Glasgow Warriors play host to Ulster at Scotstoun in the Guinness PRO14 semi-finals, with both teams bidding for a place at Celtic Park.
The clash on Friday night kicks off at 7.35pm, with Ulster having secured their place thanks to a win over Connacht, while Glasgow host by virtue of topping Conference A.
What’s at stake?
It’s all about a place in the Guinness PRO14 Final at Celtic Park on May 25, with Glasgow hoping to run out for the final in front of their home fans.
The Warriors have reached the semi-finals in seven of the last eight years, but have only twice made the final, in back-to-back seasons in 2014 and 2015, winning the latter.
Ulster, meanwhile, return to the semi-final stage for the first time since 2016, and are seeking a second final appearance, having previously done so in 2013.
Team news (Glasgow Warriors):
Having not played in three weeks, Glasgow had plenty of interesting decisions to make, with Kyle Steyn getting the nod at outside centre. DTH van der Merwe is fit to take a place on the wing, while up front Jamie Bhatti will start at loosehead prop. Matt Fagerson is selected at No.8, with Ryan Wilson covering on the bench.
Team news (Ulster):
Dan McFarland has made just two changes to the Ulster side that beat Connacht, both coming in the back three. Jacob Stockdale returns and starts in the slightly less familiar position of full-back. He replaces Michael Lowry, who drops to the bench while Louis Ludik comes in for Rob Lyttle on the wing. Otherwise it is the same team, with John Cooney and Billy Burns in the half-backs and Rory Best captaining from hooker in what could be his final game for the province.
Glasgow Warriors head coach Dave Rennie said: “We’re in a much better place than we were 12 months ago and have trained with a real edge during this three-week break.
“DTH is back earlier than we expected which is a big boost. His power as well as his experience of knock-out rugby will be invaluable tomorrow night.
“We know Ulster will be a completely different animal to the side we faced here last month and we’re going to have to play better than we did that day to get the result.
“We’re all determined to a be a part of a Glasgow Final and know we’re going to have to play our best rugby of the season to get there.”
Ulster head coach Dan McFarland said: “If you watch any of [Dave Rennie’s] teams, that’s the same. Every collision is meant to be brutal, every clearout is an opportunity.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be in meetings that Dave has given and watch their training sessions, I understand that approach and it’s very effective.”
Key battle – Sam Johnson v Stuart McCloskey
It is very tempting to go with Stuart Hogg, in his final game at Scotstoun for the Warriors, against Jacob Stockdale. And yet the battle in the midfield may well be more important in the context of the game. Sam Johnson has proved himself as a canny operator, and his distribution and eye for a gap will be vital for Glasgow. He faces Stuart McCloskey, who has more carries than any other back in the Guinness PRO14 and will be running hard down the 10/12 channel all game.
Key stat: Ulster’s only defeat in the Guinness PRO14 since early January came in the last meeting with Glasgow Warriors, losing 30-7.
Did you know? On the way to their lone league title to date, Glasgow beat Ulster at Scotstoun in the semi-final, Finn Russell with a late touchline conversion after putting DTH van der Merwe in for the try in 16-14 win.
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, D’Arcy Rae, Ryan Wilson, Tom Gordon, George Horne, Pete Horne, Huw Jones
Ulster: Jacob Stockdale; Robert Baloucoune, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Louis Ludik; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, Rory Best (capt), Ross Kane, Ian Henderson, Kieran Treadwell, Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy, Marcel Coetzee
Replacements: Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, Michael Lowry, Darren Cave
TV: Live on Premier Sports 1, eir sport 1, DAZN & Super Sport
At Scotstoun, Glasgow, 7.35pm.
Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)
AR1: Andrew Brace (IRFU), AR2: George Clancy (IRFU)
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)
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
Adam Hastings masterminded a magnificent seven tries as Glasgow Warriors delivered a statement of intent in beating Ulster 50-20 in the Guinness PRO14 semi-final.
Early leaders thanks to Tommy Seymour’s third-minute score, the hosts held a 24-3 advantage at half-time following further efforts from Ali Price and Rob Harley.
Seymour added a second after the break, with Kyle Steyn, Peter Horne and George Horne also crossing to set up a date with destiny against either Leinster or Munster at Celtic Park next weekend.
In a breathless start, it was the hosts – dominant from the get-go – who drew first blood just three minutes in.
Not for the first time during the evening, fly-half Hastings was the architect, flighting a defence-splitting pass over to the right-wing for fellow Scotland international Seymour to crash his way over.
The Warriors were playing like a side determined to seize their chance of a final in their home city, dominating possession and territory against the overwhelmed visitors.
But with Ulster typically stoic in defence, it took until the end of the first quarter for the Conference A side to further press home their superiority.
This time it was the turn of another Scotland international to impress. Price, a key figure for Gregor Townsend’s side towards the end of the Guinness Six Nations campaign, making the most of space on the blindside to scurry home on the left-wing following a dominant maul.
Ulster responded with their first foray into the Glasgow 22, yet received scant reward, with Hastings and John Cooney trading penalties to leave Dan McFarland’s men two scores off the pace.
That was not the end of the first-half scoring, flanker Harley grabbing his first try of the season from close-range just before the whistle to dent hopes of an Ulster fightback.
Similar was to follow after the break, with tiring legs opening up even more space for Glasgow to exploit.
55 minutes were on the clock when Stuart Hogg, in his final home game as a Glasgow player, provided another glimpse of his top-level ability by freeing Seymour for the winger’s second of the evening.
It was the sixth time that combination had linked for a try in the Guinness PRO14 this season, and the pair’s connection will undoubtedly be key to their hopes of taking the main prize later this month.
With their lead close to insurmountable, still Glasgow pressed, and Steyn and Peter Horne dotted down either side of a trademark Marcel Coetzee score.
Rob Herring grabbed his eighth try of the season from a driving lineout, with George Horne and Michael Lowry exchanging late efforts as Ulster restored some pride.
This, however, was Glasgow’s night – and a roaring Celtic Park now awaits.
16 May 2019
16 May 2019