Glasgow served up the style – with a large side portion of grunt – to charge to the top of Conference A in the PRO14 (that just sounds odd, doesn’t it?) as they resoundingly beat the team from Ireland that have become their fiercest rivals.
Glasgow started with real purpose, and opened the scoring after only 4 minutes, Leonardo Sarto stepping outside Darren Sweetnam to finish off a move that had gone from wing to wing. The big Italian had only just come on to replace Rory Hughes who was taken off for an HIA, then was permanently withdrawn due to a shoulder injury. His contribution was immediate, and not to end there.
As the game continued at a furious pace, Finn Russell continued his kicking form by adding a penalty to the try he had earlier converted.
Munster hit back quickly through a Rory Scannell try, then it became very tetchy indeed, and referee Nigel Owens had a word about off-the-ball shenanigans, and Glasgow pressed back up the park. Two penalties were awarded to Glasgow within 5 metres of the Munster line, the second of which led to Mr Owens, sir, having to call another class meeting (just 29 of the 30 players as Sarto was receiving treatment) after a mass brawl of handbags.
Glasgow were being ambitious with the ball in hand, and were stringing together intricate passages of play with some success, but not quite getting over the line. It may have been a Munster side missing some star names, but it was still a tough Munster unit to break down.
Munster were easily having the better of the scrum, and were gifted the opportunity to pull within 2 points, only for Bleyendaal, who kicked poorly from hand and tee all night, to push his effort wide.
Sarto’s burst and kick-chase forced an attacking line-out for Glasgow. That one went awry as set-piece woes continued, but when Swinson was taken in the air at the next one after another weak clearing kick from Bleyendal, Russell extended the lead to 13-5.
Next came a thing of beauty. Glasgow took the restart deep in their own 22, and some quick recycling and some even quicker hands unleashed Gibbins down the right-hand side. Lee Jones was supporting and raced to the line to finish a coast-to-coast, belter of a try.
There was a moment of concern as Finn Russell, who was pulling, bowing and plucking all the strings in midfield, went off after bursting his nose open, but otherwise a breathless first-half ended with Glasgow in complete control.
Half-time: Glasgow Warriors 20-5 Munster
Good news, everyone! Finn Russell came back out for the start of the second-half face mostly intact, and his deep penalty into touch led to another penalty and a yellow-card for Munster lock Billy Holland for pulling down the maul just shy of the try-line. Russell was unlucky to not have turned the advantage into a try, following an ingenious cross-kick which just evaded the grasp of Nick Grigg. The diminutive centre did get himself over the line: after more thumping forward play near the Munster line, Pete Horne channelled his “inner-Finn”, launching a looping mis-pass to the wing which was bounced into Grigg’s path, somewhat fortuitously, off Lee Jones.
Soon afterwards, Chris Farrell intercepted George Turner’s pass and ran it home for Munster, by which point Simon Zebo had come on, and Munster took the break in play to end Bleyendaal’s rather hapless involvement. Jaco Taute and Dave Kilcoyne were to follow Zebo onto the pitch, as Munster looked to try and claw themselves back into contention.
Finn Russell wasn’t for having any of it though, pushing another penalty deep and far into Munster territory. Glasgow were so close to another try from Swinson, when he lost control of the ball as he lunged to place the ball at the base of the post. The penalty advantage was already with the Warriors though, and Finn made it 15 kicks from 15 this season, to make it 30-10 with 56mins on the clock.
This really was some impressive stuff from the Warriors, and it was at this point head coach Rennie decided it was time to switch the front-row, and also bring on Rob Harley for his first taste of action this season. Harley replaced Adam Ashe, who had once again been industrious, aggressive and effective.
Speaking of aggression and effectiveness, Sarto produced an unbelievable piece of play as the Warriors band-wagon thundered relentlessly on. Russell took a quick line-out, the ball was switched to the left-wing and Sarto bounced, fended off, or smashed his way through no less than SIX tackles, before laying the ball out to the equally impressive Scott Cummings who went in under the posts.
Young Cummings, who was excellent throughout, was awarded a huge ovation, to his clear delight, as he made way for Big Brido (that’s Brian Alainu’uese, readers – ed). Jonny Gray and Greg Peterson were both watching, and will have taken big notice of Scott’s performance.
Smothering, light-speed defence, and a couple of knock-ons, meant the Warriors held out for a huge and thoroughly deserved win, but there was one more incident which should be mentioned, and kudos to be given to Mr Owens, sir. As Swinson went to clear out a ruck, he grazed heads with Pat MacArthur, which the TMO deigned as the reason for Swinson’s subsequent grogginess. Replays showed that young Munster lock Fineen Wycherley had in fact delivered a dangerous, shoulder-scud to Swinson’s head. Mr Owens, sir, had no option, other than to flash the red-card.
An exceptional display from Glasgow, maybe a couple of moments of madness and some set-piece issues to work on, but the speed and inventiveness of play was just too much for Munster to handle.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
SRBlog Man of the Match: Lot of contenders for this one. Scott Cummings was my initial call, Sarto was vital, Lee Jones just always seems to do good work, Calum Gibbins is a monster, every time Grigg seemed to touch the ball he was dangerous… but Finn Russell was pretty much flawless. He played with the usual swagger and verve, but there was also that level of control we saw against Australia that makes him very difficult to close down. Decision making was excellent, and his kicking flawless.