Guinness PRO12: Al Kellock savours special Glasgow Warriors win
Captain signs off in style as Scottish club win first major title with an impressive display against Munster in Belfast
Al Kellock savoured Glasgow Warriors’ 31-13 win over Munster to win the Guinness PRO12 for the first time.
The result was a fitting finale in Belfast for the Warriors club captain, 33, as he calls time on a professional career that saw him make 174 appearances during his spell with Edinburgh and nine seasons at the Warriors.
Few would have expected such an emphatic win for the Scots in their second final against a notoriously stubborn Munster with a history of winning in the league and Europe.
Ever the team man, the giant lock had no complaints about being dropped to the bench for his final game as head coach Gregor Townsend opted to deploy menacing ball-carrying Fijian Leone Nakarawa.
There’ll be plenty of time for individual reflection, we’re just collectively enjoying something incredibly special.
Three first-half tries from Rob Harley, DTH van der Merwe and Henry Pyrgos set the Warriors on their way with a 21-10 half-time lead, with Finn Russell converting all three tries before scoring and converting a try in the second half.
Duncan Weir added a late penalty to put the result beyond doubt, sending the thousands of Warriors fans, who had made the short trip to Northern Ireland, into appropriated choruses of “Stand up for the Warriors” and the obligatory elongated football cries of “Champions, champions, ole, ole, ole”.
For former Scotland international Kellock, his immediate thoughts were set on enjoying a richly-deserved collective achievement – a first for a Scottish club – rather than reflecting on his own personal achievements.
“There’ll be plenty of time for individual reflection,” Kellock said.
“We’re just collectively enjoying something incredibly special.
“As soon as Gregor told me what my role was going to be in the game, I tried to make sure I focused on that as much as possible.
“I haven’t been on the bench very much for Glasgow – I think that was my fifth time – but it’s about making sure you’ve got the detail right.
“It’s quite nice going on with 15 minutes to go when you’re three scores up – that was testament to what had gone on.
“It was very difficult against a very, very good Munster team. When they got hold of the ball and their driving lineout got going, it was very tough.
“Some of the rugby we produced was the best we had produced all season.
“It was not only the attack – which will always stand out when you score four tries – but the defence to stop them doing what Munster are the best in the league at with all their big ball carriers.”
The Warriors may miss Kellock’s motivational leadership in the dressing room next season as he takes up an ambassadorial role with the Scottish Rugby Union, but they aren’t short of talented players and have a number of players on long-term deals already growing into leadership roles.
He’s a special player, and I think he was the best player on the park by a mile.
Al Kellock on Leone Nakarawa
Not least Kellock’s protege Jonny Gray, who at just 20 has already captained the Warriors, been entrusted with calling the lineout and become an important part of their forward pack, as well as establishing himself in the Scotland engine room.
Nakarawa also continues to grow into his role at the Warriors and Kellock was full of praise for the Fijian’s man of the match performance, epitomised by the way that he got the Warriors into the game early and paved the way for the win as he got his tentacles free to deliver trademark offloads to set up the first two tries.
“Some of the offloading was terrific,” Kellock said.
“One of the key messages we’d been hammering into [Nakarawa] all week was to carry hard and make three or four of them put you down; he got off two and we scored two tries.
“He’s a special player, and I think he was the best player on the park by a mile.”