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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Dave Murphy

Franco Smith ‘stoked’ as ruthless Warriors enjoy first-half rout

Glasgow Warriors took a huge step towards securing a home quarter-final in the URC after a blistering bonus-point victory over Munster at Thomond Park.

Franco Smith’s side had the win and five-point haul secured by half time, as tries from Fraser Brown, Stafford McDowall, Domingo Miotti and Cole Forbes saw Warriors pull six points clear of their hosts in the standings.

An arm injury for Brown will concern Warriors, but this was an emphatic display that thrilled Smith.

“I’m stoked about the win,” Smith said. “It was a fantastic effort. I think we played some really good rugby in the first half.

“But all credit to Munster, we always knew the comeback was going to happen. There are a lot of learnings to take from this game again, especially from the position we were in at half time. [We need] to manage that better in the second half. But yeah I’m really proud of the players.”

The rout was started after six minutes when Brown scored off a driving line-out from 15 metres, and Miotti’s conversion was on the mark to give Warriors an early 7-0 lead.

Like their visitors, Munster declined their first kickable penalty and went in search of a set move from a line-out. The first attempt drew another penalty, but after electing to take a quick tap, Gavin Coombes breached the try-line but was held up by Brown’s brilliant defensive effort.

It was a ragged start to the game from the home side, and Glasgow’s physicality at the breakdown was having an impact.

Brown had been in the thick of the action for Warriors in that opening action, and 15 minutes from the break he stepped up with another key play. The hooker produced a deft inside pass to McDowall on the left side which sent the centre barrelling forward, and after a weak tackle from Mike Haley, the Warriors captain crashed over.

Referee Andrea Piardi initially said McDowall had been held up over the line by Calvin Nash and Joey Carbery, but replays showed the try had been scored, and Warriors got the second try their play had deserved. Once again Miotti was flawless with the conversion from the left for a 14-0 lead.

With a healthy advantage to defend, Warriors would have been forgiven for drawing breath for a moment, but instead they hit the home side with an intense five minutes. It all came from a dummy throw at a defensive line-out by Diarmuid Barron, and from the resulting scrum, Warriors won another penalty.

An attempt at a driving line-out was well defended by Munster, but following a powerful carry by Sione Vailanu, Miotti scored his side’s third try when he feigned to pass and then stretched well to score. The fly-half converted from the right to make it 21-0 for Warriors.

The third try seemed to raise Munster’s intensity, and a great break from Nash put them on the front foot, but after battering the Warriors line for a handful of phases, some poor handling cost the home side.

Once again the Scottish outfit underlined their set-piece superiority by winning a third scrum penalty of the half and they cleared their lines.

Warriors were not finished either, and their bonus point try came before the break, and it was the pick of the bunch. There appeared to be little danger when Ali Price passed out of a ruck on the left, but a neat interchange of passes between Miotti, McDowall and Sam Johnston sent Forbes over for a stunning score.

A stunned Thomond Park saw their side trailing 28-0 at the break.

It was no shock to see a livelier start to the half from Graham Rowntree’s side, but once again it was the visitors that made the most of their chances. Another slick breakaway camped Glasgow in Munster territory and instead of continuing with physical phases, Miotti dropped back and landed a drop goal.

After a brilliant personal display, Brown left the action holding his arm in the 47th minute, and a few minutes later Munster finally got off the mark when Coombes scored off a powerful line-out maul and Carbery made it 31-7 with the conversion.

It only took five minutes for the home side to cross again when Ireland international Craig Casey scooted over from close range following a Jack O’Donoghue carry. Carbery added the extras.

But an error from the re-start set Glasgow up again, and Vailanu took the steam out of the Munster comeback to seal the win just after the hour.

Replacement Josh Wycherley scored Munster’s third try of the half, but the Warriors lead was too great to give the home side any real hope even with Nash’s late try earning Munster a bonus point.

Munster – Tries: Coombes, Casey, Wycherley, Nash. Cons: Carbery 2, Crowley.

Glasgow Warriors – Tries: Brown, McDowall, Miotti, Forbes, Vailanu. Cons: Miotti 5. Drop goal: Miotti.

Munster: M Haley (S Zebo 67), C Nash, M Fekitoa, J Crowley, S Daly, J Carbery (R Scannell 63), P Patterson (C Casey 45), D Kilcoyne (J Wycherley h-t), D Barron (S Buckley 53) , R Salanoa (S Archer 53) J Kleyn (RG Snyman 60), F Wycherley, J O’Donoghue (c) (A Kendellen 53), J Hodnett, G Coombes.

Glasgow Warriors: O Smith (T Jordan 26-37 HIA), C Forbes, S McDowall (c), S Johnson, J Dobie, D Miotti (T Jordan 77), A Price (G Horne 58); N McBeth (A Dell 58), F Brown (J Matthews 47), Z Fagerson (L Sordoni 66), JP du Preez (L Bean 58), S Cummings, M Fagerson (A Samuel 77), R Darge, S Vailanu (T Gordon 68).

Referee: A Piarda (Italy).

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