|Glasgow Warriors (10) 15|
|Tries: M Fagerson, Stewart Cons: Hastings Pens: Hastings|
|Leinster (15) 18|
|Tries: Ringrose, Healy Cons: Sexton Pens: Sexton 2|
Leinster held off Glasgow Warriors at Celtic Park to retain the Pro14 title.
Matt Fagerson’s try gave Warriors the lead but Garry Ringrose pounced to cross after Stuart Hogg’s kick had been charged down.
Cian Healy powered over Leinster’s second try and Johnny Sexton’s kicks guided them to victory.
Hogg went off injured in his final Glasgow appearance before team-mate Grant Stewart got a late try but it was not enough for Dave Rennie’s side.
Adam Hastings missed the conversion on Warriors’ second try and they could not get the try they needed in the final few minutes to snatch the win and their first trophy since 2015’s Pro12 title.
Referee Nigel Owens yellow-carded a player from each side with Kyle Steyn for the hosts and the visitors’ Rob Kearney spending time in the sin bin in the second half.
Glasgow cannot maintain good start
For Exeter-bound Hogg, it was the most disappointing of farewells, his final ended prematurely just after the hour when Rob Kearney clattered into him in the air. The Leinster full-back avoided a red card, to the outrage of the home support, but Hogg did not get a similar reprieve. His time as a Warrior ended there and then. Soon, the final would end with Leinster winning yet another title.
Rugby people piled into one of the great Scottish footballing citadels in vast numbers, the throngs descending on the east end of Glasgow despite the rain that fell in sheets for much of the evening.
Glasgow might have had home city advantage, but Leinster, with their Lions and their Grand Slammers and their multiple titles, were undoubted favourites. The feeling was that Glasgow had to take their recent coruscating form in the Pro14 and then up it a level to get through the reigning champions, they had to match them physically and punish them remorselessly when the chances arose.
In front of the greatest support they had ever had as Warriors, their mission began well. Leinster started slowly, Glasgow began quickly. The visitors lost a lineout midway through the half and they were made to pay for it. The Warriors worked their downfield, got quick ball when they needed it most and after Scott Cummings took them to striking distance of the Leinster line, Fagerson dived across it.
The Celtic Park crowd roared once and then twice when Hastings made it 7-0. Then, an almighty groan. Within two minutes they had coughed up the softest score, Hogg getting charged down by Luke McGrath with the breaking ball bouncing kindly for Ringrose to score.
Against a backdrop of boos for taking too long to get his kick away, Sexton missed the conversion – his second miss of the final. Hastings put over a penalty after more Glasgow pressure that was sparked by Steyn and Hogg. So far, so good for the challengers.
Leinster make experience count
Around that 25-minute mark everything changed in this final. Glasgow suffered the horrendous blow of having Fraser Brown stretchered off, then they conceded a second try, a product of relentless forward waves and culminating with Healy barging over. Sexton’s conversion made it 12-10. Sexton’s penalty soon after, as Leinster’s scrum got on top, made it 15-10.
Leinster are not normally in the business of giving up leads in big games like this, unless the opposition happens to be the mighty Saracens. Once ahead they tend to stay ahead. They squeeze the life out of the opposition, breaking their spirit.
That process carried on early in the new half. Another deluge from the heavens greeted the restart, a debilitating factor for a team like Glasgow that wants to run with abandon. They had got themselves on the front foot only to spill it in attack, an error that Leinster fed off.
Ringrose counter-attacked, James Lowe following in his wake. Steyn got done for lying on Lowe, giving up not just a penalty but getting a yellow card into the bargain. A double whammy that became a triple whammy when Sexton banged over a penalty minutes later to make it an eight-point game.
Leinster’s muscles pinned Glasgow on their own five-metre line for an age, scrum following scrum as the minutes ticked by. This had become the final that Leinster had wanted; a points advantage, all the possession, all the territory, Glasgow’s dangerous runners silenced, the 47,128 crowd, a new record, all but silenced.
The very breath was being drained from the night. When that siege was eventually lifted and Glasgow got out of their own 22 there was a moment of high controversy. Hogg went up to field a high ball and Kearney went clattering into him in the air. Hogg fell to earth and, briefly, he looked like he had been knocked out.
The crowd roared for a red card. Referee Owens deliberated, watched the incident again, and gave a yellow. A cop-out. That was Hogg’s night and Glasgow career done. He stood up and wobbled. He could not reappear after that.
Glasgow exacted a revenge of sorts when with five minutes left they engineered space up the right wing for the improbable finisher, Stewart, to run in from the 22m line. It was a brilliant score that made it 18-15. Hastings could not reduce the gap with the conversion and Glasgow could not find another gap in the Leinster defence or the field position to boot over a kick to take it to extra-time. The serial winners had done it again.
Glasgow Warriors: Hogg, Seymour, Steyn, Johnson, van der Merwe, Hastings, Price, Bhattie, Brown, Z. Fagerson, Cummings, Gray, Harley, Gibbins, M. Fagerson.
Replacements: H. Jones for Hogg (66), P. Horne for Johnson (56), G. Horne for Price (58), Kebble for Bhattie (52), Halanukonuka for Z. Fagerson (67), Gordon for Harley (52). Not Used: Stewart, Wilson. Sin Bin: Steyn (49).
Leinster: R. Kearney, Larmour, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe, Sexton, L. McGrath, Healy, Cronin, Furlong, Fardy, Ryan, Ruddock, van der Flier, Conan.
Replacements: R. Byrne for Sexton (73), McCarthy for L. McGrath (77), E. Byrne for Healy (63), B. Byrne for Cronin (64), Porter for Furlong (64), Molony for Ruddock (79), Deegan for van der Flier (74). Not Used: O’Loughlin. Sin Bin: R. Kearney (66).