2. I am at a loss to come up with reasons why Leinster won so handsomely but my initial impressions are that Glasgow seemed to be struggling to put any variety to their game all through the first half and then ended up chasing the game which inevitably led to tired bodies and minds making bad decisions and basic errors. The selection of Peter Horne didn’t work for me. He is an average ten playing at twelve and unfortunately isn’t as creative or as physical as a Conrad Smith! Because of this the backs just didn’t click for me and as a result they never really had to worry about anyone breaking the line outside the ten channel and could therefore focus on tackling our forwards with more bodies.

    I also think Seymour and Murchie had their weakest games in quite some time. Thats not to say Hogg or DTH would have been any better. In addition, the injuries to Fuzzy and Cus unbalanced the team as Glasgow didn’t have anyone scrapping on the floor and niko is far too unpredictable to play at nine in such a tight game with his error count!

    Still, other than a couple of ropey kicks form hand, Russell played solidly and his place kicking was sound. I would have liked to see him kicking more from first receiver to turn Leinster and force then back but the game plan was clearly to run, run and run some more, which they ate up. Something for Townsend to learn form i hope. More pragmatic approach to the game might have gotten a better result.

    Onwards and upwards to next season with a couple of new signings to replace Big Al and Cus. Next challenge is to do some damage in the European Challenge cup. That would shut up the Mick Clearys and Stephen Jones’s of the world. So would three wins out of four this summer, which Scotland should be capable of achieving if the team is built around a core of Glasgow players.

    1. Harsh on Horne. He has spent most of season out injured but is easily Glasgow’s best 12. I don’t think any available backs would have made any difference. Leinster’s defence well and truly had the measure of Glasgow’s attack.

      I totally agree Fusaro’s injury was a problem though. No like for like replacement competing for ball was a problem. I’m sure Toonie would have liked to introduce Nakawara (huge fan) later on too to stretch a tired defence.

      Ach well, next season…

    2. Don’t get me wrong, i do like Horne but not in games like this, Dunbar and Bennet were the the horses for this particular course.

  3. There’s a reason Leinster are 3 time European Champions. the warriors have done themselves and Scottish Rugby proud by getting that far. After the bashing Scottish Rugby has had this season its brilliant to end on a high. Farewll BOD

  4. Gutted for the Warriors and the support. They came so so close to getting that Pro12 Cup, it is a bit unjust seeing that score line at the end, if Matawalu had got the try or kept the pressure on Leinster we would have had a try….maybe then Leinster would have started to chase the game and started to force the game. Alas it was not to be.
    But I do feel this will be a spring board for next season again to get that top spot and have home advantage. Makes you wonder why we don’t do it like the English league and have the final in a neutral venue? We could rotate it round all 4 nations?

    Big thanks to BBC alba for televising the rugby, I am beginning to wonder how many seasons it will take to become fluent in Gaelic!!
    Shame on BBC Scotland for not doing more for supporting rugby in Scotland.

    1. For BBC Scotland sport to take an interest you need to wear one of two team shirts at the weekend, and neither are for a rugby team!

  5. I know what you mean, a truly sad state of affairs that a Public sector broadcasting set up panders to two teams that do nothing but embarrass Scotland with their antics. Hopefully we will be without one sooner or later….

    Well maybe they will have taken note of the Support Glasgow is building and get behind the sport.

    I wonder if we had taken the League set up to go pro and backed the clubs with the millions we had ploughed into the 3/2 pro clubs whether we would be in a better state of affairs. Maybe we would have had better tv coverage.

    If a new super semi pro league gets set up we should get that backed with a good sponsor a tv deal… alba?? so show games on a Friday or Saturday evening

  6. Whilst there was a lot of effort from Glasgow, and several line breaks, especially from the forwards, there was little in the way of creative play from Glasgow, and not much more from Leinster – though they did score a couple of good tries.

    However, the game for me swung on two errors from the same passage of play.

    Matawalu showed again his preference for self instead of team (like with try he stole from Hogg), and whilst it has come off previously (and given him almost cult status amongst Glasgow fans), it worked out badly on Saturday. This was then compounded by a refereeing error, as was pointed out another forum somewhere.

    Matalawalu knocks the ball on, it goes over the line and someone (Grant perhaps), touches it down – the ball is now dead, and should therefore be a drop out 22. From where I’m watching the TV, Owens gets it wrong, as he plays advantage, Leinster break up the park, and kick the penalty from the resulting scrum, from which Glasgow never recover.

    Fine margins between success and failure.

    The big issue for Glasgow for next season is still the 10 position. With Jackson away, you’re left with a young boy who has played little in the way of pro rugby, and another who now seems to have dropped behind the guy that’s just been let away. If Townsend doesn’t like Weirs style of play, then perhaps he’s the one who should be moving on.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion