Glasgow Warriors set for final push

Glasgow Warriors set for final push

Ahead of tomorrow's United Rugby Championship (URC) Final between Glasgow Warriors and Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, we take a look at how the teams reached the winner-takes-all showpiece after an action-packed season.

The Background

In reaching a second glamour final in the space of a year, Glasgow Warriors have defied many in weathering the Stormers, before taming Thomond Park in their quest for a second major honour.

This is the fourth time Glasgow Warriors have reached this competition’s final, their momentous 2015 success the stand-out performance after reaching this stage in both 2014 and 2019.

It’s relatively rare for a team to create opportunity for redemption so soon after having their hearts broken, but such is the way Warriors’ season has panned out that a shot at silverware awaits.

At the Aviva Stadium a year ago, Franco Smith’s European Challenge Cup fairy-tale fell at the last, as a rampant Toulon raced to a 21-0 half-time lead before the half-time whistle had been sounded.

Twelve months (or so) on from that Dublin disappointment and it’s a fresh, but no less daunting proposition as a trip to Loftus Versfeld to take on a Bulls squad stacked with plenty of experience, bulk and a determination to right their own wrongs from losing this very final to Stormers in 2022.

Pictured: Sebastián Cancilliere, scoring here in the quarter-final against Stormers at Scotstoun, has dotted down in four consecutive games.

Route to the Final

Bulls host this year’s URC Final having made the play-offs with a record of 13 wins and five losses from 18 regular season fixtures, a figure of symmetry reflected in Warriors’ own path to the play-offs.

And the similarities don’t end there. In that 18-match stretch, both sides collected 11 try-scoring bonus points; Bulls added three losing bonus points to Warriors’ two, meaning that at the end of the regular campaign, a mere point separated this weekend’s finalists.

A perfect home record for Warriors, with nine wins from nine, points to all five losses away from home (Connacht, Munster, Edinburgh, Bulls and Lions), with the South Africans own defeats largely suffered in the same manner (Ulster, Edinburgh, Stormers and Leinster away, Munster at home).

The final league standings saw Bulls finish in second place and Warriors in fourth, leading to a home quarter-final for both.

A late Johannes Goosen penalty sealed a tight 30-23 win for Bulls over Italian outfit Benetton, whose two-try second-half salvo threatened a mighty upset on South African soil.

This happened a few hours before Glasgow’s own late show put paid to Stormers, Ross Thompson’s try adding to Sebastián Cancilliere and Henco Venter scores in the last quarter of the game, with George Horne landing 12 points from the tee.

In the last four, Bulls hosted perennial contenders Leinster and proved what a force they are in Pretoria with a 25-20 victory that was a shade cosier than the score perhaps suggested. Again, Goosen contributed with the boot for 10 points, his try also complementing a brace from dangerous winger Sergeal Peterson.

Over to Warriors again, then. Away from home against the winning machine that is Munster, at their fiendishly tricky Thomond Park home. A combination of outstanding defensive work and a couple of opportunistic tries were the headlines of a seismic win against the reigning champions on their own turf.

If Kyle Steyn’s breakaway try was the platform-setter, then Cancilliere’s stunning team score was the clincher. From Tom Jordan’s initial dart inside his own half, through the hands to Rory Darge and then Huw Jones, whose scamper laid on his Argentine teammate’s classy finish, it had all the hallmarks of one of the great tries. Horne’s two conversions and late penalty goal sealed one of the competition’s most stirring victories to set up Saturday’s title showdown.

Pictured: Warriors celebrate en masse after Ross Thompson’s last-gasp try in that Stormers quarter-final, which would take them to Munster for a chance to reach the final.

The Teams

Warriors, as expected, have gone with the same starting XV to have emerged victorious from Thomond Park. Skippered by Kyle Steyn, a try scorer in that semi-final, they once more go with a 6/2 split on the bench. Nathan McBeth and Duncan Weir come in, as replacements, for Murphy Walker and Ross Thompson respectively.

An all-Scottish international pack, with four of the backline and four further Scotland caps among the replacements, represents a hefty tartan feel, with scintillating Argentine wing Sebastián Cancilliere seeking to score a try in a fifth consecutive match.

Bulls have a number of injury concerns, namely in their strike-running back three operators with Canan Moodie and Willie Le Roux missing out. Kurt-Lee Arendse, who has scored 10 tries this season, does make it, with fellow prolific try-scorer David Kriel and Akker van der Merwe (replacements) potential match-winners for the Bulls.

How to Watch

You can tune in to Glasgow Warriors’ clash with Bulls on Saturday 20 June live on Premier Sports, kick off from Loftus Versfeld Stadium at 5pm (BST).

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