PREVIEW: Glasgow Warriors v Leinster
PRO14 FINAL: After 152 games the most crucial game of the Pro14 season is upon us as Glasgow Warriors and Leinster meet at Celtic Park in an historic occasion where the Championship decider is hosted outside of a non-rugby venue for the first time.
Glasgow Warriors have secured a ‘home final’ in their first appearance at Celtic Park with a bulldozing win over the Ulstermen and arguably go into this game as favourites against defending champions Leinster.
Leinster have reached a record ninth final, but have lost more finals than they have won.
Having lost to Saracens in the Champions Cup Final in St James’ Park Newcastle two Saturdays ago, Leinster sealed their second final of the season at another football venue by overcoming Munster. The all-Irish Pro14 semifinal was a much tighter affair as you’d expect from the two historically most successful Irish provinces.
A cagey first 40 minutes opened up in the second slightly, allowing Sean Cronin and James Lowe to crash over (the latter having returned from a first-half sin bin which his side coped admirably with) for a 24-9 win.
No-one can say the two best sides of the Pro14 have not made it to the Final. Leinster and Glasgow Warriors each finished top of their respective conferences in the regular season, Glasgow with a tally of five more points than their Irish counterparts after 21 regular season games.
On paper, Warriors are favourites with their ‘home’ advantage, their marginally higher points tally from the regular season and the fact that they beat Leinster 39-24 at Leinster’s usual fortress home of the RDS last month.
However, admittedly Leinster were very much changed that day with their Final Series spot already confirmed.
Both teams have got to Championship finals and won, both have got to finals and lost. In 2014 Leinster beat Glasgow – the only previous final meeting between these two sides. Whichever way you look at it, it’s hard to call and this should be a cracking game.
With that being said, time to revisit last year’s epic Final 💭
A trip down memory line 👊 pic.twitter.com/JPrxLni4oD
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) May 23, 2019
Glasgow head coach Dave Rennie is all too aware of the challenge that his side will face in their final match of the season.
“Leinster are a good side that are generally tough to beat,” said Rennie.
“Saracens threw everything at them for a long period [in the Champions Cup Final] and they stood strong for much of that game. They’re notorious for holding on to the ball for multiple phases, so you can’t turn the ball over or kick poorly. I’m sure they’ll be highly motivated – they’re very aspirational and they’ve lost one trophy already, so I’m sure they’ll be up for it.
“What pleased us when we went and beat them over there was that when we got behind on the scoreboard, we clawed our way back. It’s not easy to beat them over there. We know they’ll be stronger, but so will we. We’ll take confidence from that result, but we know it means little on the day.”
Meanwhile, Leinster backline coach Felipe Contepomi is not a stranger to Rennie’s tactics.
“He was in Chiefs when I was involved with the Jaguares [and] although Super Rugby and European rugby are different in certain ways, you can see some traits and some touches of Dave has brought to this Glasgow team,” Contepomi told heraldscotland.com .
“Yeah, they are a very, very good side who can turn around situations in the blink of an eye. They can turn defensive situations into attack with two, three passes; they have very good individualities as well and they are very well coached. They’re a very, very solid team.”
Prediction: 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 have won their last nine Pro14 matches since their defeat in Treviso on January 5. It is the Warriors third final appearance, losing to Leinster at the RDS Arena in 2014 but beating Munster in Belfast a year later. Leinster’s 24-9 victory over Munster at the RDS Arena in the semifinal ended a four-game winless run in the Pro14. This is Leinster’s ninth appearance in the final where their previous record is an even won four lost four. Just one of those finals has been played outside of Ireland, when they lost to Connacht at Murrayfield in 2016. Glasgow’s only defeat in their last five fixtures against Leinster in the Pro14 was by a solitary point in 61 at the RDS Arena in April 2017. Leinster have not beaten the Warriors in Scotland in the Championship since a 6-0 scoreline at Scotstoun in November 2012. The Leinstermen have lost on their last three visits to Scotland against all opponents. The two sides have met in one previous final at the RDS Arena in 2014 with Leinster winning 34-12.
Prediction: Glasgow Warriors
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Kyle Steyn, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Callum Gibbins (captain), 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Jamie Bhatti.
Replacements: 16 Grant Stewart, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Siua Halnukonuka, 19 Ryan Wilson, 20 Tom Gordon, 21 George Horne, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Huw Jones.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton (captain), 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 James Ryan, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Rory O’Loughlin.
Date: Saturday, May 25
Venue: Celtic Park, Glasgow
Kick-off: 18.30 (17.30 GMT)
Expected weather: It will be wet with an 80 to 100 percent chance of rain. There will be a high of 13°C and a low of 11°C around kick-off time.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: John Lacey (Ireland) Mike Adamson (Scotland)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)
Source: @PRO14Official; @GlasgowWarriors & heraldscotland.com
Main picture: Scottish Rugby