Belfast Telegraph

Warriors are ready to home in on a final hurrah at Celtic Park

The Other Side

Familiar face: Tommy Seymour in action for Glasgow Warriors
Familiar face: Tommy Seymour in action for Glasgow Warriors

By Michael Sadlier

Unfinished business. That's what this season is all about, the gut-feeling which is driving Glasgow Warriors on.

Regular semi-finalists when it comes to the league, they have still only banked the one title back in 2015, when the side then coached by Gregor Townsend memorably spoiled Paul O'Connell's Munster departure at Kingspan Stadium, just after trashing Ulster's hopes of hosting that particular final in a dramatic semi-final finish at Scotstoun.

This time, though, further fuel has been added to their burning desire to take ownership again of something shiny.

The memory of losing at the same stage last year, when hosting the Scarlets, still hurts coach Dave Rennie's squad who, as with now, had sat out several weekends awaiting their semi-final opponents to be decided.

They want to right that wrong and now have that chance with another Scotstoun semi-final.

The fact that they are one game away from playing the final at nearby Celtic Park, where the Warriors would either face familiar league knockout foes Leinster, who are doubtless both physically and mentally scarred by losing their Champions Cup final to Saracens, or a Munster outfit who have had a topsy-turvy campaign, will have added to the sense that this could be Glasgow's time again.

Throw in their own humiliation at the hands of Saracens in the European quarter-final at Allianz Park, which Rennie's men then took out on Ulster six days later at Scotstoun, and the encroachment of Richard Cockerill's Edinburgh as credible challengers to the Warriors' long-established standing as Scotland's leading club side and there is a sense that this season really must finish on a high.

Then there is the matter of Stuart Hogg's final Scotstoun outing for the Warriors - the star full-back joins Exeter Chiefs next season - and the home side have even more reason to ensure that he makes it to next week's Celtic Park showdown for the Guinness PRO14 trophy.

But all this motivation also brings pressure, and the Warriors will be wary of that alongside the fact that former assistant coach Dan McFarland knows a great deal about them, with his previous role prior to joining Ulster being with the national side.

They look strong though and will reckon on keeping their pretty much bulletproof home record - only Edinburgh and Saracens have won at Scotstoun all season - firmly intact.

DTH van der Merwe joins Hogg and Ulster old-boy Tommy Seymour in the usual attack-minded back three, while Sam Johnson is a big threat in midfield and PRO14 Young Player of the Year Adam Hastings' stock continues to rise at 10.

Lineout disrupter extraordinaire Jonny Grey is key to the plans up front where hooker Fraser Brown and prop Zander Fagerson will reckon they can discomfort the visitors' scrum.

The back-row battle also looks pretty intriguing with Rob Harley leading the charge and, perhaps crucially, Glasgow's bench has a menacing look to it thanks to the presence of Oli Kebble, Ryan Wilson and Peter Horne.

They look in good shape to take a step closer to the title.

Belfast Telegraph

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