Connacht buckle under Glasgow pressure

Glasgow 24 Connacht 3

Glasgow 24 Connacht 3

Glasgow snatched the final RaboDirect Pro12 play-off berth and a semi-final tie against Leinster after a resounding 24-3 victory over Connacht saw them secure fourth place in the league table.

In what was their last ever game at Firhill Stadium before their summer move to the recently redeveloped Scotstoun Stadium, the Warriors impressed throughout and grabbed the spoils thanks to tries from DTH van der Merwe and John Barclay.

The rest of the points came from the boot of Duncan Weir, while replacement Ruaridh Jackson also chipped in with a late conversion. Despite their loss, Connacht remained in eighth place in the table, their highest league finish ever.

It was the hosts who were first on the scoreboard, fly-half Weir thumping over a penalty after the Connacht front row buckled in the scrum, having missed a long-range effort moments earlier.

Yet the game was level only minutes later, Miah Nikora stroking a straightforward penalty through the uprights, as Connacht gained reward for their first foray into Glasgow territory.

Connacht began to visibly grow in confidence as the half progressed, the elusive running of centre Henry Fa’afili proving particularly destructive, while the tactical astuteness of Nikora began to take effect. The fly-half’s clever cross-kick released Gavin Duffy, only for the home rearguard to smother the move.

Before long, the Warriors began to reassert some authority on proceedings, and Weir nudged them back in front with a sweetly-struck penalty from all of 50 metres.

Glasgow have been without try-scoring machine Van der Merwe for the majority of this campaign, the giant winger having been dogged with a shoulder injury, but after an industrious start it was no surprise that he crossed the whitewash for the game’s first try, rounding off a sweeping Warriors move featuring slick interplay from backs and forwards alike. Weir slid his conversion attempt wide of the posts.

At times the game appeared as though it may boil over, one altercation running for a number of minutes before referee Peter Fitzgibbon restored order. From the resulting penalty, Weir elected to kick to touch rather than have a shot at goal, and the move petered out, bringing the half to a close.

Weir stretched the hosts’ lead early in the second period with a third successful penalty and they continued to dominate as the half wore on. The probing runs of Stuart Hogg and Alex Dunbar, aided by yet another sterling performance from young scrum-half Henry Pyrgos, kept Connacht penned deep in their own territory for long periods.

Somewhat inevitably, it was the home side who altered the scoreboard once more, Weir adding another three-pointer as the Connacht front row continued to shed penalties at the scrum.

The visitors were temporarily reduced to 14 men when replacement scrum-half Paul O’Donohoe was ordered to the sin-bin for petulantly throwing opposing number Chris Cusiter to the ground off the ball. From the resulting penalty, Glasgow assumed prime field position and secured a scrum metres from the Connacht line.

The hosts marched the scrum into the dead-ball area with ease, allowing number eight Barclay to dab down for a try converted by substitute Jackson.

As the game drew to a close, Connacht enjoyed their best spell of pressure, but they were unable to convert their territorial advantage into points, handing Glasgow the victory as they signed off their Firhill career in style.

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