Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


How do Glasgow win an away Pro12 Semi Final?

Stuart Hogg - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography
Stuart Hogg's class could be key to unlocking Connacht's defence - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

A conundrum that has proven beyond all away semi finalists in the Pro12 up to this point. As one of the strongest clubs in terms of squad depth, Glasgow have their shot at history on Saturday, but what are the keys to reversing last weekends result at the Sportsground?

1. Discipline
We have spent all season harping on about this from Glasgow. Keeping 15 on the park is vital and reducing the potential impact of Marius Mitrea will go a long way to securing the win. With the weather forecast looking grim once again, whoever wins the penalty count will be the most likely winner of the tie. Glasgow are third in the league for giving away yellow cards and Connacht are supremely confident in their systems defensively as they smothered a 14-man Warriors team 2 weekends ago. A repeat of Puafisi’s moment of madness cannot happen, as it will be tough enough to prise the final spot from Connacht’s grasp with 15 men. Which leads us nicely onto…

2. Taking Our Points
Whoever is handed the goal kicking duties for Glasgow this weekend, whether Finn Russell, Duncan Weir, Pete Horne or even Stuart Hogg, must be accurate. As the Champions Cup final showed us last weekend, in knock-out rugby, goalkickers are often the difference between teams and Glasgow have had off days this season from the tee. This cannot happen this weekend. In the last game Finn left enough points out there to make it a match winnable with a penalty or drop rather than the converted try Glasgow were chasing at the end, and his percentage over the last two games sits at just 54%.

3 – That Rush Defence
Connacht’s line speed last week was outrageous, with tacklers flying up and instantly shutting the ball down, often way behind the gain line. The question of offside has been posed by a few Scotstoun fans – I’m sure Mitrea will be paying attention – but I think Glasgow have to think smart to prevent constantly going backwards, which only encourages the home fans and builds their momentum. The 10 will again be key here, and if we can figure out how to get the ball past the initial blitz, there should be space aplenty for Hogg et al out wide to run into. So Russell or Horne’s crisp passing could be the key. Or maybe we just go with Weir, kick the ball to the corners and play the territory?

4 – The Stars Need to Shine
Glasgow are the better squad on paper, with few exceptions, from 1-23, but the Scotstoun men need to turn up as you wouldn’t have known it last time out. Too many players had average to poor games, helped along of course by strong Connacht performances. The skill sets and work rate of Nakarawa, Gray and Hogg could (and should) be the difference in a tight game, but the rest need to win their individual battles to see Glasgow victorious; Pat Lam is sure to have strategies to close down the big guns so the little guns need to make sure they have plenty of ammo with them. Sharp games from Pete Horne, Mark Bennett and whoever is picked at 9 from Hart, Pyrgos or Price could go a long way to securing a win.

5 – The Uncontrollables
So much of this weekend’s outcome will come down to which side can master the elements. Both sides like to play good rugby, but the weather could well rule that out and the team that can adjust best to the grind will most likely triumph. Last week would suggest that Connacht have the upper hand here, but Glasgow will know what is coming and should now have a gameplan to suit. Nothing can be done about the weather, but it would also be nice if the referee does not have too much influence on either team’s fortunes. Connacht’s scrum should be strengthened with a number of props returning from injury and young Fagerson will have a lot on his shoulders.

My prediction – Another nailbiter of a semifinal for Glasgow, but a narrow win to make history and rock up at BT Murrayfield for their 3rd final in a row.

Additional reporting: RB


Here’s the team to face Connacht on Saturday night (kick-off 6.30pm, live on Sky Sports 1 & BBC Two Scotland):

15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Tommy Seymour, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. Peter Horne, 11. Sean Lamont, 10. Finn Russell, 9. Henry Pyrgos; 1. Gordon Reid, 2. Fraser Brown, 3. Zander Fagerson, 4. Leone Nakarawa, 5. Jonny Gray (Captain), 6. Ryan Wilson, 7. Simone Favaro, 8. Josh Strauss

Replacements: 16. Pat MacArthur, 17. Ryan Grant, 18. D’arcy Rae, 19. Tim Swinson, 20. Adam Ashe, 21. Grayson Hart, 22. Duncan Weir, 23. Taqele Naiyaravoro

Not available due to injury: Alex Allan (concussion), Kevin Bryce (knee), Junior Bulumakau (foot), Rory Clegg (ankle), Alex Dunbar (knee), Jarrod Firth (concussion), Tyrone Holmes (foot), Sam Johnson (hamstring), Fergus Scott (shoulder) and Richie Vernon (shoulder).

18 Responses

  1. Great article, sound analysis of all that was wrong last time. However my concern is around how to win, this game. Finn I always feel is better when he has strong game managers around him. So for Glasgow to win I believe that 8,9& 12 need big games to allow Finn to dictate play. Strong ball carrying around the breakdown will suck in defenders, which may create more space, to play in.

  2. I think Connacht will nick it because the weather will be unfavourable and Glasgow, as yet, cannot tough it out and grab wins in inclement weather; a fact that helps to explain their non-success in European competition.

  3. I think Lam watched the video nasty that was this years 1872 DVD. Edinburgh have shown the way to beat Glasgow in inclement weather with blitz defence and major aggression at the breakdown. The question is really what is Glasgows plan to counteract that. I think Russell will start at 10 with Pyrgos and there will be lots of breaks from 9 and grubbers or chips over the top to keep the defence honest. Wouldn’t be surprised if Weir is on early if its not working with Russell moving to 12. Also wouldn’t be surprised if Lamont is on at 13 to counteract Aki. Should be a hell of a game.

  4. If the weather is bad, start with Weir, play percentage rugby, win the territory battle, take the points when they are on offer, save the flash stuff for later in the game.

    1. I don’t understand. Weir is not good enough for international rugby. But we should play him in this pressure game. Come on – if you want Russell to mature, how else? He has just as good a boot, just needs to use it properly.

      I’m pretty confident there will be revenge and from much the same team. I think someone made a post about Price’s inexperience showing. So, Pyrgos, Russell, Horne.

  5. Duncan Weir has had chances for Scotland (I gave him the benefit of the doubt thinking – he can kick us into a position where we WANT to play & his kicking game can be handy) & utterly failed. Cotter has concluded the same, preferring (correctly) Jackson over Weir.

    Scotland NEED to play expansively as the top 4 or 5 nations can/do strangle us up front meaning Hogg, Seymour, Bennett, Russell getting no/rubbish ball.

    The issue is……….stopping us getting strangled for long enough to get the ball to the aforementioned

    Boys like Denton, Berghan, Gilchrist have the necessary physicality & really need to be in the squad.

    Finally rugby fellows – wouldn’t Ross Ford be better @ prop??

    1. You could reasonably argue that Weir struggled for Scotland with Laidlaws speed of service and lack of breaks but he’s been decent for Glasgow in the last few months. Will be interesting to see how he gets on in Edinburgh.

  6. Both teams really want this. I think tactics will be a different from a fortnight ago. I think Connacht will kick more possession if its wet and windy and Glasgow will probably revert to closer to their normal game with big carriers hitting up closer to the breakdown before bringing in the backs. Suspect it will ultimately come down to who has the best defence and makes the least mistakes. In that regard you hope Glasgows greater experience will see them over the line but its likely to be a nail biting evening.

    1. It has looked like weather would be a repeat of last game, but the last few days the forecast has cleared up and conditions will be dry, quite warm (approx. 10-13c during an evening game) but with a stiff breeze at the start of the game (15mph). So pretty good conditions for a running game if not perfect for kickers. Ground will be soft underfoot though as it has been raining most days – it is in Galway though so that is standard.

  7. Big Al,

    Excellent points, Laidlaw’s kicking necessitates his inclusion in the Scotland team, Russell’s kicking is hit/miss (I’d have Hoggy practising kicking).
    Your best defence synopsis is the more likely deciding factor, but fingers crossed the game will be won by a piece of breath-taking genius by Hogg/Bennett/Naka

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion