Penney's era at Munster ends in Pro12 semi-final defeat to Glasgow

The Kiwi signed off after a thrilling encounter at Scotstoun, as Munster came up just short.

Paul O'Connell shows his dejection at the final whistle.
Paul O'Connell shows his dejection at the final whistle.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Glasgow 16

Munster 15

ROB PENNEY’S REIGN at Munster came to a disappointing end as his side were narrowly beaten by Glasgow for a place in the RaboDirect Pro12 final.

It was a closely-fought encounter and a thrilling game as Glasgow benefited from the impact of Niko Matawalu off their bench in the nail-biting closing stages. There were several positives in the Munster performance, but that will be little consolation this evening.

While the visitors were relatively effective with their possession, they simply didn’t have enough of it to win this clash, even though they outscored Glasgow in terms of tries, two to one.

Munster’s opening score was as simple as it was impressive. From a 9th-minute line-out inside the Glasgow 22, James Downey was sent crashing up the middle to break the gainline, before the forwards took over with a series of driving carries.

The passage ended with Damien Varley squeezing over from close range, with Carlo Damasco in the television match officials’ booth confirming the score. Ian Keatley’s conversion from the left was sweetly struck for a 7-0 lead.

Source: RaboDirect PRO12/YouTube

Injury forced Casey Laulala off after only 12 minutes, meaning a re-shuffle of the Munster backs, but that did not prevent their defence from maintaining an excellent solidity.

Failure to roll away after the tackle twice allowed Russell to slot penalties, while a scrum penalty led to the 21-year-old’s other first-half three-pointer. However, Munster would have been happy with the physical manner in which they handled the sustained Glasgow attack in the first period.

There were huge hits from Downey, Earls and the outstanding Felix Jones, who was forced off with a suspected concussion just before half time. Despite trailing 9-7 at the interval, there was much for Munster to be content with.

Glasgow had the better of the opening exchanges of the second half though, taking full advantage of a Munster error inside their own 22. Varley threw over the tail of the line-out metres out from the tryline, where James Coughlan knocked-on.

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Source: RaboDirect PRO12/YouTube

Chris Cusiter scooped the bobbling ball from the back of the resulting scrum, sniping himself, and laying the platform for replacement prop Gordon Reid to barge over in the 46th minute. Russell’s touchline conversion from the left was all class.

Munster failed to fold beneath the growing Glasgow momentum at 16-7 down, however, and their next foray into the home team’s 22 resulted in a try that was very similar to their first.

As with the majority of their attacks on the night, Downey was sent barrelling up the centre on first phase from the line-out, from where Munster’s forwards came around the corner onto quick ball. Sean Dougall was the man to touch down with Glasgow’s defence stretched. Keatley was wide with the kickable conversion, a telling miss.

Source: RaboDirect PRO12/YouTube

Munster had to wait until the 66th minute for their next score, a penalty from Keatley after leone Nakarawa failed to release the tackled player. There were chances to build a winning score, with a Donncha O’Callaghan knock-on proving costly on one of the most promising occasions.

Credit to the Glasgow defence though; Gregor Townsend’s men continued to press up aggressively. The introduction of Matawalu and Ruaridh Jackson following Keatley’s late penalty proved an intelligent move, as the former made several relieving breaks.

Munster finished the game in possession, but there was irony in seeing them shift possession wide to the right, only to lose the ball into touch.

Glasgow scorers:

Try: G Reid

Conversion: F Russell

Penalties: F Russell [3]

Munster scorers:

Tries: D Varley, S Dougall

Conversion: I Keatley

Penalty: I Keatley

GLASGOW: Peter Murchie; Sean Maitland, Mark Bennett (Ruaridh Jackson), Alex Dunbar, Tommy Seymour; Finn Russell, Chris Cusiter (Niko Matawalu): Ryan Grant (Gordon Reid), Dougie Hall (Pat MacArthur), Jon Welsh (Geoff Cross); Jonny Gray, Al Kellock (capt.) (Tim Swinson); Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro (Sean Lamont), Josh Strauss (Leone Nakarawa).

MUNSTER: Felix Jones (JJ Hanrahan); Keith Earls, Casey Laulala (Andrew Conway), James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin), Damien Varley (capt.), BJ Botha; Dave Foley (Donncha O’Callaghan), Paul O’Connell; CJ Stander, Sean Dougall (Paddy Butler), James Coughlan.

Replacements not used: Quentin MacDonald, John Ryan, Duncan Williams.

Referee: Marius Mitrea [FIR]

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Murray Kinsella

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