Glasgow’s reign as Guinness PRO12 champions came to an end in Galway as Connacht deservedly won a brutal contest to reach next week’s final at BT Murrayfield.
The Warriors suffered a series of injury blows including the loss of two key players in the first minute, but no-one could deny that the West Irish province deserved the win.
They had two tries chalked off for marginal knock-ons and quite how the Warriors escaped without a yellow card as they gave up a flood of penalties only referee Marius Mitrea will know, but they eventually progressed to the all-Irish final against Leinster next week.
The Warriors were on the back foot from the minute Finn Russell and Zander Fagerson collided in the opening minute, Russell being taken to hospital with a facial injury that may put him out of the Scotland tour to Japan.
The champions had defended stoutly in the first half only to give up a try to wing Niyi Adeolokun two minutes from the break, and although Leone Nakarawa got them back in the game early in the second half they were unable to gain territory into the strong wind.
The crippling penalty count against them didn’t help either, as Glasgow’s discipline let them down again.
Connacht’s Bundee Aki had proved a handful in the game two weeks ago and his first touch brought a crippling blow for Glasgow inside the first minute.
Russell and Fagerson collided head to head as they tried to bring down the centre, the stand-off going off via a stretcher and to hospital. The young prop stayed off as well, Duncan Weir and D’Arcy Rae coming on.
The reorganisation took time and Glasgow spent the next ten minutes giving up penalties but successfully resisting Connacht attacks with some determined defence.
The Warriors had a rare attacking chance with a five metre lineout but Fraser Brown’s throw missed its mark and Connacht cleared.
Glasgow were then fortunate when flanker McKeon finished a sweeping move only for referee Marius Mitrea to bring it all the way back for a knock-on by Aki at the start of the move on halfway.
The teams swapped penalties through AJ MacGinty and Weir but three minutes from half-time Glasgow’s defence broke down when Aki’s neat grubber got in behind their rush defence.
Hogg couldn’t get there before Adeolokun and the Nigerian wing shrugged off a tackle from Weir to go in under the posts, MacGinty converting.
Glasgow nearly hit back on the stroke of half-time but Leone Nakarawa was held up under the posts as he tried to touch down.
However the big lock brought his side back in the game with a thrilling run from a trick lineout early in the second half, the Fijian coming back after several phrases to score an unconverted try.
MacGinty and Weir swapped penalties again before Glasgow were lucky to not see a yellow card and then still escape during a period of intense pressure with only a further penalty from the Connacht stand-off.
There was more good fortune for Glasgow as a second Adeolokun try was pulled back by the TMO for a marginal accidental offside in midfield, and then Rodney Ah You was yellow carded for a high tackle on Stuart Hogg.
However Glasgow had to go the length of the field against Connacht’s tenacious defence and couldn’t get beyond halfway in the dying minutes.
Glasgow: S Hogg; T Seymour, M Bennett, P Horne (T Naiyaravoro 60), S Lamont; F Russell (D Weir 1), H Pyrgos (G Hart 71); G Reid, F Brown (P MacArthur 60), Z Fagerson (D Rae 1 (R Grant 60)); L Nakarawa, J Gray (capt); R Wilson, S Favaro (A Ashe 28), J Strauss (T Swinson 67).
Connacht: T O’Halloran; N Adeolokun, R Henshaw, B Aki (P Robb 72), M Healy; A MacGinty, K Marmion (J Cooney 60); R Loughney, R McCartney, F Bealham (R Ah You 64); U Dillane (A Brown 61), A Muldowney; E McKeon (S O’Brien 61), J Heenan, J Muldoon.
Ref: M Mitrea (FIR)