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Glasgow Warriors out-Munstered Munster to reach URC final

Glasgow Warriors applaud Munster off pitch

“Stand Up and Fight” the Munster folk belt out with gusto before every match. Well, Glasgow stood tall, they fought and they won. Deservedly.

For large spells in that opening 40, it seemed unlikely. They were firmly on the wrong side of referee Andrea Piardi. They conceded six penalties in the first 10 minutes, nine by half-time, and had Richie Gray and Matt Fagerson both sent to the sin bin.

Unlike so many Scottish sides of the recent past, they problem solved on the hoof and did not allow a difficult spell to become a full-blown crisis. The big players stepped up and the game management to close it out was exceptional.

“Credit to Glasgow, they were tenacious, they wouldn’t go away,” devastated Munster head coach Graham Rowntree told BBC Scotland after the match.

“This will sting for a long time. There’s no tomorrow. It’s knockout rugby.”

Munster came into the semi-final riding the crest of a wave after reeling off 10 wins on the bounce and looking every inch a team that was ready to make it back-to-back URC titles.

The big screen operators at Thomond Park were even advertising tickets for next week’s final, a showpiece they were clearly expecting to be taking place in Limerick once Glasgow were swotted aside. The Warriors had other ideas.

Given the opposition, the venue, the stakes and the performance, this must be filed alongside the very best displays ever produced by a Scottish side.

“I’m very proud of the boys,” Glasgow head coach Franco Smith said.

“The fact they stuck to the script again and they worked really hard, adapted well to what was needed. And under difficult circumstances sometimes, with the fact that we had two yellow cards, so really proud of the resilience.

“It was about cool heads. It was clear to everybody outside that we wanted to play to win tonight.

“We were just making too many errors the first half. We turned the ball over, our own mistakes, which led to us defending a lot of sets and then getting penalised unnecessarily and that was the bad spiral we were in.

“We were just trying to stop the rot from that perspective, be a little bit more calm and in control of our actions. That was the message at half-time.”

Stopping the rot has been an Achilles heel for Scottish teams in recent times. Those “bad spirals” identified by Smith consumed the national team in their World Cup humiliation against Ireland and the disastrous Six Nations defeat by Italy in Rome.

Glasgow players seem to have a tougher edge to them when wearing Warriors strips than they do in the blue of Scotland – and Smith must take much of the credit.

“I hope he’s got the freedom of the city now,” former Scotland prop Peter Wright said on the BBC Scotland Rugby Podcast.

“That’s two major finals in two seasons. He’s really galvanised a squad of players that was a bit rudderless towards the end of Danny Wilson’s reign.

“They were struggling, they didn’t really have an identity. I don’t think they were enjoying the way Danny Wilson wanted them to play, whereas Franco Smith came in and he’s given them direction, he’s given them a game plan that they all seem to enjoy.

“He’s tough on them, he’s a hard taskmaster, but he’s done a remarkable job and what I like about him is that he trusts every player.”

Now Smith’s incredible work with Glasgow takes him back to his homeland to face the Bulls, who defeated Leinster, in Pretoria and the chance to lead Warriors to their first piece of silverware in nine years.

“It’s been a lot of sacrifice,” Smith added. “I left away from my family this year and absolutely grateful that the boys bought in and gave me something to smile about tonight.

“But we didn’t train and practice to win a semi-final. We would like to go all the way, so a lot of work still to be done this week.”

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Written by Joseph

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