Monday 24 June 2019

Rennie’s Warriors ready for final battle in Celtic Park cauldron

Hogg is central to everything good about Glasgow and he will be tough to replace. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile
Hogg is central to everything good about Glasgow and he will be tough to replace. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

It’s just over a month since Glasgow Warriors left Dublin with a convincing win that reiterated what we have known for a while – the Scottish side will be very difficult to beat in the PRO14 run-in.

With their home semi-final already secured, Leinster did rest a host of front-liners, but even still, there are not many teams who will come to the home of the champions and score five tries and 39 points.

It felt like a statement of intent at the time and so it has proved as Glasgow, who were not short of motivation given that the final will be held in Celtic Park, kept up their side of the bargain.

They continue to flatter to deceive in Europe but domestically, Glasgow have been in scintillating form this season. Along with Leinster, they stand apart as the two best teams who play the most exciting rugby.

The tournament organisers have got their dream final and with around 40,000 people expected at the home of Celtic on Saturday (6.30), it has the potential to be one of the best league deciders in years.

Securing head coach Dave Rennie from the Chiefs two years ago was a major coup and while it has taken time, some of the rugby Glasgow have played this season has been a joy to watch.

To give an idea of how good some of that free-flowing rugby has been, you have to go back to January to find the last time Glasgow scored fewer than 30 points in a game.

Since their 9-3 win over the Ospreys in late January, Rennie’s side have racked up 311 points in eight PRO14 games, giving them an impressive average of almost 39 points per game.

Ulster were the latest to feel the full brunt of that attacking force last weekend when they were blown away in the semi-final.

Having conceded 30 points to Glasgow last month, Ulster knew what to expect, yet were helpless in stopping their opponents’ march to the final as they put another 50 points on them.

When Finn Russell left for Racing 92 last summer, there were doubts about how Glasgow would be able to recover from losing their chief play-maker.

Step forward Adam Hastings, who has been outstanding this season as the weight of expectation on his young shoulders in stepping into Russell’s boots has propelled him to even greater heights.

The same doubts will hang over the club this summer as Stuart Hogg plays his final game before joining Exeter Chiefs.

Like Russell was, Hogg is central to everything good about Glasgow and he too will be tough to replace.

For all of the thrilling rugby that Hogg and Co have played however, the pack have set them the platform to do so.

In Jamie Bhatti, Fraser Brown and Zander Fagerson, they have a front-row who have the potential to cause Leinster problems.

It spoke volumes for their power at the set-piece that when the sides last met, Leo Cullen didn’t waste any time in introducing his first-choice front-row from the bench in at attempt to turn the game.

“We are where we wanted to be – at home in front of our family and friends on a big game is the goal that we set 10 or 12 months ago,” Rennie said after watching his side thump Ulster.

“We knew if we got it right, we had a chance to play at Celtic Park in front of, hopefully, a massive Glasgow crowd, so you can’t be nervous or anxious about that.

“We were excited, we had prepared well, we had clarity about what we were going to do and the plan was just to get out and play.”

Glasgow know no other way than playing heads-up rugby. They feel this is their time and in their home city, there would be no better place to deliver on their potential.

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