Saturday night saw the final round matches of the Pro 12 played simultaneously although there were really only a couple of matches that carried significant meaning - the most important being Glasgow Warriors’ farewell to Firhill as they bid to secure a playoff spot.
Glasgow Warriors 24 - 3 Connacht
In a match that was meant to be a real test of their playoff credentials, Glasgow eased past the challenge of Connacht on Saturday night in front of a 5,374 crowd which had been swelled by the HSBC World 7’s at Scotstoun earlier in the day.
The huge crowd packed Firhill for the last time hoping to see their side book a playoff place and they were not to be let down as the Warriors were in control from the very beginning thanks to a dominant pack including the iconic Richie Gray in his last home Glasgow match.
Winger DTH Van der Merve, who was making his only his first Firhill appearance of the season, finished off a marvellous move in the far corner to add to Duncan Weir’s earlier two penalties. The score gave the Warriors a comfortable lead before a John Barclay try from a scrum secured the victory and a semi-final play-off away to Leinster which had been the minimum goal at the start of the season.
Departing head coach Sean Lineen, alongside captain Al Kellock, addressed the crowd after the final whistle. An obviously emotional Lineen paid tribute to the players, coaching staff and fans that had been instrumental in a strong campaign, but he also stressed that the entire Warriors organisation are heading to Dublin on Saturday to win which was greeted by a huge cheer from the 5,000-strong support.
Along with Richie Gray and Johnnie Beattie, departing players Calum Forrester, David Lemi, Colin Shaw, Rob Dewey and captain for the night Federico Aramburu took the ovation of the Firhill faithful for the final time as the next time the Warriors have a home game it will be at a new home with a new coach.
Edinburgh 44-21 Benneton Treviso
It was easy to forget that there was another Scottish side playing on Saturday given the level of interest in Glasgow’s Super Saturday, but Edinburgh rugby paid tribute to the departing Chris Paterson with a convincing win over Treviso in front of 2,800 supporters at Murrayfield.
Paterson got on the score sheet for the very last time with a well-taken try to add to Greig Laidlaw and Dave Denton’s first half tries t give the hosts a 23-7 half-time lead after Ludovidco Nitoglia crossed for the Italians.
Tim Visser and Kyle Traynor helped ensure the bonus-point win for Edinburgh with tries of their own after the interval, but despite the win, the capital side still finished second bottom of the league, behind Treviso who scored another two tries of their own despite being reduced to fourteen men in the second half.
Munster 36-8 Ulster
Munster gained revenge for their Heineken cup defeat at the hands of their provincial rivals with a convincing win at Thomond Park and sealed a playoff spot in the process.
Ulster, with one eye on the Heineken Cup Final, rested key players but put up an admirable fight against a Munster side keen to finish the domestic season on a high. In-form winger Simon Zebo and flanker Peter O’Mahony crossed for tries early in the first-half with Scott Deasy adding a penalty and two conversions.
Ulster’s points came from a try from debutant Iain Henderson along with a Paddy Jackson penalty, but they were unable to live with Munster’s aggression as the hosts added three further tries from hooker Mike Sherry, flanker Tommy O’Donnel and prop Stephen Archer to seal a semi-final playoff against the Ospreys on Friday night for the right to compete in the inaugural Pro 12 Grand Final.
Aironi 11 - 18 Ospreys
Ospreys had already booked a home semi-final before their trip to Italy, but were given a wake-up call by the bottom side who were playing their last ever match in their current existence.
After a frantic opening period, winger Hanno Dirkson and full-back Richard Fussell crossed for the Ospreys who now enter the semi-finals on a five match winning run. Dan Biggar landed on conversion and added two penalties to see off a spirited Aironi challenge led by Naas Olivier and Nick Williams who crossed for the home side’s only try.
Scarlets 29-20 Cardiff Blues
Scarlets made sure they kept the pressure on Glasgow with a thrilling bonus-point win over regional rivals the Blues at Parc Y Scarlets, but their season came to an end due to the Warriors victory at Firhill.
Scarlets scrum-half Gareth Davies touched down twice to add to a try from Liam Williams and a penalty try over a Blues side who could not wait for the season to end such has been their dreadful recent form.
Andries Pretorius, Alex Cuthbert and Harry Robinson crossed for the Blues to add to a Dan Parks penalty but they were not able to compete up front with their close rivals and endured a painful end to the season.
The Scarlets ended their campaign on a high but will rue missed opportunities earlier in the season and for another year, the playoffs elude the West Wales outfit.
Newport-Gwent Dragons 18-22 Leinster
Despite fielding a virtual second XV, league-leaders Leinster claimed their 18th win of the season in a thrilling contest at Rodney Parade.
A try from prop Jack McGrath and five Ian Madigan penalties were enough to see Leinster cement their top spot in the table despite a second-half Dragons fight back which included tries from Dan Lydiate and Will Harries as well as two Lewis Robling penalties.
The win means Leinster will host Glasgow Warriors at the RDS arena next Saturday in what will be the sides fifth meeting this season.
Pro 12 Semi-finals
Friday 11th May: Ospreys v Munster
Saturday 12th May: Leinster v Glasgow Warriors
RaboDirect Pro 12 End of year awards
The inaugural Pro 12 player of the year awards were held on Sunday night to pay tribute to the players of the year as well as announce the first-ever RaboDirect Pro 12 Dream Team.
RaboDirect PRO12 awards
Players' Player of the Season: Tim Visser (Edinburgh) Young Player of the Season: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow) Coach of the Season: Joe Schmidt (Leinster) Chairman's Award: Shane Williams (Ospreys) Golden Boot: Jonathan Sexton (Leinster) Fair Play Award: Leinster Straight Talking Award: Nigel Owens
RaboDirect Pro12 Dream Team 2011-12
- Isa Nacewa (Leinster);
- Tim Visser (Edinburgh),
- Casey Laulala (Blues),
- Ashley Beck (Ospreys),
- Alex Cuthbert (Blues);
- Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors),
- Ruan Pienaar (Ulster);
- Jon Welsh (Glasgow Warriors),
- Richardt Strauss (Leinster),
- BJ Botha (Munster),
- Dan Tuohy (Ulster),
- Tom Ryder (Glasgow Warriors),
- Dave Denton (Edinburgh),
- Justin Tipuric (Ospreys),
- Ben Morgan (Scarlets)
You can follow Finlay Morrison on Twitter @FinMorrison