Nemesis Munster await after Glasgow pass big test

Glasgow Warriors celebrate
Glasgow had lost in the quarter-finals two seasons in a row [SNS]

Glasgow Warriors have avoided a United Rugby Championship quarter-final exit for the first time in three seasons. Next, last term's nemesis and table-topping reigning champions Munster lie between them and the final.

Leinster's 43-20 victory over Ulster, Bulls' narrow 30-23 win over Benetton, Munster's 23-7 defeat of Ospreys and Glasgow's victory over Stormers mean the top four finishers have reached the URC semi-finals.

In Glasgow's case, a 27-10 win against the South African visitors may look like a handsome margin, but in reality it was a much closer, physical war of attrition.

It is an intensity that the Glasgow camp and BBC pundits believe will be heightened even further when Warriors travel to Ireland next Saturday.

'New challenge, different pitch'

Glasgow head coach Franco Smith is "really proud" at the way his side matched Stormers' physicality at Scotstoun.

"The South African teams have added that to the competition and, if they can bully you physically, you can make it hard for yourselves," he told BBC Scotland. "That was one of the big work-ons and the boys fronted up nicely.

"We smashed our windows of opportunity. I'm excited we converted those points and the way we controlled the game towards the end, from a discipline perspective, was also very exciting."

Munster came to Scotstoun almost exactly a year ago and left their hosts licking their wounds after a 14-5 defeat before the Irish side went on to win the final.

"The less we think about what's happened, the better it will be," Smith insisted. "This is a new challenge, a different pitch to play on."

Former Scotland full-back Chris Paterson, though, thinks beating Stormers will be important psychologically.

"It was really good for Glasgow to win a game like that when last year's quarter-final will be hanging over them a little bit," he suggested.

"To get over the line, and the way they did at the end, it was a really top performance, but I think Munster's backs will cause more problems than Stormers' did - I think their backs are better and they have home advantage.

"Glasgow have had some really good victories over there, but Munster are on a run."

'Glasgow will want a little bit of revenge'

Glasgow Warriors' George Horne kicks for goal
George Horne's 12 points from the boot proved crucial [SNS]

Munster's unbeaten run since the turn of year meant they edged out a Glasgow side who slipped to fourth in the run-in, with only three points separating the top four sides.

Former Scotland forward Peter Wright commented: "They are going to be fantastic semi-finals. It's the four best teams and it must be the first time that the four top seeds have made the semi-finals and any of those four teams can win the championship.

"I watched Munster against Ospreys the other night. Munster were solid, but they are very beatable. They don't have that same pack they had years ago - really dominant.

"It will be good to go there and beat them in their own back yard and I think they can do that. What better way to get to a final."

Wright thinks the long-standing "sporting hate, not a hate hate" between the two sides will be more important than thoughts of revenge for Glasgow.

"You want to get a little bit of revenge, but that'll take care of itself because they hate us - Glasgow and Munster hate each other massively," he said. "That's gone on for years."

Wright thinks Glasgow will have to match the intensity they showed in overcoming Stormers.

"If you looked at the seedings, this was probably going to be the closest one - it was fourth against fifth - and it kind of turned out that way," he said.

"It was very physical. Both teams in defence were really on that pitch to hurt people. In a rugby sense, they were trying to smash them and dominate and get on that front foot."

'Stormers were battering at the door'

Wright believes Glasgow are benefitting from the way Smith has built a squad every one of whom can step into the starting line-up, but he pointed to one skill that perhaps turned the game in their favour - goal kicking.

"Manie Libbok missed 10 points and I would say, at this level, really simple kicks," he pointed out. "It just shows you how tough it is - he's a World Cup winner and he struggled but I think a lot of that was down to the pressure Glasgow were putting on the Stormers for most of the game."

George Horne, on the other hand, contributed a flawless 12 points to Glasgow's total.

The "chuffed" Scotland scrum-half said it was reward for so much practice kicking into the kind of wind that whirled down the length of Scotstoun.

"We've got the benefit of having this all year," he said. "Stormers are an unbelievable team, so physical, but our big men up front were unbelievable. They stood up to every test.

"The Stormers were battering at the door and we held them out."

Horne thought Glasgow had overcome their tendency to go "into our shells when the going gets tough" - something they will likely have to repeat against Munster.

"It's a massive challenge," he admitted. "They're a class team and they're the reigning champions for a reason.

"They have been in unbelievable form. But, if we front up like we did tonight, why can't we do it?"