Glasgow’s United Rugby Championship (URC) semi-final victory over Munster at Thomond Park was, in many ways, the very definition of a game of two halves – with the crucial exception of the scoreboard which ran in the Warriors’ favour throughout.

One of the keys to the game was the referee, Andrea Piardi, and the way Glasgow responded to the Italian official – who will also take charge of the final against the Bulls on Saturday.

Here is the disciplinary story of each of those 40-minute periods and some of the areas where Franco Smith’s side might be on high alert in Pretoria.

First half

Penalty offences: Munster 3-10 Glasgow

Possession: Munster 65%=35% Glasgow

Territory: Munster 66%-34% Glasgow

The flow of penalties in the first half of the semi-finalThe flow of penalties in the first half of the semi-final (Image: Kevin Millar)

The game very nearly got away from Glasgow in the early stages. Jack Crowley had already missed one kick at goal when a sequence of five offences from the visitors allowed Munster to march down from very nearly their own goal line to the shadow of the Warriors’ posts.

The home side had to exert very little effort to move 95 metres up the pitch. They not only grabbed the first points of the game but also saw their opponents reduced to 14 men after Richie Gray’s yellow card.

It is an impossible task to completely avoid penalties, especially in a close contest at this stage of the season where almost every breakdown is a battle.

Those 50/50 calls at the ruck cannot always be controlled and sometimes it can simply come down to which side has the momentum.

The Warriors’ coaches and analysts will have looked at this run of four defensive penalties in a row and almost certainly come to the conclusion that all of them were avoidable.

However, they will be extremely happy with the immediate response. During the sin bin period, Glasgow didn’t concede a single penalty.

One pressured scrum aside, they were neat and tidy at the setpiece; precise about the offside line; and relatively risk free around the ruck and tackle area.

The visitors actually managed to go a full 26 minutes without committing another offence, despite spending an awful lot of time on defensive duties and scrapping to keep Munster out of their 22.

The last three minutes of the half saw things get a little loose, both in the play itself and with the Warriors’ discipline.

The ball was changing hands frequently and with so much going on, a combination of Peter O’Mahony, the crowd and whoever was in charge of the replays on the big screens was focused on bringing the ref’s attention to every misdemeanour by Glasgow.

There was very little in Scott Cummings’ offence but both Josh McKay and Matt Fagerson needed to keep their challenges lower. While it’s important to dominate the contact, anything rising up into the neck or head is taking a massive, and potentially game-changing, risk.

Second half

Penalty offences: Munster 11-2 Glasgow

Possession: Munster 38%-62% Glasgow

Territory: Munster 41%-59% Glasgow

How the penalties unfolded in the second half (Image: Kevin Millar)

As in the first half, Glasgow’s response to being a man down was outstanding. They came out of the gates after the break knowing they had to manage nearly a full ten minutes without the younger Fagerson.

They did this in the best way possible, by keeping play pinned in Munster’s territory for almost the entirety of that period, creating scoring opportunities that they couldn’t quite take until Tom Jordan and then Huw Jones exploded into action from deep.

The tone was set and much of the second half followed a similar pattern with the home side rarely able to break the stranglehold that the unfancied Warriors had on the game.

That extended to the penalty count, with Jack Dempsey being pinged for holding on the only Glasgow blemish in amongst a string of Munster offences up until Alex Nankivell’s red card and George Horne’s penalty for the final points of the game.

There was still time for a rather unlucky Jamie Dobie to concede for his hand getting trapped in a tackle, which allowed Munster one last 22 entry to try and take the game into extra time.

As they had done for more than an hour though, the Warriors trusted their defence, didn’t offer any chance of another penalty and waited patiently for the 18th and final turnover conceded by their hosts.

The Referee

Andrea Piardi will referee the URC’s grand final, taking charge of the Warriors for the fourth time in their last five playoff matches.

Analysis at this level is incredibly detailed but there’s still no substitute for actual time on the pitch. There’s a more than decent chance that this also extends to being ready for the match officials.

Glasgow should know how to communicate effectively with Signore Piardi. They will also have strong instincts around what he is looking for in the main facets of the game.

Andrea Piardi will referee the URC Grand FinalAndrea Piardi will referee the URC Grand Final (Image: SNS)

Some of the keys from the Munster game that should transfer to the final are:

Overall: The penalty offence count on Saturday was heavily stacked against the team on defensive duties, 18 to 8.

The simple expedient of being the side with possession and momentum is a quick way to reduce the impact of the officials. That will be easier said than done on the road against the Bulls though…

Scrum: Piardi looks to prioritise getting the ball back in play but he will reward a dominant setpiece in the face of a clear transgression.

The Warriors’ struggled at a couple of scrums early on at Thomond Park, but pulled it together after this, including winning a penalty late on that started the sequence leading to the final three points.

A Bulls’ set-piece that dominated Leinster (and Sharks’ front row made up entirely of World Cup winners a fortnight prior to that) will be a huge test and Glasgow will be hoping for some patience from the referee.

Lineout: There was little tolerance for any contact in the air or early driving as the ball was being brought back to ground. Self-control will be essential – as will some real precision in countering a monster Bulls’ pack.

Ruck: This was the only area where the attacking side was penalised more heavily. There was plenty of reward for the jackalling player on both sides, with opportunities to steal and six penalties awarded for holding on or sealing off.

It was noticeable that there wasn’t a single penalty awarded against a player looking to steal the ball, with a warning generally given to allow them to withdraw if the opportunity wasn’t on. Rory Darge could be one of the most important players on the pitch during the final.

Offside: Both backlines brought some impressive linespeed during the semi-final while also managing to toe the offside line perfectly. There were a couple of occasions where lumbering forwards were pinged for not bothering to get back.

The finalists are likely to push their luck to the absolute maximum – Bulls to prevent Huwipulotu from dictating the attacking side of the game and Glasgow with the intention of stopping their hosts from moving the ball wide, whether through kick passes or otherwise, as they managed so successfully versus Leinster.