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Saili's late try sends Munster back into the Champions Cup quarter-finals

The All Blacks-capped centre proved the match winner for Rassie Erasmus’ men.

Glasgow 12

Munster 14

Murray Kinsella reports from Scotstoun

FRANCIS SAILI HAS had to watch on as Jaco Taute has become a fan favourite at Munster in his injury-enforced absence, but fit again after his shoulder trouble, the Kiwi struck brilliantly to secure his province a place in the Champions Cup quarter-finals.

Francis Saili celebrates his try with teammates Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Saili’s late try against Glasgow earned Munster the win that sees them back in the knockout stages of this competition after the pain of missing out for the last two years.

For the 16th time in 22 efforts, Munster are quarter-finalists in Europe. Back where they feel the belong. They will now look to ensure it is a home quarter-final by beating Racing 92 convincingly in Thomond Park next weekend.

This victory was not quite aesthetically pleasing, but Rassie Erasmus’ men showed their grit once again to claw their way to success.

They stuck determinedly with Glasgow in an often scrappy and always feisty game, even with their usually superb lineout not at optimum levels. The scrum was a see-saw battle, while Munster’s maul didn’t turn up the same success as it often does.

Nonetheless, Peter O’Mahony and his hardy team-mates dug in and never let Glasgow put any scoreboard distance on them.

Saili’s winning try came in the 72nd minute, with Stuart Hogg in the sin bin, and it was brilliant. Playing with penalty advantage, Tyler Bleyendaal spun the ball wide left to Simon Zebo in the Glasgow 22, the fullback offloading out of the tackle to Keith Earls.

Earls looked set to carry hard into contact but turned and released a pass to Saili, looping around to his outside shoulder. The twice-capped All Black put every ounce of this season’s frustration into his finish, scorching past Tommy Seymour and diving over in the left corner.

Francis Saili scores a try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

An edgy first half had left the game poised at 6-6, with Bleyendaal slotting two of his three penalty attempts in the opening 40, but Finn Russell and Hogg both had successful shots at goal too – the fullback hammering his penalty over from the halfway line.

Glasgow had made an intelligent start, targeting Munster’s lineout and looking to boss the territory with kicks into the visitors’ backfield. Gregor Townsend’s side also brought an aggressive edge to dealing with Conor Murray, leaving a handful of ever-so-slightly late shoulders in on the influential scrum-half.

Dave Kilcoyne went to deck at a 13th-minute scrum to allow Russell to open the scoring, though Munster had a chance to level within four minutes as referee Luke Pearce penalised Warriors tighthead Zander Fagerson for losing his feet at the scrum.

An error from Hogg allowed Munster to notch their first points soon after though, the fullback kicking into touch on the full, with a big CJ Stander carry getting Munster onto the front foot, before Lee Jones was pinged for a high tackle on Earls inside the Glasgow 22. Bleyendaal made it 3-3.

Munster had a fine chance to take the lead nearing the half-hour mark, after Russell kicked out on the full. A clever lineout play saw Murray put Kilcoyne into a gap, before Niall Scannell, Kilcoyne and O’Mahony made battering carries.

The Irish province went wide to the left, however, and Jean Kleyn got isolated on a short carry, with Gordon Reid coming up with the relieving turnover penalty metres out from his own tryline.

Jack O’Donoghue found himself isolated on the halfway line soon after, resulting in another turnover penalty and Hogg slammed over the three points.

Tyler Bleyendaal kicks a penalty Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

But Josh Strauss failed to roll away at a ruck two minutes later and was then marched back 10 metres for his protests, with Bleyendaal taking his chance off the tee after the latest bout of shoving after the whistle.

Hogg had a chance to give Glasgow a half-time advantage in the closing minute of the half after a high tackle call against Donnacha Ryan, but his long-range effort was wide to the right.

The Scots were by far the more threatening side after the interval, with Hogg making a piercing break wide on the left, but Earls then picked off a Russell pass in the Munster 22 to relieve the pressure.

A defensive misread from Stander gave Glasgow their next linebreak, as Russell passed to man of the match Tim Swinson in behind the rapidly advancing Munster number eight. The excellent Andrew Conway halted the Glasgow lock but failed to roll away and Russell put his side 9-6 up from the tee.

A partial blockdown from the impressive Kleyn on Russell minutes later put the pressure back on Glasgow and hooker Fraser Brown failed to release in the tackle soon after, allowing Bleyendaal to equalise again.

Warriors scrum-half Ali Price reminded Munster of the home side’s attacking quality from their next strong lineout platform, scything through to offload to left wing Jones. However, Munster showed resilience again as Stander pounced over a loose ruck.

The Ireland back row did give up the next kickable penalty, however, swimming up the side of a promising Glasgow maul. Russell was on target for a third time to push Glasgow 12-9 ahead with 20 minutes remaining.

Finn Russell kicks a penalty Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Murray had to depart for a HIA after getting himself in an awkward position tackling Swinson, having initially stayed on after treatment on the pitch.

His temporary replacement, Duncan Williams, marshalled the Munster pack through perhaps their best spell of bludgeoning attack in the Glasgow 22, with the likes of Stander, O’Mahony and the replacement front row of Rhys Marshall, Thomas du Toit and James Cronin muscling up in the carries and at ruck time.

Eventually, Bleyendaal spun the ball wide to the right and Conway almost scored in the corner, only to be held up superbly. The TMO review ruled no try, but it also showed a high tackle on Conway by Hogg.

In truth, there was minimal contact, but Pearce deemed it worthy of a yellow card. Munster went to the corner rather than taking a tricky shot at goal and their gamble paid off as Saili struck on penalty advantage after Glasgow brought the Munster maul to deck.

Bleyendaal’s conversion effort was wide, leaving the game finely poised at 14-12 in the visitors’ favour.

Murray – back on the pitch after passing his HIA – was blocked down as he looked to clear from the restart, bringing Munster’s hearts back into mouths, but their defence turned up in stunning fashion to drive Glasgow backwards and force a knock-on from Zander Fagerson.

Glasgow threw everything at Erasmus’ men in the closing minutes, breaking down the left through the dynamic Swinson at one stage, but Munster held on to return to the knockout stages of this competition for the first time in three years.

Munster scorers:

Tries: Francis Saili

Conversions: Tyler Bleyendaal [0 from 1]

Penalties: Tyler Bleyendaal [3 from 4]

Glasgow scorers:

Penalties: Finn Russell [3 from 3], Stuart Hogg [1 from 2]

GLASGOW WARRIORS: Stuart Hogg (yellow card ’71); Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett (Nick Grigg ’63), Alex Dunbar, Lee Jones; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Gordon Reid (Alex Allan ’78), Fraser Brown (Pat MacArthur ’63), Zander Fagerson (D’arcy Rae ’78); Tim Swinson, Jonny Gray (captain); Rob Harley, Ryan Wilson, Josh Strauss (Chris Fusaro ’68).

Replacements not used: Matt Fagerson, Grayson Hart, Peter Murchie.

MUNSTER: Simon Zebo (Ian Keatley ’73); Andrew Conway, Jaco Taute (Francis Saili ’57), Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray (HIA – Duncan Williams ’65 to ’71); Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin ’49), Niall Scannell (Rhys Marshall ’67), John Ryan (Thomas Du Toit ’61); Jean Kleyn (Billy Holland ’54), Donnacha Ryan; Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Dave Foley ’73), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.

Referee: Luke Pearce [RFU].

Attendance: 7,351.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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