Connacht 14 Glasgow Warriors 7: Connacht’s players will have a bounce in their step when they return to the Sportsground after three days rest to prepare for yet another seasonal first.
Glasgow, defeated 14-7 in Galway on Saturday, return for this first PRO12 semi-final in the city, seeking revenge against Pat Lam’s men who have taken this season by storm.
“This was all about showing our desire, hunger, character and culture and they delivered it in spades,” said Lam of their win over the tournament champions.
“When it has really counted - against Munster, Leinster, this game, and even against Ulster when we were defending with 13 men - these guys will step up.
“Everyone was expecting the result to go the other way - so I am really proud of the way we beat them. Glasgow are a phenomenal team and they are going to come back stronger, no doubt.”
Glasgow looked the sharper in the opening 15 minutes but failed to make it count as out-half Finn Russell struggled with his kicking. However, when Connacht got to grips with dominant lock Leone Nakarawa in the loose, and stymied Glasgow’s best efforts, they gained momentum and confidence.
From their first penalty after 16 minutes, captain John Muldoon secured the line-out, man of the match Kieran Marmion found AJ MacGinty who in turn fed Bundee Aki for the opening try. MacGinty, who played a pivotal role in both attack and defence, added the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Connacht, with their sleeves rolled up, grabbed the foothold with MacGinty, Ultan Dillane, Sean O’Brien and Muldoon all putting in big hits. However Glasgow made the better start the second-half and were rewarded with a couple of penalties which resulted in prop Gordon Reid breaking from a maul to cross for a try with Russell adding the extras.
But with Connacht back down the pitch within minutes, Glasgow’s tight-head Sila Puafisi was red-carded for leading with head on Kieran Marmion.
Chances went abegging until the 60th minute when Shane O’Leary, having replaced MacGinty, produced the perfect cross-field kick, and Tiernan O’Halloran celebrated his 100th cap when claiming the ball over Scottish full-back Stuart Hogg to claim the winning try, with O’Leary converting.
Connacht survived some late Glasgow attacks, winning a vital penalty at the death to secure a vital home semi-final.
T O’Halloran; N Adeolokun, R Henshaw, B Aki, M Healy; A MacGinty, K Marmion; R Loughney, T McCartney, F Bealham, U Dillane, A Muldowney, S O’Brien, J Heenan, J Muldoon (c).
R Ah You for Bealham (3m), JP Cooney for Ah You (52m), S O’Leary for McGinty (54m), D Heffernan for Loughney (56m), E McKeon for O’Brien (62m), J Cooney for Marmion (67m), Q Roux for Dillane (73m), P Robb for Aki (74m).
S Hogg, T Seymour, A Dunbar, P Horne, L Jones; F Russell, A Price; G Reid, F Brown, S Puafisi, L Nakarawa, J Gray ©, R Harley, R Wilson, J Strauss.
M Bennett for Dunbar (13m), S Favaro for Wilson (67m), T Swinson for Gray (27-34 mins) and for Nakarawa (78m), Z Fagerson for Harley, Sean Lamont for Jones (both 55m), Pat MacArthur for Brown, Jerry Yanuyanutawa for Reid (both 57m), Grayson Hart for Price (69m).
I Davis (WRU)
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