Glasgow 17 – 9 Ulster
Confidence is a complex entity to understand. It can convince others of your worth and it can take you to places few thought you could go. Glasgow Warriors are dripping with confidence and on a sodden night at Firhill they beat Ulster with little more than a handful of passes and a try.
Winning ugly is something that teams do when they are on a roll. In truth this game could have gone either way, particularly with the amount of stoppages, set-piece restarts and errors. At times it felt like the Italian referee Penne rarely stopped blowing to draw breath.
Speaking after the game Glasgow head coach Sean Lineen claimed that the game was unpredictable because they had a “referee that had no idea. You didn’t know where it was going to go”.
For most of the game Lineen was seen to be muttering to himself in the stand, slamming his palms into the desk and blankly assessing the Italian official. The game hardly flowed, but when you are winning games and remaining obstinate enough to steal tries at the end such things hardly matter.
The game started with a show of patience from the Warriors. They built phases as they marched towards the opposition line. They claimed a penalty from out wide and Weir calmly slid the ball between the posts for 3 points, much like he has done all season.
After that the fans were the ones that had to be patient. Kellock stole a lineout, there were scrum penalties and there were hacking kicks out of Glasgow’s 22 but nothing noteworthy took place. Even when Ireland international Andrew Trimble made a classy break 18 minutes in his support Simon Danielli -who was reinstated at wing after a few games in Ulster’s 15 jersey -was reeled in and turned over by debutant David Lemi.
The first quarter ended with Humphreys nailing a penalty from directly in front of the posts after Rob Harley dived over the ruck to challenge for a ball. Many supporters felt he did so legally but Signore Penne thought otherwise and the game was levelled at 3-3. Kicks rained down in the horrible conditions and scrum after scrum was deliberated over. Weir Kicked two more penalties and skills faded with time.
The only point in the first half where it looked like the line would be breached was when a lineout ball in Glasgow’s 22 was passed to an Ulsterman masquerading as a crash runner. As he drew the defender he slipped a clever inside pass to scrum-half Marshall who looked certain to score had Ryan Wilson not slid in with a timely cover tackle. The ball was eventually scrambled clear and the half evaporated into the night sky as Humphreys misplaced his last penalty kick.
At 9-3 this game looked like it would be one where lofty up-and-under kicks would dominate. No one looked capable of scoring and Glasgow struggled to hold onto the ball, let alone feed a flying attacker. New signing Lemi looked wasted on the wing and the normally animated Hogg seemed subdued by the constant trek into the middle of the park to cover short, high kicks.
In the second half Humphreys had plenty of time to sort his radar as apparent scrum infringements and off the ball bumps led the referee to signal towards Ulster with a straight arm. Even Glasgow’s own fans seemed cowed by the conditions and disappointed by the match’s lack of continuity. The weather was biblical but the spectacle was less than momentous.
Then, as the last quarter dribbled on, the unthinkable happened. A misjudged kick inside Ulster’s 22 led to a turnover and Warrior ball. A pass was fed to Morrison who duly popped it along the line. As opposition defenders surged forward a wild looping pass fell to a static Troy Nathan. The centre ran towards the try line, working his feet well and shifting his opposite man. He hit Lemi who got on the outside and made for the line. Tackles came in but he played it back inside to Nathan who burst onwards and slid over at the corner to make it 15-9. Duncan Weir was afforded the opportunity to miss a conversion.
He made up for it a few minutes later when he successfully kicked a drop-goal and the match ended a sopping 17-9.
Those at BBC Alba saw fit to give David Lemi the Man of the Match despite his game being reduced to a series of clearing kicks and one try assist. Lineen said he was impressed enough, though. “Lemi is a class act. It is a shame we couldn’t give him more ball…but he made a couple of nice mazy runs.”
So there it is. The game had one incident of note and the new boy made a good enough impression on the home fans. The whole team will be looking forward to an away trip at the Dragons next Sunday. When you’re confident the next game can never come soon enough.
Glasgow: Hogg, Lemi, Nathan, Morrison, Aramburu, Weir, Pyrgos, Welsh, MacArthur, Cusack, Ryder, Kellock, Harley, Barclay, Wilson
Replacements: Cusiter, Grant, Low, Gray, Fusaro
Not Used: Gillies, Dunbar, Shaw
Ulster: D’Arcy, Trimble, Cave, Spence, Danielli, Humphreys, P. Marshall, Court, Kyriacou, Fitzpatrick, Muller, Tuohy, Diack, Faloon, Wannenburg
Replacements: Whitten, Brady, Macklin, Barker for Tuohy
Not Used: Black, McComish, Porter, Jackson
Referee: Stefano Penne (Italy)