Glasgow Warriors V Scarlets
Glasgow Warriors came up short in their pursuit of a place in the Guinness PRO14 final, as Dave Rennie’s men were beaten 28-13 by defending champions Scarlets in front of a sold-out Scotstoun.George Horne in action against the Scarlets
Despite the unwavering support of a 10,000 capacity crowd, the Warriors ultimately left themselves too much to do, with tries from Jonny Gray and Nick Grigg coming too late to impact upon the result.
On a perfect night for rugby, the Warriors got the first-ever Guinness PRO14 semi-final underway, with Finn Russell hoisting the drop-kick high to a cacophony of Warriors support.
It was the visitors who took the early advantage, however, as Rhys Patchell danced over on an outside arc from ten metres for the game’s opening score. The Welsh fly-half converted his own try, and the Scarlets led 7-0 after three minutes.
Both sides, as expected, were in the mood to give the ball some air, with offloads peppering the opening ten minutes. At one end, only a Matt Fagerson turnover prevented the Scarlets from extending their early lead, whilst DTH van der Merwe almost found a way up the touchline for the Warriors as they pressed for an immediate response.
The home side eventually registered their first points of the evening on 13 minutes, as Russell made no mistake from the tee, punishing the visitors for straying offside.
However, yet again it was the visitors who made the most of their early opportunities. A line break from Scott Williams saw the Welsh centre find scrum-half Gareth Davies in support, who stepped around the covering defence to score. Patchell converted, and the visitors held a 14-3 lead.
The match was living up to it’s billing as a clash of the entertainers, with the pace relentless as the sun began to set on Scotstoun. Patchell continued to probe for the Scarlets, dictating his side around the park, whilst George Horne’s trademark zip around the breakdown ensured there would be no let-up from the home side.
Wayne Pivac’s men were showing just why they are the defending champions, and were rewarded with their third try on the half-hour mark. Once more, the score came from good support play – this time, Davies turned provider for loosehead Rob Evans, who cantered under the posts. The conversion was good, and the visitors had a comfortable advantage.
The Warriors thought they had the perfect response just seconds later as George Horne collected an offload from Siua Halanukonuka and raced over the line. However, referee John Lacey ruled the pass had travelled forward, to the chagrin of the home supporters.
A final drive at the Scarlets line was adjudged to have been held up, with Lacey blowing for half-time just moments later with the Warriors trailing 21-3 as they headed to the dressing rooms.
The task in front of Dave Rennie’s men grew further in difficulty on 46 minutes, with Nick Grigg shown a yellow card after infringing at the ruck. To add insult to injury, after Patchell had kicked the resulting penalty to the corner, Scarlets captain Ken Owens was driven over the line for the Welsh side’s fourth try. Patchell’s conversion took the score to 28-3, strengthening the champions’ hold on the game.
If the Warriors held any aspirations of making the final in Dublin, they knew they needed to score next. They duly did so on the hour mark, to the roaring approval of the Scotstoun faithful. After a succession of penalties, Russell’s quick thinking saw him take a quick tap and feed Jonny Gray, who would not be stopped from five metres. The conversion drifted wide, leaving the score at 28-8 to the visitors.
That score not only galvanised the home side, it took them to another level. Gray’s claims for a second try were controversially denied by referee Lacey, with the capacity crowd baying their disapproval.
The Warriors would not be kept at bay for long, though. After sustained pressure in the 22, Grigg provided the final thrust by crashing through the Scarlets defence for a try awarded by the TMO. Peter Horne, on for Russell, cannoned the conversion off the upright, with the score at 28-13 with eight minutes to go.
However, it would ultimately be the clock that would beat Dave Rennie’s side in their pursuit of the ultimate comeback. The ball was kicked into the stands by the Scarlets as time ticked past 80 minutes, sending the Welsh side to the final for the second season in succession and bringing down the curtain on 2017/18 for the Warriors.