It’s Glasgow Warriors and Leinster who will duke it out for the title at Celtic Park, while Ospreys capped off a tough season with European joy.
On top of three games of thrilling rugby there was drama, emotion and a series of potent goodbyes – here’s the best of it.
What’s that? You thought we were done posting photos from last night? Nope… pic.twitter.com/UVjCbslQtK
— Glasgow Warriors (@GlasgowWarriors) May 18, 2019
Glasgow Warriors 50-20 Ulster
- In many ways, this was not the match the final score-line suggests. Relatively even statistically in terms of possession, passes and tackles made – albeit with a slight advantage to the Warriors – in the end it was ultimately the superior finishing of the hosts that saw them seal a place in the Guinness PRO14 Final. One statistic more than any other painted the clearest picture: Glasgow mustered 459m from their 138 carries, while Ulster only gained 324m from 130 forays. With Scottish half-back pairing Adam Hastings and Ali Price pulling the strings and a formidable back-three behind them, the Warriors’ superior guile eventually won out, producing significantly more with the ball that they did receive.
- It’s safe to say there is now considerable momentum behind Glasgow’s Guinness PRO14 title charge. Spurred on by the prospect of a final in their home city, Dave Rennie’s side delivered a statement victory to make it nine wins on the spin domestically. The hugely impressive run, which also included an away success against holders Leinster, shows that the Scotstoun side are perfectly poised ahead of next weekend’s semi-final. Some may now even consider them favourites to win their first Guinness PRO14 title since 2015.
- It was also a night of contrasting goodbyes at Scotstoun as Stuart Hogg made his final bow in front of the home fans and Rory Best signed out following a glittering club career. Soundly beaten, Best was at least afforded the consolation of a standing ovation from the home faithful as he departed the pitch. Attention now turns to finding his long-term replacement, although in Rob Herring – Best’s second-half substitute – Ulster are in the fortunate position of possessing a hooker with rare try-scoring ability after his eight efforts this campaign. Hogg, by contrast, was typically at the centre of all that was good about Glasgow’s play, scything through challenges and forging a potent partnership with winger Tommy Seymour in particular. The pair have now combined for six scores this season – and will once again be key at Celtic Park as the Exeter-bound full-back looks to finish his Warriors career in style.
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) May 18, 2019
Leinster 24-9 Munster
- From watching on at the RDS Arena, you would not have known Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier was making a first appearance since March following injury. The back-rower was everywhere – winning turnovers, disrupting breakdowns, smashing tackles and handling out wide – for his side. He earned his round of applause from the home fans as he was withdrawn with three minutes to play, Max Deegan replacing him from the bench. Leo Cullen will undoubtedly want to see more of the same from the Irish openside in the season’s biggest match next weekend as Leinster look for successive Guinness PRO14 titles.
- The Guinness PRO14 semi-finals is a place where you cannot afford to give an inch, with no better example than Munster’s outside centre Chris Farrell. The Irishman relentlessly barrelled to the line in both halves, doing his best to put his side over the gain-line at close quarters. Often, he would provide front-foot ball, but Leinster’s defence was at its tightest in their own 22, with their provincial rivals unable to break through despite Farrell’s industry. The centre was also exemplary in the defensive phase, with assured tackling throughout.
- Sean Cronin’s second-half try, 15 minutes after the break, proved to be what broke the game open for the hosts on their way to the 24-9 win. The hooker was ably assisted by his two front row colleagues – Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong – who helped spin the ball wide before Cronin bashed through two defenders on his way over the line. Earlier in the move Dave Kearney, Jack Conan and James Lowe, who scored a late second try for the champions, provided punching breaks, to put Munster on the back foot before the front rowers showed their handling skills in the loose on their way to the decisive first try.
Ospreys Rugby 🖤this photo pic.twitter.com/4kMNtJi48h
— Ospreys (@ospreys) May 19, 2019
Ospreys 21-10 Scarlets
- Ospreys were forced to dig deep to seal their spot as Wales’ Champions Cup representatives next season – but only after virtually being lulled into a false sense of security. Early tries from George North and Olly Cracknell had them effectively in control but the Scarlets roared back with a vengeance and ramped the tension right up to maximum, especially in a nail-biting second period.
- Owen Watkin was at the crux of much of the home side’s good work, the centre in rampaging form throughout. The 22-year-old gave the Scarlets headaches all game with his incisive, powerful attacking runs, keeping the screw turning all evening.
- Someone had to come out on the wrong side of this encounter – and it made for a disappointing curtain call for outgoing Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac. Pivac, who will take over as Wales boss following this year’s Rugby World Cup, has overseen five seasons in charge of the region, guiding them to the Guinness PRO14 title in 2016-17 and another final the season after. Brad Mooar certainly has big shoes to fill.
The Guinness PRO14 Final is one of the most entertaining games in the rugby calendar and takes place in Glasgow’s Celtic Park on May 25. Tickets start at just £25 for adults, £1 for kids. Visit www.pro14rugby.org/finaltickets