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History at stake as Leinster and Glasgow Warriors clash in Guinness PRO14 Final

Avatar cmcloughlin 24 May 2019

A historic occasion awaits as the climax of the Guinness PRO14 sees nominal hosts Glasgow Warriors looking to beat defending champions Leinster at Celtic Park.

After 152 domestic games, it all comes down to this, as the respective Conference winners, who made it through the knockout rounds, face off for silverware.

Leinster defied a cagey first half against inter-provincial rivals Munster to secure their spot with a 24-9 win while Glasgow bulldozed past Ulster 50-20 in a try-fest at Scotstoun Stadium.

Expect the most intriguing of contests as giants from Scotland and Ireland battle to the lift the trophy.

What’s at stake?

A place in the history books, with the winner’s named etched onto the Guinness PRO14 trophy.

There are host of underlying aspects to consider, starting with Leinster winning the only final between the two sides – a 34-12 triumph at the RDS Arena.

But the Leinstermen have not beaten the Warriors in Scotland since November 2012, when it finished 6-0 to the Irish side thanks to two Ian Madigan penalties.

The Irish province is looking to match their achievement from 2012-13 and 2013-14 by retaining the trophy, while Glasgow are pushing to make it two wins from three appearances in the final.

Team news (Glasgow Warriors): Stuart Hogg will play his last game for the club, starting in a back-three with DTH van der Merwe, who has scored in his two previous appearances in PRO14 finals.

Tommy Seymour, who scored a brace of tries against Ulster seven days ago also starts, as do Sam Johnson and Kyle Steyn outside of Ali Price and Adam Hastings.

It’s a full Scotland international front-row, Jamie Bhatti and Zander Fagerson starting either side of Fraser Brown.

Scott Cummings and Jonny Gray pack down together again in the second row while in the back row, Rob Harley and Matt Fagerson start alongside captain Callum Gibbins.

The inclusion of Siua Halanukonuka on the bench is the only change to the matchday 23 from the win against Ulster last weekend.

Pete Horne’s inclusion on the bench makes it eight players in the squad who featured in Glasgow’s successful 2015 Final in Belfast.

Team news (Leinster): Rob Kearney comes in at full-back, with Jordan Larmour moving to the right wing and James Lowe continuing on the left.

Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose are again in the centre, with Luke McGrath and captain Johnny Sexton the half-backs.

In the pack, Cian Healy, Seán Cronin and Tadhg Furlong start, with Scott Fardy and James Ryan in the second row behind them.

Vice-captain Rhys Ruddock starts at blindside flanker, with Josh van der Flier on the openside and Jack Conan at No. 8 in the back row.

Talking points

Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie said: “We’re excited to represent our city and our families at what is going to be an amazing occasion for Glasgow.

“The noise that 10,000 people make in Scotstoun is deafening, so to play in front of more than 40,000 of our supporters is going to be a special experience.

“Leinster are a world-class side with hardened finals experience, so we’re going to have to play better than we have all season to lift the trophy.”

Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi said: “We need to be better. We need to improve and go another notch in terms of attack and defence.

“Glasgow are probably the team on form. They have had a great semi-final, where they played really well against Ulster.

“It’s not their home ground but it’s their home city, so it’s going to be a massive challenge where we have to show our best performance to get in there and get a good result.”

Key battle – Stuart Hogg v Rob Kearney

The clash of the full-backs is one full of international calibre and match-winning quality – with Glasgow Warriors Stuart Hogg looking to best his Leinster counterpart Rob Kearney.

Despite featuring in just eight domestic matches so far this term, Scotland international Hogg has been imperious with ball in hand – registering 11 clean breaks and 21 defenders beaten.

It’s been a similar tale for the Irishman Kearney, who has racked-up 381 metres made in just seven appearances. He also grabbed two tries when the two sides faced-off at the RDS Arena when Warriors toppled the Irish outfit 39-24 on home turf last month.

The pair, who were both part of the British and Irish Lions Tour to South Africa in 2013, have missed time in 2018-19 but they are the type of gamebreakers any side needs for a big final – expect them to step up here.

Key stat: Glasgow’s only defeat in their last five fixtures against Leinster in the Guinness PRO14 was by a solitary point in a match which finished 31-30 at the RDS Arena in April 2017.

Did you know? Celtic Park hosts its first game of rugby union 110 years after it was the venue for a rugby league international between England and Australia. It will be the 46th different ground used for a Championship encounter and the seventh different venue for a final.

Glasgow Warriors: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Kyle Steyn, Sam Johnson, DTH van der Merwe, Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Rob Harley, Callum Gibbins (capt), Matt Fagerson

Replacements: Grant Stewart, Oli Kebble, Siua Halanukonuka, Ryan Wilson, Tom Gordon, George Horne, Pete Horne, Huw Jones

Leinster Rugby: Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton (capt), Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Seán Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Scott Fardy, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan

Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony, Max Deegan, Nick McCarthy, Ross Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin

TV: Live on Premier Sports, Eir Sport, TG4 and Supersport, 6.30pm kick-off at Celtic Park

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 180th Championship appearance)

AR1: Mike Adamson (SRU), AR2: John Lacey (IRFU)

TMO: Ian Davies (WRU)

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

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Leinster hold firm to defend Guinness PRO14 title in Glasgow

Avatar Paul Eddison 25 May 2019

Leinster were made to sweat but there was to be no denying them a sixth Guinness PRO14 crown as they saw off the challenge of Glasgow Warriors 18-15 at a bouncing Celtic Park.

In an entertaining encounter in front of a record crowd, Leo Cullen’s side were able to withstand Glasgow flurries early and late to clinch the title for the second year running thanks to tries from Garry Ringrose and Cian Healy.

The defending champions might have missed out on the chance of a double double with their European final loss to Saracens, but they were not about to let the Guinness PRO14 trophy out of their grasp.

For Glasgow, there will be frustration at the way they let the game get away from them, but it has been a hugely encouraging campaign.

The carrot of a final at Celtic Park was the added motivation they barely needed, but with the ground rocking on every attack, it was clear they would be able to call on a 16th man in the stands.

That was a record crowd in attendance, 47,128 having braved the damp conditions to cheer on their respective sides, particularly the Warriors.

And after a quick-fire Glasgow start and a try from Matt Fagerson, Leinster slowly exerted their control over the game.

Ringrose and Healy were over before half-time for a 15-10 lead which Johnny Sexton extended early in the second half.

However Grant Stewart’s try four minutes from time set up a grandstand finish, with Leinster pushed to their limits.

Glasgow had threatened first, Kyle Steyn and then Stuart Hogg finding holes in the Leinster defence which scrambled well to keep the Warriors out.

And yet it was Leinster who perhaps should have scored first. With James Lowe under huge pressure in his own 22, a half charged down clearance was brilliantly flipped back by Rhys Ruddock to Ringrose. The centre then fed Sexton and it seemed they had the numbers to get over. Glasgow rushed back though and Jack Conan knocked on under pressure. A warning shot for the home side.

The absence of Devin Toner was always likely to be a factor and so it proved on the quarter-hour when Jonny Gray pinched a Leinster lineout on the 22. Glasgow still had plenty to do it, but slowly and accurately built through their forwards. The decisive carry came from Scott Cummings, who powered over the gain line and with the Leinster defence scrambling, Fagerson was able to snipe over. Hastings’ conversion made it 7-0.

Glasgow could not have dreamt of a better opening quarter of an hour, but Leinster responded immediately. It was the Warriors who were the architects of their own downfall, Hogg caught out when trying to clear by Luke McGrath. His chargedown squirted into the in-goal area, spinning interminably for Ringrose to dive down on. Sexton’s conversion from the touchline was off-target but Leinster were on the board.

Dave Rennie’s team recovered from that body blow, Steyn breaking and setting up a scoring chance. Jordan Larmour and Ringrose did well to deny DTH van der Merwe, although Leinster strayed offside from the next phase to give Hastings a shot at goal from which he made it 10-5.

The Warriors probably needed more, and their cause was not helped sooner after when Fraser Brown departed with a serious looking knee injury.

As he departed, Leinster struck, going through phase after phase until Healy was able to barrel through the defences of Rob Harley to touch down. Sexton’s conversion made it 12-10 to the champions.

Brown’s absence was felt when Stewart overthrew his first lineout around halfway, and it was compounded when Leinster got the first real edge in the scrum, earning a penalty which Sexton slotted to make it 15-10 at the break.

Glasgow started the second half brightly but were made to pay for a loose pass on the Leinster 22. The champions pounced through Ringrose and Lowe and went 50 metres before Steyn was sin-binned for not rolling away.

Leinster turned down the initial shot at goal, but when another penalty followed from an easier position, Sexton made it 18-10.

The game was slipping away from Glasgow, and when Callum Gibbins was tackled in his own in-goal area just before the hour, Leinster had the perfect opportunity to strike the decisive blow.

They could not take it though, earning one penalty but choosing to scrum and scrum again. That proved the wrong call when McGrath knocked on at a ruck five metres from the line.

And Leinster were soon down to 14 men when Rob Kearney went to the bin for a tackle in the air on Hogg, who departed on his final Warriors appearance in unfortunate circumstances.

Despite the extra man, Glasgow’s race appeared to be done, but a turnover penalty in their own territory gave them hope. Huw Jones’ break put them into position and it was Stewart who raced over in the corner. Hastings could not convert and Leinster led 18-15.

The Warriors got the ball back one final time but could not find a way out of their own 22, eventually knocking on. Leinster needed no second invitation and saw out the final two minutes to complete the defence of their title.

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