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Sunday May 24, 2015

Munster and Glasgow book places in Guinness PRO12 final

Glasgow Warriors will play Munster in the final of the Guinness Pro12 at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast next weekend after both sides triumphed in two tantalising home semi-finals.

The Warriors struck late to beat Ulster at Scotstoun to reach their second consecutive final while Munster overcame a last minute scare to overcome the Ospreys in Limerick to secure their first final since 2011 where they beat Leinster 19-9.

Glasgow 16-14 Ulster

Despite having the crucial home advantage, Glasgow looked out of sorts for the large majority of the encounter. Ulster took the lead after 30 seconds through a Ruan Pienaar penalty but two kicks from Finn Russell and Stuart Hogg gave the home side a 6-3 lead.

The visitors had plenty chances in the opening 40 minutes and if not for desperate Glasgow defence and the occasional handling error, Ulster should have scored earlier than they did. Chris Henry’s well worked 18th minute try gave Ulster a deserved lead and increased momentum.

Glasgow’s indiscipline and inaccuracy seemed to have got the better of them and Gregor Townsend’s men looked at times, a defeated side. A further two Russell penalties sandwiched a second Pienaar kick to leave the scores standing at 11-9.

Pienaar looked to kick the final nail into the Glasgow coffin with a superb long range penalty to give Ulster a 14-9 lead with little more than 10 minutes left on the clock. But Glasgow fought back brilliantly and, after several piercing attacks, a perfectly weighted Russell pass floated into the hands of Canadian international wing DTH van der Merwe who scored the equalising try.

Russell then consummately slotted the touchline conversion under immense pressure to ultimately secure the win.

Munster 21-18 Ospreys

Having scored three tries and raced into a 21-8 lead, Munster seemed to be coasting to another League final. But Ospreys came roaring back and nearly caused one of the biggest upsets in the league’s history.

An ebb and flow first half saw neither side gain much momentum but as half-time approached it was Munster who struck first with a superbly worked try for Simon Zebo. An inside ball from half-back Ian Keatley put Number 8 CJ Stander into open space before neat hands from flanker Paddy Butler sent Zebo in for an easy finish.

From then on it seemed as though Munster would continue to flex their muscles. A further try from Denis Hurley just after half-time saw the home side extend their lead to 16-3. But a loose pass off the back of a scrum from Stander was beautifully picked up by on-coming Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb reduced the gap to eight points.

Munster responded almost immediately and scored their third try courtesy of Paddy Butler’s 49th minute score. The flanker ran a superb line and used his considerable bulk to power over the line to make it 21-8.

But such was the nature of the encounter, the Ospreys did not relent and scored a spectacular solo try from winger Jeff Hassler relit the match once more. 

With the match on a knife edge, the Ospreys thought they had scored in the 80th minute through Josh Matevesi. But after sensibly checking with his TMO, referee Nigel Owens confirmed that Webb had indeed knocked on at the beginning of the attack, thus giving Munster a dramatic win.

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