A season that started with 10 successive wins fizzled out in abject fashion for the Glasgow Warriors as they were comfortably outclassed and beaten the Guinness PRO14 semi-final by champions Scarlets.
The Warriors had also won all ten of their home games in the PRO14 without conceding a bonus point but Scarlets ended that run with surprising ease, scoring four tries before the hour mark to put the result beyond any doubt.
The Warriors looked gun-shy from their three-week break since the loss to Edinburgh in the final game of the regular season. They conceded far too many penalties in the first hour and while the Scarlets were their usual open and attacking selves, they could barely believe how easily they pierced the home side’s defence.
Having virtually qualified for the play-offs by Christmas, the Warriors’ second half of the season followed on from their disappointing European campaign rather than their blistering start to the campaign.
Scarlets deservedly go on to the final in Dublin next week to meet the winner of the other semi-final between European champions Leinster and Irish rivals Munster.
“We’re every disappointed, mostly because we didn’t fire many shots,” said head coach Dave Rennie. “Credit to Scarlets but we didn’t really play an dput pressure on them until the last 20 minutes.
“If you don’t hold on to the pill and give away too many penalties this is what will happen. After a strong season it’s a disappointing way to finish because we wanted to be going for the title next week.”
The wind was arguably out of the Warriors’ sails before kick-off with Stuart Hogg calling off late with sickness, but they hardly helped themselves with indiscipline and dreadful defence in the first quarter.
Ryan Wilson was penalised on the first contact as he chased the kick-off, another penalty came at the first scrum, and although Glasgow held the driving maul Rhys Patychell got outside Nick Grigg far too easily to score near the posts.
The Scarlets shrugged off the early departure of John Barclay – to a warm ovation from the 10,000 Scotstoun crowd – and a Finn Russell penalty to strike again in 17 minutes, Scott Williams this time getting inside Russell and feeding Gareth Davies to jink past retreating tacklers to score.
Patchell converted both tries to give the Scarlets a handy 14-3 cushion before the Warriors had really even fired a shot.
Glasgow’s attempts at retaliation were punchless, missing a five metre lineout throw and being turned over at the breakdown when they did get possession in the Scarlets’ 22.
And pinned back in their own 22, the Warriors conceded again as Horne’s box kick went too far, McNicoll, Steff Evans and Williams counterattacked and Rob Evans was inside in support to canter over for the third try just after the half hour.
The Warriors seemed to break through when Siua Halanukonuka – on for Zander Fagerson – made a half break and Horne raced through in support, but the Tongan was adjudged to have knocked on.
Glasgow had one last chance before the break but although they drove a five-metre lineout over the line they were adjudged to have been held up.
If the Warriros got an earful at half-time it seemed to have fallen on deaf ears and Scarlets quickly regained ascendancy, Nick Grigg yellow-carded for interfering in what might have been penalty try territory close to his own line.
But the score was delayed only moments, as a solid driving lineout splintered the Glasgow pack and skipper Ken Owens got the fourth try, Patchell converting.
It took until the hour for Glasgow to hit back, a quick penalty after DTH van der Merwe’s burst sending Jonny Gray over, but Russell’s miserable night continued with a skewed conversion.
Then another tap penalty saw Glasgow with surely their final chance, but they lost it in contact and Gray was penalised for coming in at the side when his team mates thought he’d scored.
Finally Grigg zipped over from close range but only seven minutes were left on the clock and Pete Horne, on for Russell, hit the post with the conversion.
The two missed conversions meant Glasgow still needed more than two converted tries, but a final fumble from Grigg in midfield ended hope of even one consolation score.
Glasgow: R Jackson; T Seymour, N Grigg, S Johnson, DTH van der Merwe; F Russell, G Horne; J Bhatti, F Brown, Z Fagerson; T Swinson, J Gray; M Fagerson, C Gibbins, R Wilson (capt).
Replacements: G Turner for Brown 68, A Allan for Bhatti 56, S Halanukonuka for Z Fagerson 26, R Harley for Wilson 56, C Fusaro for Swinson 72, H Pyrgos for Horne 68, P Horne for Russell 68, L Jones for Syemour 72.
Scarlets: J McNicoll; T Prydie, S Williams, H Parkes, S Evans; R Patchell, G Davies; R Evans, K Owens (capt), S Lee; T Beirne, S Cummins; A Shingler, J Davies, J Barclay.
Replacements: R Elias for Owens 65, W Jones for R Evans 49, W Kruger for Lee 56, L Rawlins for Barclay 10, W Boyde for Cummins 72, J Evans for G Davies 61, D Jones for Parkes 72, S Hughes for Patchell 72.
Ref: J Lacey (IRFU)