Leinster go back-to-back in the Pro14 as they edge Glasgow at Celtic Park

Leo Cullen’s men secured their sixth title in the competition in tough conditions in Glasgow.

Glasgow 15

Leinster 18

Murray Kinsella reports from Celtic Park

IT REQUIRED A steely final defensive stand but Leinster got over the line to secure back-to-back Guinness Pro14 titles by overcoming Dave Rennie’s Glasgow Warriors in front of 47,125 people, a new record final attendance for the championship.

Garry Ringrose celebrates his try with Jordan Larmour and Josh van der Flier Leinster celebrate Garry Ringrose's try. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Warriors scored a 75th-minute try to bring themselves to within three points but Leinster had built just enough of a lead to allow themselves to end their season with silverware.

Teeming rain in Glasgow made conditions difficult and it was a day for the forwards to excel, with vice-captain Rhys Ruddock, the relentless James Ryan and try-scoring man of the match Cian Healy leading the way in that regard as Leinster’s pack muscled up impressively.

Leinster had to survive a yellow card to fullback Rob Kearney with 15 minutes remaining – Glasgow fans felt it should have been red for taking out Stuart Hogg in the air – but their experience and nous over the course of the 80 minutes was just about greater than Glasgow’s.

Centre Garry Ringrose grabbed Leinster’s other try from a Luke McGrath blockdown of Hogg, helping Leinster into a 15-10 lead at half-time. 

Leo Cullen’s men scored only three thereafter but they won’t care after lifting the Pro14 trophy on Glaswegian soil, Leinster’s sixth title in the competition leaving them two clear of Ospreys.

Having felt the deep disappointment of a Champions Cup final defeat to Saracens only two weekends ago, this was a fitting way for Cullen and Stuart Lancaster’s team to finish off their campaign.

Glasgow’s wait for their first title since 2015 goes on and they will have regrets about a second-half yellow card to centre Kyle Steyn, as well as their inability to threaten in attack in the second 40 until too late.

Stuart Hogg with Jack Conan Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Both teams kicked well in a frenetic opening stanza and it was Leinster who had the first chance of the game when Glasgow loosehead Jamie Bhatti went off his feet at breakdown time.

Sexton had a 38-metre penalty from straight in front of the posts, but with Glasgow fans booing as the out-half lined it up, he missed wide to the right to let the Warriors off the hook.

Two minutes later, Sexton threw an inside pass just too low in front of Jack Conan on the Glasgow 22 after a scything Leinster break, started by Rhys Ruddock’s awareness and continued by Garry Ringrose, who sent Sexton racing to into the Glasgow half.

Leinster might have felt Fraser Brown should have been sin-binned for an off-the-ball hit into the back of Luke McGrath in behind a lineout soon after, but referee Nigel Owens judged that it was a penalty only after a TMO review.

The game then swung firmly in Glasgow’s favour as Sexton threw another loose pass to ground, the ricocheting ball bobbling up to Tommy Seymour, requiring Robbie Henshaw to make an excellent tackle near halfway to prevent a breakaway score.

But Adam Hastings cleverly kicked the ball into touch in the Leinster 22 on the next phase, where Jonny Gray stole a lineout and Glasgow went into a powerful multi-phase passage. Lock Scott Cummings’ carry gave them real momentum and it was number eight Matt Fagerson who picked and burrowed over to score on the next phase, Hastings converting.

Matt Fagerson scores a try as Ali Price and Rob Harley celebrate Glasgow celebrate Matt Fagerson's try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leinster’s reply was instantaneous, however, as McGrath blocked down Stuart Hogg’s attempted clearing kick from the restart, with the ball bouncing wide right into the in-goal area, where Ringrose surged forward to ground it. 

Sexton couldn’t convert and Cullen’s men were further behind within six minutes, Ringrose’s missed tackle on opposite number Kyle Steyn allowing Glasgow to break back into Leinster’s 22.

Jordan Larmour and Rob Kearney did well to prevent DTH van der Merwe from scoring off that Steyn break, before Hastings opted to carry into Sexton’s tackle when a pass might have resulted in a try. There was offside advantage playing, though, and Hastings slotted the three for a 10-5 lead.

Leinster had an attacking passage halted in the 26th minute when Glasgow hooker Fraser Brown suffered a serious left leg injury while jackaling in a ruck, forcing him to be stretchered off, but they showed controlling and suffocating quality on resumption.

It was a 17-phase sequence that ended with Cian Healy picking and carrying through Rob Harley for Leinster’s second try, ably assisted by a typically good Scott Fardy latch, with Sexton able to convert this time to put the Irish province into the lead for the first time.

A scrum penalty for Leinster allowed Sexton to extend that advantage to 15-10 in the 36th minute, ignoring more boos to hammer his kick over from 45 metres out.

Cian Healy scores a try Cian Healy barges over for his first-half try. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

And the visitors muscled up defensively in the closing stages of the half to keep that lead intact, first forcing Harley to knock-on and then with Larmour shoving van der Merwe into touch with the final play of the half. 

Another deluge of rain at half-time made ball-handling even trickier in the second half with both teams losing the ball forward in the early exchanges. 

Hogg’s dancing feet took him pass Fardy and into the Leinster 22 in the 49th minute as Glasgow built ominously before Ali Price’s loose pass to ground suddenly allowed Leinster to counter as Ringrose pounced on the ball.

The midfielder glided up into Glasgow territory and flicked a pass to the hard-working James Lowe on his inside. Though Lowe was grounded, Steyn didn’t roll away of the tackle and was deservedly binned by Owens for killing Leinster’s momentum.

Cullen’s men went to the corner with that penalty and looked to barge their way over again, winning a penalty under the sticks as Harley failed to release after a tackle. Despite their numerical advantage, Leinster opted to take the points and open up an eight-point gap thanks to Sexton’s straightforward shot at goal.

Leinster began to turn the screw, with Sexton a superb grubber asking Glasgow to run the ball out of their in-goal area, only for Henshaw and Ryan to hammer Gibbins in the tackle for a five-metre scrum. 

Garry Ringrose celebrates his try with Jordan Larmour and Josh van der Flier Leinster celebrate Garry Ringrose's try. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A penalty at that scrum allowed Steyn to come back on after his 10 minutes in the bin but rather than taking the chance to extend their lead to 11 points, Leinster opted to pack down again, clearly eager to finish the Warriors off.

Three scrum resets ensued before Leinster finally played off the back of the set-piece, only for scrum-half McGrath to knock-on at the base of a ruck two phases later.  

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Glasgow then won a penalty at the ensuing scrum and suddenly the doubts over Leinster opting not to take their points rose.

Those concerns only grew in the 66th minute when Kearney chased his own garryowen and clumsily collided with Hogg as the Glasgow fullback lept to gather the kick. Replays appeared to show Hogg’s head making contact with the ground but Owens decided only to yellow-card the Leinster man, much to the Warriors fans’ anger.

Glasgow, aiming to seize the momentum, mauled into the Leinster 22 from the penalty but Ringrose and Henshaw combined for a choke tackle turnover on Steyn, before the Leinster scrum – with a new front row of Ed Byrne, Bryan Byrne and Andrew Porter – won a big penalty to allow Sexton to relieve the pressure.

Leinster attempted to run the clock down with their next possession, grinding at Glasgow on their 22 but eventually the Warriors manufactured themselves a turnover to allow themselves back on the attack.

The Scots thrust forward with intent, replacement Huw Jones cutting through Leinster and laying the platform for Peter Horne and Matt Fagerson to send sub hooker Grant Stewart down the right touchline to finish in the right corner.

Hastings couldn’t convert from wide out, leaving the Warriors trailing 18-15 with just four minutes left. But they knocked-on with their final possession, allowing Leinster to wind the closing seconds down and boot the ball off the field to spark the celebrations.

Glasgow scorers:

TriesMatt Fagerson, Grant Stewart

ConversionsAdam Hastings [1 from 2]

PenaltiesAdam Hastings [1 from 1]

Leinster scorers:

TriesGarry Ringrose, Cian Healy

ConversionsJohnny Sexton [1 from 2]

PenaltiesJohnny Sexton [2 from 3]

GLASGOW WARRIORS: Stuart Hogg (Huw Jones ’66); Tommy Seymour, Kyle Steyn (yellow card ’49), Sam Johnson (Pete Horne ’56), DTH van der Merwe; Adam Hastings, Ali Price (George Horne ’58); Jamie Bhatti (Oli Kebble ’53), Fraser Brown (Grant Stewart ’26), Zander Fagerson (Siua Halanukonuka ’68); Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray; Rob Harley (Ryan Wilson ’53), Callum Gibbins (captain) (Tom Gordon ’78), Matt Fagerson.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney (yellow card ’66); Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (captain) (Ross Byrne ’74), Luke McGrath (Nick McCarthy ’76); Cian Healy (Ed Byrne ’63), Sean Cronin (Bryan Byrne ’64), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’64); Scott Fardy, James Ryan; Rhys Ruddock (Ross Molony ’78, Josh van der Flier (Max Deegan ’74), Jack Conan.

Replacements: Rory O’Loughlin.

Referee: Nigel Owens [WRU].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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