Glasgow dash Scarlets hopes of European glory
Glasgow reached their first European final after they saw off Challenge Cup rivals Scarlets 35-17 in Llanelli.
The Warriors will face Toulon or Benetton in the final at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium on May 19.
And they were good value for their semi-final triumph, scoring tries from centre Stafford McDowall, who claimed a double, scrum-half George Horne, flanker Rory Darge and replacement hooker Johnny Matthews.
Horne also kicked five conversions for a 15-point tally as the Scarlets were overhauled after leading 17-14 early in the second period.
Wing Steff Evans claimed Scarlets’ solitary touchdown, with fly-half Sam Costelow landing four penalties, but a 13,000 crowd – the Scarlets’ biggest home attendance for five years – could not roar their team home.
It was a frantic game at times with little pattern, yet Glasgow prevailed to secure a Challenge Cup final place eight years after Edinburgh made it through before losing narrowly against Gloucester.
Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel recalled four internationals, with full-back Johnny McNicholl, scrum-half Gareth Davies, prop Wyn Jones and Sam Lousi all starting, but flanker Aaron Shingler’s hopes of a final appearance before retirement were dashed by injury.
Props Jamie Bhatti and Zander Fagerson returned to the Glasgow starting line-up, while hooker George Turner returned from injury, although lock Richie Gray was a late withdrawal and replaced by JP du Preez.
Glasgow blasted out of the blocks, and then went ahead after just three minutes through a superbly worked try.
Number eight Jack Dempsey made an initial break that had the Scarlets defence back-pedalling, and McDowall applied an outstanding finish, with Horne’s conversion making it 7-0.
It was a disruptive opening for the Scarlets, who saw prop Javier Sebastian and centre Johnny Williams go off for head injury assessments in quick succession, and Glasgow held their advantage following a lively opening quarter.
Scarlets grew into the contest, though, and Costelow opened their account through a 24th-minute penalty, before adding another three-pointer shortly afterwards as poor Glasgow discipline was punished by referee Mathieu Raynal.
Glasgow proved architects of their own downfall nine minutes before the break when Turner’s lineout throw inside Warriors’ 22 missed his jumpers, and Scarlets attacked.
Turner’s opposite number Ken Owens led the charge, and Glasgow ran out of defensive numbers when possession was quickly moved wide and McNicholl delivered a scoring pass to an unmarked Evans.
But the Scarlets lost another player when lock Morgan Jones was forced off – Carwyn Tuipulotu replaced him – before Costelow completed his penalty hat-trick to secure a 14-7 interval lead.
Glasgow were level within five minutes of the restart when Horne rounded off impressive approach work by locks Du Preez and Scott Cummings, with Horne’s conversion levelling things up before replacement Scarlets prop Sam Wainwright was yellow-carded for a high tackle.
A fourth Costelow penalty edged the Scarlets back in front, yet the lead lasted only three minutes as Glasgow drove a close-range lineout that was finished off by Matthews, who touched down.
Horne again converted, and Glasgow went further in front after Scarlets messed up a defensive lineout and Darge crashed over for Warriors’ fourth try, converted by Horne.
The Scarlets came storming back, yet a last-gasp defensive intervention prevented McNicholl’s scoring pass from reaching Evans, and Glasgow held firm amid escalating home pressure.
And the Warriors successfully closed things out to set up a full-scale tilt at European silverware in 20 days’ time, with McDowall’s second try sealing the success.
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