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Preview: Munster v Glasgow Warriors

client 29 May 2015

Henry Pyrgos insists lessons will be learned from last season as Glasgow Warriors go in search of their first GUINNESS PRO12 title against Munster on Saturday.

This time last year Pyrgos lined up for the Warriors against Leinster, bidding to help Glasgow become the first Scottish side ever to win the PRO12 crown.

A 34-12 defeat at the RDS Arena 12 months ago dashed those dreams, but Pyrgos is determined to bounce back in his second successive Final.

The Warriors come into the clash at the Kingspan Stadium in good form with just a solitary defeat in their last seven league encounters.

Indeed, they have a good recent record against Irish provinces having lost just two of their last nine fixtures with teams from the Emerald Isle – including last weekend’s 16-14 semi-final win over Ulster.

One of those defeats, though, came against Munster back in February, but scrum-half Pyrgos insists there is only one loss playing on his mind – and he’s vowed to put the record straight this weekend.

“Learning from last year, it wasn’t a case of winning the semi and maybe not turning up for the Final,” said Pyrgos.

“Leinster just played very well but we know this week we will have to work extremely hard and recover well because that was a really tough game.

“Our goal as a squad is to win a trophy, to be the first Scottish team to win a trophy.”

On what will be his last appearance in a Warriors shirt, Canadian winger DTH van der Merwe has been handed a place in the starting XV following his try against Ulster last weekend, with Niko Matawalu moving to the bench.

Dougie Hall, who will make his final appearance for the Warriors, replaces Fraser Brown at hooker.

Gordon Reid replaces the injured Ryan Grant at loose-head, while Rossouw de Klerk will start his third consecutive game for the Warriors at tight-head.

Fijian second-row Leone Nakarawa comes into the engine room in place of Al Kellock.

Rob Harley returns to the starting XV for the first since the defeat to the Ospreys at the beginning of May and he'll be joined in the backrow by Ryan Wilson.

And if Jon Welsh, Matawalu and Kellock should emerge from the bench, they will make their final appearances for the club.

While Glasgow are yet to get their hands on a major trophy, Munster will be chasing a fourth PRO12 title and their first since they won the Final against Leinster at Thomond Park in 2011.

That was their most recent appearance in a major showpiece and was their fifth successive victory in the final of all tournaments they have contested.

And if the Warriors are in good form then Munster are on the march having lost just once in the GUINNESS PRO12 since New Year’s Day.

The Munstermen are unbeaten in their last six encounters and have won both of their games with Scottish opponents in 2015, but have triumphed only once in Belfast in their last eight visits.

In total three changes are made for this weekend's starting line-up. Having failed a late fitness test Peter O'Mahony (hip) is unavailable for selection while injury also rules out Conor Murray. The scrum half met with a specialist yesterday and is required to rehab a medial ligament knee injury for the next six weeks.

As expected, Andrew Smith, Eusebio Guinazu and Paddy Butler, all of whom stood out of Tuesday's training session, have recovered from their respective knocks to make the starting 15.

Good news also for Simon Zebo who has successfully completed his return-to-play protocols to start on the left wing.

In O'Mahony's absence, Denis Hurley will captain the side for the seventh time this season.

And head coach Anthony Foley admits his side – led by Paul O’Connell, who could be making his last appearance for Munster on Saturday – are reaching their peak.

"A lot of these guys are getting to an age of 25, 26, 27 – a good age for a team to start looking to win trophies, to kick on with their careers, to try and get international careers, to look to establish themselves in teams and looking to be very ambitious in what they're doing," he said.

"If we can start with that and, hopefully, do something on Saturday, then that would be great. If we don't and we end up losing, it's not all doom and gloom. We've brought through a lot of players, we're in a good position in that everyone has a clear understanding of how we want to play and what are we looking to do around the game.”

Note: This game will also see the HawkEye System in operation again, as part of trials with Sky Sports and World Rugby

At Kingspan Stadium, Belfast , 6.30pm.  Live on Sky Sports/TG4/BBC Sport Scotland           
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU, 127th competition game)
Assistant Referees: 1) Ian Davies, 2) Sean Brickell, 4) Gwyn Morris, 5) Wayne Davies (all WRU )
Citing Commissioner: Stefano Marrama (FIR)
TMO: Derek Bevan (WRU)

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Russell guides Glasgow Warriors to historic title

Guinness PRO12 Editor 30 May 2015

Finn Russell inspired Glasgow Warriors to their maiden GUINNESS PRO12 title with a solid kicking display and a second-half try to sink Munster in Belfast.

It was the fly-half’s last-gasp conversion against Ulster last week that took the Warriors to the Kingspan Stadium for their second straight final.

But there was to be no repeat of last year’s defeat to Leinster as Glasgow showed their superior cutting edge to clinch a 31-13 victory and give retiring captain Al Kellock the perfect send-off.

A blistering first half saw Rob Harley, DTH van der Merwe and Henry Pyrgos each cross over for the Warriors but Andrew Smith’s score just before the break sent Munster in just 11 points off the pace.

That deficit was cut to eight early in the second half but Russell flew over on the hour and the Warriors expertly saw out the contest to ensure Munster’s wait for a fourth PRO12 crown goes on for at least another year.

Glasgow were let off when Ian Keatley’s early long-range penalty fell short of the posts but they almost stole a march towards the Munster line soon after, only for a heroic tap-tackle from stand-in captain Denis Hurley to halt van der Merwe’s charge.

They didn’t miss out, however, just a couple of minutes later when man-of-the-match Leone Nakarawa piled his way into the 22 and showed great awareness to find an offload to Harley.

The flanker, restored to the starting XV after being left out of Glasgow’s last two games, powered over under the posts and Russell added the simple conversion.

Nakarawa’s ball carrying continued to cause problems and after another surge forward Glasgow almost had a second try, great work from Keith Earls preventing van der Merwe from latching onto a neat grubber kick.

CJ Stander sparked some life into Munster after 20 minutes when he charged down a Russell clearance and, from the resulting possession, Earls and Simon Zebo linked up neatly before the former was halted just shy of the line.

Keatley did put them on the board when a huge scrum yielded a penalty on the Warriors 22 – those three points taking the fly-half to 179 this GUINNESS PRO12 season and confirming him as the competition’s top scorer.

But that only served to ignite the Scots and play-off hero van der Merwe was at it again, streaking down the left touchline to cross over before Russell’s extras made it 14-3.

It got better for Glasgow on the half-hour mark when Stuart Hogg conjured up a three-on-one out of nothing with a lightning-fast break and fed Pyrgos to coast over unchallenged, Russell again tapping over the conversion.

But the response was a determined one and after a dozen phases of Munster battering away at the Warriors line the ball went wide to Smith.

He squirmed over the whitewash and, after a lengthy TMO decision, the try was awarded and Keatley reduced the deficit to 11 from the tee.

Munster picked up where they left off after the break and after Paul O’Connell was held up just short of the line, Glasgow conceded a penalty at scrum time and Keatley added three points.

The lead had begun to look a little slender but Russell addressed that on the hour mark, picking a gap to slip through and dive over before converting the try himself.

Kellock was introduced to rapturous applause with just over 20 minutes left and instantly stole a Munster lineout on his own 22.

Duncan Weir – on for Russell at fly-half – then added a penalty six minutes from time to make it 31-13 and that’s the way it stayed, Glasgow crowned GUINNESS PRO12 champions for the first time.

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