After Friday night’s 28-14 loss at Ravenhill it was a case of: we’ve started, but must do better.
It was not so much that Ulster were that much better or that Glasgow were missing too many -Ulster themselves may have had the core of their usual starting team with the familiar 10-12-13 of Humphreys-Spence-Cave but they were also missing 9 at RWC2011- but just that inconsistencies within the game that killed the contest.
Analysts pointed out that Glasgow missed 6 of their own line-outs and Lineen himself intimated that the thrown restart is normally a strength of the Warriors’.
In truth, though, every form of set-piece (and I include kick-offs in this) were shaky for Glasgow. Sure MacArthur struggled to find his man, but the scrum ebbed and flowed as well and never looked 100% settled. Sometimes Kyriacou looked to be getting the better of Cusack, sometimes Grant (on for Welsh early doors) and MacArthur were happy to take the hit and let Cusack work. Ryder seemed more intent on getting a run at 12 from the scrum.
The great shame of this is that sometimes the scrum looked solid, even belligerent, and gave a good platform for attacks to be launched from.
So when you consider that line-outs were a no-no, scrums were 50/50 and kick-offs unpredictable it is a wonder that the backs managed to gain so much ground. But they did in the opening exchanges.
Led by Rob Dewey, who looks determined to recapture his form of a few years ago, the Warriors crashed like waves on Ulster bluffs and worked their way towards the line. With phases secured and defence appearing sturdy they managed to repel the Ulsterman and keep the game scoreless for the first 8 minutes.
On 9 minutes and 44 seconds debutant Troy Nathan pushed past Tom Ryder 5m out and demanded a pass from Colin Gregor. He was never going to pass the ball but he spun, champed and willed his way over the line, taking a few men in white and red with him.
As good a start as this was, though, it went some way to showing how inconsistent Glasgow Warriors were.
After 10 minutes Colin Gregor was marshalling play, Nathan was getting into the mix and players like Dewey, Eadie, Fusaro and Seymour were looking for work. Even in the later stages of the first half things looked to be holding up okay.
Some of these names went from covering themselves in glory to ducking for cover, however.
I will refrain from saying “Bless him”, but Colin Gregor, normally an enigmatic play maker who could perform the basics, had an erratic and disappointing game. Scrambling for a kick in the first half he slid in and tried to pop a pass to the retreating full-back, Stuart Hogg. The ball never made it to Hogg. Ulster centre Darren Cave tore on to the ball under Hogg’s nose and dotted down under the sticks.
Gregor also gave away a series of penalties in the game and refused to settle in to play, something I’m sure Duncan Weir needed in a game he was capable of controlling.
I will not blame the loss on Gregor, or indeed the line-out. As previously stated it is inconsistency that kills the well drilled side. I feel for Dewey, Hogg and Ryan Wilson in particular. The no.8 never knew what type of ball he would get, the full-back (who despite a horrible forward pass and some hot-headed moments seemed comfortable at 15) never knew what kind of kicks he would field as Humphreys imperiously nudged the ball out of hand, and the centre worked tirelessly.
Troy Nathan, who started so brightly and had some commanding moments, faded badly in the second half.
His kicking became poorly placed and when he rotated into first-receiver for Weir he drifted so far that wingers Seymour and Shaw struggled to see any spaces to run into. Because of this Seymour in particular had to work in field to find ball and Fusaro and Harley were dragged to the edges of play in attempts to clear up the breakdown.
I will not go into great detail about Ulster’s other 2 tries as they came down to defensive error. The second try was a stroll round the side of a ruck 5m from the line because there was no blind-side defence; the third was because of awful tackling as no.8 Chris Henry picked from the base of a solid scrum, 10m out, and barged over for the score.
With a score line of 28-14 Glasgow were not blown away, and did not allow Ulster the bonus-point try, but they were their own worst enemy as they gave away ball from line-outs and penalties.
Next week against Munster I fully expect to see Nathan retained at 12 to continue his first receiver swap with Weir. I also expect to see Aramburu on the field in place of Shaw and Pyrgos on for Gregor. The fans will expect better line-outs. Gary Mercer will expect better defensive shape and commitment 5m out. Lineen will expect better.
Glasgow Warriors are capable of better.
Tries: Cave, Marshall, Henry
Cons: Humphreys 2
Pens: Humphreys 3
Pens: Weir 3
Ulster: D’Arcy, Gilroy, Cave, Spence, I. Whitten, Humphreys, P. Marshall, McAllister, Kyriacou, Cronin, Stevenson, Tuohy, Wannenburg, Faloon, Henry.
Replacements: Brady for Kyriacou (67).
Not used: Carey, Macklin, McComb, Diack, Porter, Jackson, Nelson.
Glasgow: Hogg, Seymour, Dewey, Nathan, Shaw, Weir, Gregor, Welsh, MacArthur, Cusack, Ryder, Harley, Eddie, Fusaro, Wilson.
Replacements: Horne for Seymour (54), Pyrgos for Dewey (62), Aramburu for Shaw (52), Grant for Welsh (12), Kalman for Cusack (52), Campbell for Eddie (66), Pitman for Wilson (58), Gillies for MacArthur (75).
Ref: Leighton Hodges (RFU).