We stood up and fought for 80 minutes of the Pro12 Grand Final.
AND THEN THERE were two.
The long, hard road of the Pro12 season has brought us to Belfast where, for the first time, there is no home favourite. What we do have is the best two teams in the league.
Munster fans have travelled north in convoy, the Glaswegians have crossed the sea. Who will celebrate a much craved trophy win this evening?
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Good afternoon rugby fans. We’re in Belfast’s glorious new Kingspan Stadium, the venue formerly known as Ravenhill for a mouthwathering clash between the league’s finest teams.
Here’s how the teams will line-up. Kick-off is still 45 minutes away, but at this stage we have no reason to think there’ll be any late changes.
15. Felix Jones
14. Keith Earls
13. Andrew Smith
12. Denis Hurley (captain)
11. Simon Zebo
10. Ian Keatley
9. Duncan Williams
1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Eusebio Guinazu
3. BJ Botha
4. Billy Holland
5. Paul O’Connell
6. Donnacha Ryan
7. Paddy Butler
8. CJ Stander
16. Duncan Casey
17. James Cronin
18. Stephen Archer
19. Sean Dougall
20. Jack O’Donoghue
21. Cathal Sheridan
22. JJ Hanrahan
23. Ronan O’Mahony
15. Stuart Hogg
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Richie Vernon
12. Peter Horne
11. DTH van der Merwe
10. Finn Russell
9. Henry Pyrgos
1. Gordon Reid
2. Dougie Hall
3. Rossouw de Klerk
4. Leone Nakarawa
5. Jonny Gray
6. Rob Harley
7. Ryan Wilson
8. Josh Strauss (captain)
16. Fraser Brown
17. Jerry Yanuyanutawa
18. Jon Welsh
19. Al Kellock
20. Chris Fusaro
21. Niko Matawalu
22. Duncan Weir
23. Sean Lamont
Referee: Nigel Owens [WRU].
We’ve now moved out of the cosy confines of the media room and let me tell you, there is a bitterly cold breeze (by 30 May standards anyway) blowing from the end Onslow Parade end of the ground.
Glasgow’s warm-up is in full flow at present while Munster have just their backs on the field with Jerry Flannery keeping time as they let their boots get a feel for the ball.
If you’re in Kingspan Stadium reading this, we’re sorry. The starting line-ups listed (complete with Conor Murray and Peter O’Mahony starting) are wrong. The below XVs hold true.
Munster definitely have the edge on the crowd here. Massive roar and a sea of red as Denis Hurley leads the troops in.
These lads are currently belting out Stand Up And Fight while the teams get pumped in the dressing room.
It’s almost time for Paulie’s final bow.
The wind is picks up and takes all the blue and red flags as the teams walk out to some pyrotechnics.
Munster will kick us off with the wind at their backs.
Let’s do this.
Ian Keatley has us under way in Ravenhill and Russell returns allowing CJ Stander bulldoze in.
Glasgow taking the ball in to contact through phases now after pouncing on a poor Keatley kick. It’s yet another ferocious breakdown contest out there, but Glasgow are making yards after the tackle.
Dave Kilcoyne comes up with a big steal forcing Owens to award a penalty just as Glasgow had advanced to within 15 metres of the line.
Munster kick it away, but there’s another big steal, this time on halfway to give the southern province a platform.
Glasgow disrupt after 4 or 5 phases but the penalty comes for Munster as Williams scrambles on to a ball.
Keatley attempts the long-range shot at goal, but comes up short.
Big chance there for Glasgoe as Williams is stripped of the ball and DTHVDM hacks and chases down the wing. Hurley is in pursuit and covers the danger.
TRY! Munster 0 Glasgow 5 (Harley ’9)
The awesome offloading power of Leone Nakarawa comes up trumps, the Fijian bursts two tackles and gets the ball away to Rob Harley who swan dives over the line.
Russell added the conversion for that score.
This is not the situation Munster wanted to be in. Glasgow, despite their changes are in the mood for fluid rugby.
Another close run thing, DTHVDW gets space after the ball come out of the scrum at lightning pace. He delays his chip, allowing Felix Jones charge it down and send it over the touchline.
You win some, you lose some. Nakarawa’s love of passing leads him to throw the ball over the line, mis-judging where his support runner was.
That break came from some excellent heads-up running from Horne. Seemingly nothing on at first look, but he ran a gorgeous angle to the right and created the overlap for the Scots.
Stu Hogg overcooks a kick. COuld that be a turning point here for Munster? They may well be pleased to be within a single score after this intense Warriors opening.
We’re with the TMO after DTH chased a beautifully weighted grubber – think Cruden v Ireland – Keith Earls won the race and just managed to get fingers on the ball before the attacking winger planted his mits on it.
When Munster need a dig out, big CJ Stander grabs a shovel.
Terrific block down from the South African puts Glasgow on the back foot after he picks posession up in his own 22.
Glasgow manage to scramble well to deny Keith Earls space to dance in under the posts, but that lift was exactly what Munster needed a quarter of the way through this game.
The emphatic ‘We. Are. War-riors’ is answered by the lament of those famous fields west of the Shannon. The atmosphere and tension is growing and growing with every minute in Ravenhill.
PENALTY! Munster 3 Glasgow 7 (Keatley ’24)
The Munster scrum comes up trumps and Ian Keatley settles some of those nerves with a fine strike from the right side of the 22.
TRY! Munster 3 Glasgow 14 ( Van Der Merwe ’25)
Nakarawa again with the assist that opens the door for DTH to run in behind. That try coming straight off the restart and after a nice one-two pass from Russell and Pyrgos to open up the space on the left.
TRY! Munster 3 Glasgow 21 (Pyrgos ’31)
Absolute disaster for Munster as Stu Hogg splits Guinazu and Killer on halfway and delivers the pass inside to his scrum-half on the support line.
Munster, if you’re looking for reasons to stay hopeful approaching half-time, just look back at Glasgow’s trip to Dublin in the spring.
They scored three brilliant tries against Leinster and had them bang to rights at the break, but choked after the restart and invited Matt O’Connor’s side back in to it.
It’s a big ask, but never say never with O’Connell’s Munster.
Duncan Williams is carrying the fight to Glasgow. Two really good snipes either end of 10 or so phases from Munster in the Glasgow 22.
Owens called advantage, but Munster kept playing.
After a long check on the TMO, the score is given. A lifeline.
TRY! Munster 8 Glasgow 21 (Smith ’37)
That score came after intense pressure from Munster and despite some spirited spoiling from Glasgow, Smith picked up after Pyrgos knocked Keatley’s long pass wide off course and bundled through three tacklers.
Keatley has his groove back, nailing a tough conversion.
Munster 10 Glasgow 21
HALF-TIME: Munster 10 Glasgow 21
How valuable might that try be? Munster looked dead and buried at 21-3 and Glasgow looked like they were in the thralls of a full-on offload party. But credit Duncan Williams, a man no Munster fan would pick in their starting XV yet he has come up trumps with some vital yard-stealing carries in the build-up to Smith’s score.
Seconds out, round two.
Munster will receive the kick-off for the second half.
Cant hey put it to good use?
Munster show early signs that they’re willing to throw caution to the wind, but the wind almost takes the ball as well as Keatley lins up with Smith as Munster aim to go wide on halfway.
A good start overall though for Munster, the scrum continues to hold the upper hand and Keatley drives the resulting penalty to the 22.
Paulie comes down with it. It’s Maulin’ time.
Glasgow kill the maul and Munster start over from five metres. Hold on, folks.
Shame. It looks like O’Connell carried over the line, but Owens immediately calls for a scrum v.
These are huge phases for the momentum of this game. If Munster can make it 17 – 21, Glasgow will be shaking.
Glasgow dig deep to hold Munster to a standstill, but they concede the penalty in front of the posts. O’Connell tells Keatley to take an easy three.
PENALTY! Munster 13 Glasgow 21 (Keatley ’49)
There’s the man.
Vive le resistance!
O’Connell leads a high Munster defensive line and forces a dropped pass. Zebo hacks on, but the ball veers left and out of his path, but the Corkman does well to track Seymour and stop him playing out.
Momentum lost again for Munster as Ryan is pinged at the breakdown with Munster trying to build base camp on the 22. Glasgow aren’t having much joy kicking from hand though, Russell’s clearance only makes the 10 metre line in their own half.
The massive Fijian channels his inner Xavi, side-footing the ball to his back-line after it squirted out of a ruck. The balls on this guy!
Really interesting call from Foley, sending JJ Hanrahan in to the game in place of Ian Keatley.
Can the Kerryman conjure something big before he heads off to Northampton?
TRY! Munster 13 Glasgow 28 (Russell ’59)
After intense pressure from Glasgow and an enormous effort from Munster to keep them out, the dam finally breaks.
Russell took advantage of the lack of the numbers right of the posts and darted through the gap.
That must be the game, surely.
Here come the front row replacements for Munster. It’s the one area they’ve had real dominance today, but Glasgow’s handling has been too good to allow the Reds use it often.
Here comes Ali Kellock for a victory lap.
Between himself and O’Connell, we’ve got some seriously mean second rows on the park at the minute.
I’m sorry to report, that Hanrahan hasn’t been able to influence this game since his arrival. That’s chiefly down to Glasgow keeping Munster in their own half, so Hanrahan’s only been able to clear his lines.
There are 17,087 watching the Pro12′s first ‘destination final’ in Belfast today.
This is a horrible way to end what has been a pretty good season for Munster.
This contest ended with Russell’s try and we’re now just watching the game slowly die.
Maybe Niko Matawalu will liven things up a bit.
He arrives on the field to a chorus of boos.
The North Remembers.
That’s the last of the replacements. Sean Dougall comes on for Paddy Butler who will play in France next season. Williams is replaced by Cathal Sheridan
PENALTY! Munster 13 Glasgow 31 (Weir ’73)
There’s a nice symmetry about the scoreline now. 13 -31: Glasgow have been everything Munster wanted to be today.
We must remember, this is a terrific moment for Glasgow. Gregor Townsend has turned this club into an excellent footballing side. The blue flags currently waving around Ravenhill will soon be furled to watch the great Kellock lift a trophy that is the result of years and years of work behind the scenes at Firhill and Scotstoun.
Glasgow have come to Belfast, they’ve soaked up the Ulster mojo and they’ve stolen their theme tune. Stand Up For the Warriors now echoing round the stands as dejected Munster fans hit the road.
Big Leone Nakarawa is given the man of the match award. Tough to argue with after two magnificent assists and just generally being a sublimely skillfull big lad.
The rain has killed this game as a spectacle. Glasgow cleared their lines after a set of Munster phases in the 22.
They force a penalty when Munster carry it back and their backroom team rush on to the field.
… but then beat a hasty retreat so the game can actually end.
FULL-TIME: Munster 13 Glasgow 31
Thanks for stopping in for this final liveblog of the Pro12 season.
We guess it was hard to enjoy from an Irish perspective, but this Glasgow team are an awesome sight when they’re in full flow.
League leaders after 22 games, champions after 24. Congratulations, Glasgow; Congratulations to the magnificent work of Gregor Townsend. Goodbye, thank you and bon chance to Paul O’Connell.