Munster grind out victory over Glasgow in bruising Scotstoun affair

Munster's win over their Scottish counterparts sets up a semi-final clash with Leinster.
Munster grind out victory over Glasgow in bruising Scotstoun affair

BIG IMPACT: Gavin Coombes of Munster is tackled by Johnny Matthews of Glasgow Warriors. Pic: Paul Devlin/Sportsfile


Resilient Munster face a semi-final trip to Leinster in seven days after seeing off favourites Glasgow with a hard-fought victory in their BKT United Rugby Championship quarter-final at Scotstoun on Saturday night.

The win, secured by first-half tries from centres Malakai Fekitoa and Antoine Frisch came as the home side, who finished a place above Munster in fourth in the regular season standings, lost fly-half Tom Jordan to a 25th-minute red card for a dangerous tackle that left Conor Murray with a failed Head Injury Assessment.

It was one of several injuries that will seriously hamper Munster’s hopes of overcoming top seeds and competition favourites Leinster at the Aviva Stadium next Saturday evening with Graham Rowntree also losing captain Peter O’Mahony to a potential bicep injury after just four minutes and RG Snyman, Murray, Calvin Nash and Fekitoa to HIAs in an intensely physical encounter.

Glasgow, with a trip to Dublin already booked for Friday, May 19 and a Challenge Cup final against Toulon, were attempting to make it back-to-back weekends in the Irish capital a week on from their European semi-final victory at Scarlets.

They were doing so from a position of strength having beaten Munster 38-26 at Thomond Park on March 25 while going unbeaten on their Scotstoun ground since January 2022.

Yet Munster were also in a confident mood having turned their season around for the second time in six months with a league victory at the Stormers and a draw at the Sharks to book a place in the URC play-offs and secure Heineken Champions Cup rugby for 2023-24.

Glasgow were the side that started strongest, just as they had in Limerick six weeks earlier when their maul caused Rowntree’s men untold problems and provided the opening score inside six minutes in a first half which had ended 28-0 to the visitors with a try bonus point bagged before the break.

Though Glasgow also dominated the early stages they could not convert that into points this time around despite Munster losing captain Peter O’Mahony to what looked like an arm injury inside four minutes and then RG Snyman to a Head Injury Assessment removal on 17 minutes that was made permanent soon after.

The loss of two of their biggest physical threats and lineout options could have caused myriad issues for the fifth seeds but Munster weathered the early storm without their line being breached, Frisch and stand-in skipper Tadhg Beirne holding up No.8 Jack Dempsey over the line on 17 minutes.

The game swung dramatically in Munster’s favour, first when Fekitoa struck from eight metres out, collecting an intelligently delayed pass from Jack Crowley and then spinning out of a Kyle Steyn tackle to claim the opening try on 23 minutes, the fly-half converting for a 7-0 lead.

Then came Jordan’s red card. Munster had capitalised on loose ball at a Glasgow maul, Stephen Archer picking up and passing to Murray who attacked down the left wing. Jordan was the covering defender but the Warriors fly-half led with a shoulder to Murray’s face, an intervention that ended both players’ involvement in the contest.

Murray was removed for an HIA from which he did not return while referee Andrea Piardi had little option but to issue a red card, despite the boos of the vocal home crowd.

With a man advantage, centre Stafford McDowall shifting to fly-half, Munster quickly exploited their numerical superiority, with Frisch following his midfield partner onto the scoresheet in similar fashion to Fekitoa on 28 minutes.

The attack sprang from a lineout maul that led to Munster manipulating the home defensive line, pulling opponents along their five-metre line and initially earning a penalty advantage as Beirne made a first dart for the tryline and Glasgow strayed offside. 

Casey’s pass to half-back partner Crowley was followed by another deft pass from the number 10 who once again drew defenders towards him before releasing Frisch for the second try of the game, the fly-half once again adding the conversion for a 14-0 lead they took into the interval.

It could have been more but for Glasgow’s valiant defending before half-time as Munster pressed for a third try that would have spelled serious trouble for the Scots.

The tables were turned after the break as Glasgow searched for a way back into the contest and it was Munster forced to defend for their lives and their resistance was immaculate, negating the Warriors’ maul weapon close to their line once more at the start of an epic stand on 54 minutes which was relieved three minutes later with a scrum penalty in the opposite corner, much to the delight of their travelling supporters who had to witness their forwards concede one on their own put-in at the previous set-piece.

Yet Glasgow’s patience was finally rewarded on 67 minutes. Munster had lost Nash to an HIA, their third of the evening, and their commitment to defence eventually told, Steyn exploiting a dogleg created by Beirne shooting out of the line to intercept a pass to the left wing from Huw Jones.

Beirne missed the pass, Steyn took it and sprinted into the corner for a much-needed Glasgow try though the loss of Jordan may have cost them the touchline conversion, McDowall’s effort wide of the mark to leave Munster with a 14-5 lead heading into the last 10 minutes.

Credit to Munster, they worked the ball away from their danger zone and upfield though there was another price to pay when Fekitoa carried into a clash of heads with Sione Tuipoluto. 

The Munster centre had returned to the field to replace Nash and now left it for an HIA of his own while the Scotland centre earned a yellow card on 76 minutes to leave his side facing the last four minutes with 13 men, avoiding the red for absorbing the collision passively.

It left Munster with a penalty close to the posts and within striking distance of the semi-finals as time and numbers hit Glasgow's hopes. 

They could not force a third try but they had eaten up the clock and a trip to their old foes Leinster duly awaits.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: O Smith (H Jones, 55); S Cancelliere, S Tuipulotu, S McDowall, K Steyn – captain; T Jordan, G Horne (A Price, 67); J Bhatti (N McBeth, 54), J Matthews (F Brown, 72), Z Fagerson (S Berghan, 63); S Cummings (L Bean, 66), R Gray (JP du Preez, 55); M Fagerson, R Darge (S Vailanu, 55), J Dempsey.

Yellow card: Tuipulotu – 76 mins 

Red card: Jordan – 25 mins 

MUNSTER: M Haley; C Nash (M Fekitoa, 66 – HIA, Loughman 76 - HIA), A Frisch, M Fekitoa (B Healy, 55), S Daly; J Crowley, C Murray (C Casey, 25 – HIA); J Loughman (J Wycherley, 58), D Barron (N Scannell, 42), S Archer (R Salanoa, 63); J Kleyn (A Kendellen, 71), RG Snyman (F Wycherley, 17 - HIA); T Beirne, P O'Mahony – captain (J Hodnett, 4), G Coombes. 

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Italy).


BKT URC Semi-final line-up 

Saturday, May 13 

DHL Stormers v Connacht 

DHL Stadium, Cape Town 

KO: 15:00 (Irish time) 

Live on: TG4,, Premier Sports 

Leinster v Munster 

Aviva Stadium, Dublin 

KO: 17:30 (Irish time) 

Live on: RTÉ,, Premier Sports

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