Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Glasgow 16-14 Ulster

Finn Russell - pic © Al Ross
Finn Russell - pic © Al Ross

It was a repeat of last week as Ulster took on Glasgow at Scotstoun, but it was so very different.

Ulster had a great start with a penalty almost straight after Jonny Gray’s fumble of the kick-off. Absent last week, Pienaar took the three points with no nasty wind to contend with. “Not rolling away” was the story up the other end with George Clancy vigilant at the breakdown and Russell given the chance to calmly equalise.

Breakdown rules established, both sides probed low-level kicks behind each other’s defensive lines, looking for chinks in the armour. Pienaar and Jackson for Ulster were the more effective, but Stuart Hogg stepped up to the plate with his usual confidence and perhaps unusually slotted the penalty beautifully.

Ulster were playing a very canny tactical game and were far from the semi-shambles of last week. They were miserly in defence, putting on huge pressure at the breakdown and kicking for territory very well. They were rewarded with a worryingly simple 2 on 1 that Niko blew to give Chris Henry an easy run in.

Last week Ulster suffered the early injuries but in the first 20 minutes Glasgow lost Fraser Brown and captain Al Kellock to head knocks from which they would not return.

While Ulster were ticking over nicely, even Glasgow’s oft reliable scrum was creaking as Ryan Grant twice fell foul of Clancy.

There was a brief period of excitement for Glasgow with some fiery discussions and Niko making the most of a fluffed high cross kick that he was never really going to get but he earned the penalty. Karma possibly ensured that the lineout was blown and Ulster were able to clear.

Glasgow were playing poorly, Ulster were playing clinically and well. Last week Glasgow had turned it around after half time but this time Ulster had the wind, and a far more capable set of players on the pitch.

Half-time: Glasgow 6-8 Ulster

Ulster were looking for more of the same in the second half, while Glasgow were looking to change just about everything, but the loss of bright spark Chris Fusaro and Stuart Hogg hobbling about were probably not what Gregor Townsend had in mind. Niko had a half chance for an intercept as Ulster broke out of their own half, but otherwise it was business as usual for Ulster who were running with confidence, even if they didn’t often get within scoring distance. Craig Gilroy was keeping Glasgow’s defence honest to the point of transparency and Ulster were keeping the ball where Glasgow fumbled it.

The one glimmer of hope for Glasgow was that Ulster suddenly made a few errors with the kicks that had been largely impeccable up to then. But come the 50 minute mark when Stuart Hogg had sparked a comeback last week, Glasgow were still nowhere. The 2 points might as well have been 20, and even that didn’t last as the scrum – replacement front row and all – collapsed, to give Pienaar the first points of the half.

There was more footage for the TMO to watch as the officials deliberated over Niko (again) making a meal of being obstructed by Craig Gilroy. He wasn’t, but the attack that had come from a fizzing Pete Horne pass  led to a 5 metre scrum that they turned into a 5m lineout, perhaps fearing a change of mind from Clancy. Not for the first time they blew the lineout, but strong running from replacements Nakarawa and Ryan Wilson earned a much more kickable penalty for Finn Russell to cut Ulster’s lead back to 2.

Pienaar sneaked one over from about where Hogg had his in the first half at long range and Ulster were back in charge at 9-14 with 13 minutes left to play.

With quite simply everything they had built towards to lose, Glasgow threw everything into one last push for territory led by Nakarawa (who finally restrained his tendency to over-offload) and Gray. But they just couldn’t find a break. Ulster, meanwhile, could bring on fresh legs at their own pace.

The turning point will have been controversial over in Belfast, as Niko was taken round the neck off the ball by prop Ricky Lutton. It was most likely a penalty, but Niko milked it for all he was worth which drew the attention of the crowd, and the TMO drew it to Clancy’s attention. With an Irish team and Irish officials they had to be seen to be scrupulously fair. Glasgow had the ball back when Ulster had least wanted to surrender it. Right result, wrong way to go about it.

Seymour had been great while he was on, but a couple of knocks meant that DTH Van Der Merwe got a chance to bid farewell to the Scotstoun crowd that holds him dear. Roared on as they attacked from the penalty, Glasgow battered towards the line once again and an even better pass – this time from Russell – scythed wide with pinpoint accuracy for DTH to run on to and cross for the vital try. Having passed it out so wide, Russell was forced to kick from the touchline but he showed immense cool to bisect the uprights.

Last week Glasgow were poor for 50 before they turned it on, and tonight they were poor for 74 but once they did take the lead the momentum swung inexorably to the home side, and the crowd who had almost – but not quite, not quite – resigned themselves to despair, suddenly found belief swelling. After all, they only needed to retain possession for 3 minutes to crush Ulster’s dreams.

Russell was suddenly timing his kicks, and the crowd roared every tackle, every yard gained. When Clancy blew for another long range penalty, all Hogg had to do was kick it dead but he nobly went for the points giving Ulster one last chance to run back for a drop goal or a penalty.

They were weary and wobbling, but Glasgow held firm. And Scotstoun went wild.

SRBlog Man of the Match – He deserved it last week for a big contribution, and he deserved it this week for a small pass and a little kick. But they got Glasgow into the final. Congratulations, Finn Russell and the Glasgow Warriors.

40 Responses

  1. Fantastic Glasgow , there is no question they are not playing at their best, however they are still winning, now, that is a the hallmark of a great team. This is one scottish side with self belief. When Glasgow took the momentum out of Ulster by containing them in the second half , the psychology began to favour Glasgow. The minute DTH stepped on the park , I felt reassured that all things are possible and true to form he took an amazing pass and the rest is history.

    Now, I have just seen the post game interview with Rory Best on Sky and it was ugly. He was compaining about Niko, making a meal of the penalty, which incidently, I do not think he did. He got it in the neck and at that stage in the match who could blame him for going down winded. He was implying it was not a penalty. I was disapointed. A very undignified loser.

    I totally agree with Rory (Baldwin) it was the right decision, no question.

  2. Well done eventually Glasgow. Some very iffy sections made up for by 10 minutes of sheer magic. As for the Niko situation, yes the offence by the Ulster player was worthy of the penalty but there is no place for such theatrics in the game. Hope he gets a roasting off Townsend and DTHVDM gets his jersey. Thought Ryan Wilson had a massive game, he and DTH the Glasgow players who impressed the entire time they were on the pitch. I think the Glasgow fans travelling to Ravenhill need to invest in a giant sign reading “Hold on to the ball Leone!”

  3. Ulster spend the majority of the game cheating at the breakdown so need to dry their eyes. Glasgow have been poor for 80% of the last 3 matches but have found their way to the final. Hoping for a bruising affair today.

  4. The irony of the Irish complaining about Scots cheating is wonderful, if a little off the mark.
    He was taken out neck high off the ball. Yes, he exagerated it, but it was still a stonewall penalty. If Nico hadn’t milked it, the Irish guy might have received a yellow as well.
    (For previous cases of exageration/simulation please refer to the recent 6 nations.)
    The Irish and Welsh still lead the way in this area, even if we’re catching up. I’m not saying that this is right PJ, only that it is sadly, becoming more prevelant.
    More importantly, I’m concerned that Glasgow are running out of fuel and possibly players. The Ulster energy levels seemed much higher last night and only willpower kept Glasgow in the game at times.
    DTH in for Matawalu for me. Player of the year or not, a bad mistake for the Irish try, and not effective last night.

    1. I feared the worst before the game because the vast majority of this Ulster side were well rested having been left out last week. It was a mighty effort, full of blood and guts to get Glasgow over the line last night, Ulsters energy levels were definately higher but they blew it big time, too cute by far.

      Rory Best’s immediate post match interview lacked class and composure. It was a blatent penalty, milked a bit by Nico but how often have we seen scots teams not getting these? Best’s second interview on BBC was a little more restrained and he did mention that it would come across as sour grades but nonetheless mentioned the Nico penalty again and then went on the complain about penalties at scrum time!! What a w*nker!

      DTH for Nico next week for me. The wee man is trying too hard at the moment. Impact off the bench would be best.

    2. Agree with all of the above. Clancy is also a poor referee. Ulster should have been pinged repeatedly for infringing at the breakdown but got away with murder. I can’t decide if he’s biased or just incompetent. Honestly though, in what other leaugue, sport, whatever, would you have a Scottish team v an Irish one and all the officials are Irish?!! You couldn’t make it up. As for Best whinging, yes Niko was indulging in amateur dramatics for the penalty, but you cannot tackle anyone at neck height. Bottom line it WAS a penalty. One big push for next week. Set piece is a worry, line out was a shambles last night. However we’re due a performance, let’s hope it’s on Saturday.

  5. I was also concerned about the all Irish officials. In rugby that is not normal. I think it would have suited Guinness to have a final played in Ireland between 2 Irish sides. It would be the best return on their investment in this first year. Someone tell me I am just being cynical!

    Initially I would have preferred to see Glasgow play Munster rather than the cheating welsh (Ospreys) however, not sure now.

    Agree entirely , DTH must start and Nico should be on the bench.

  6. Great win, although scarcely deserved. My concern is that Glasgow, for whatever reason, are losing form at just the wrong time, but as has been said to play poorly yet still win is the mark of a quality team.

    Good to see DTH back in time for the final, he has to come in for Niko and give a performance worthy of his last game in a Glasgow jersey – hat trick anyone?

  7. No one has yet mentioned that the nico incident happened long after the referee had blown for an infringement against glasgow. It should have been ulster’s ball. The ref was fooled by a free willy impersonation and handed the advantage to Glasgow. – from this the try came. – embarrassing

    1. The penalty was for foul play not a technical infringement so it is irrelevant whether or not it happened after the ref’s whistle.

      It was also a clear penalty. Nico milked it but it was the third time Ulster had played him off the ball, Ulster really shouldn’t feel so hard done by. They could just stop playing people without the ball.

      The only thing embarrassing was Ulster players moaning about the ref and Nico in Best’s post-match interview, and on Twitter complaining about Glasgow celebrating too much. They should stop whinging. They lost because they weren’t good enough to beat a Glasgow side playing well below par.

    2. Give me strength. It happened shortly after the whistle was blown , a senseless act, a big lad stiffed a wee lad running at speed and he went down, the clock was running the Touch Judge stepped in and was consulted then the ref went to the TMO for a decision, no mistake, not an emotional decision , one based on consultation, an offence was comitted , this time, in full view of everyone. Ulster had 70 minutes to win the game. no embarassment there. Glasgow have at least 3 in the medical room, it was a tough game. Dry yer eyes.

    3. Which one are we talking about? When he went for the kick? That was smart on his part to get in the air and I think he had a chance for the ball if he had been left untouched. The other time when he went down that was pure cinema but the first contact was with his chin so it was a high tackle however you look at it plus it was off the ball

    4. Agree with FF and Bulldog- Ulster were just rubbish on the night on not good enough to beat a distinctly average Glasgow team. Gav b- take off your green coloured specs ** edited for unnecessary language **

    5. Gav…Gav, Gav, Gav, Gav – a lot of alleged Ulster supporters and some players have embarrased themselves and the club over the past couple of days. It seems Glasgow are an easy team to like when we’re losing, but not so much now.

      As other posters have said, the ‘incident’ was a penalty, regardless of theatrics – so you can have no axe to grind there unless with the feckless Ulster prop, and to say that the try came directly from this penalty just makes you look like a daftie – another penalty, 5 mins and 32 phases of play later we scored in the corner….direct??? really???

      To be fair to Rory Best, after his initial rant on Sky he then gave a far more balanced interview on BBC NI once he’d had a chance to calm down – hard to blame a man for being a bit emotional straight from the heat of battle. What’s less forgivable are the keyboard warriors who have stewed on this over the hours and days since and still can’t face the reality that despite being the better team on the day, they lost – plain and simple. God knows, as Scottish rugby supporters we more than anyone know how that feels – so I guess Ulster have my sympathies, but some – like you Gav, have lost my respect.

      1. It isn’t surprising the reaction of a minority of Ulster supporters given the unhinged coverage on BBC NI stoked up by ex-players like Ferris and joined in by actual players on Twitter. The conduct of players and ex-players associated with Ulster fell well below the standards of a professional sport that professes to welcome families. I hope they are embarrassed with themselves in the cold light of day. Let’s be honest, the refereeing wasn’t even controversial and had no bearing on the result. Glasgow won without ever having to play well. Ulster should reflect on that when they are feeling hard done by.

  8. Just watched the Munster v Ospreys match. So close.
    An amazing finish to any match. I’d almost started feeling sorry for the Ospreys until I remembered they were Welsh!
    Not sure which side Glasgow would be better off playing in the final.
    Given what I saw today, possiby Munster are the best option.
    Ospreys half backs are just very good and would give them an edge. Think Glasgow might deal better with the bludgeon that is Munster, even if it is in Irelend.
    (Not sure that Welsh and Scottish teams travelling to Ireland for a final is a good thing. Happy to be proved wrong)
    There will be some aerial bombs to deal with next week, as well as proving that Glasgow can take as much pain as Munster. Wpn’t be pretty.
    Have not heard an injury report after last night. Anyone heard?

    1. In a one off game I fear Munster ability to stifle teams through their breakdown cheating, which is the most refined in the northern hemisphere. O’Mahoney and Murray will be big losses for them. Glasgow need to open up the game. If it’s an 8 man game Munster will win.

    2. Suggestions that Horne might be out of the final if he was concussed. I think we can cope with losing just about anyone at this stage except Horne or Russell.

      1. Who would play 12 if Horne was out? Lyle? Vernon with Lamont at 13? Russell with Weir at 10? I certainly hope not.

  9. I’m glad Finn Russell continues to prove that he can knock over the pressure kicks. No need for Laidlaw in the World Cup squad then!!

    1. Totally agree- I’ve always admired Russell as a player and, though I dont think he is the finnished article, he would be a far better bet that Laidlaw, the man I hold most responsible for our awful performances during the 6 nations. Every time he got the ball we had a box kick or Garryowen. Both were pointless as, most of the time, he only made about 5 yards and the ball went straight back to the opposition. In fact, I cant think of a single kick that was successfully executed by Laidlaw and the rest of his game was average at best. Unforunately, he is a favorite in Cotter’s eyes so I think we will have to endure him for the next couple of seasons or more. Reminds me alot of Hugo Southwell- absolutely useless but still managed to be picked for Scotland.

    2. Good point well made. It was his night to remember. Stuart Hogg kicked a fine long range penalty on Friday. I have posted this before so aplogies for the repetition however we now have an example to focus on. Throughout the 6N SH was desperate (and frustrated at being overlooked) to do that however we kicked for touch. Mark Bennett can also hoof them over from between halfway and his own 10M line.Duncan Weir can put them away and at the right time. A lot of talent to draw on if there was a mind to do so.

  10. Still not a single piece in any of the Guardian, Telegraph or Independent on the Pro 12 semis. National newspapers? What a joke!

    Skys rugby coverage is welcome but they are so biased towards the Irish its unreal! I bet Alan Quinlan still cant believe he was selected ahead of Jason White for the Lions! Thankfully, Glasgow do their talking on the pitch, unlike Robbie Diack (lessons in manners from a Saffer? WTF? One too many consonants in the surname) or Rory Best (aw diddums, couldnt con the ref as per usual?). Could take a lesson from Neil Doak, classy reaction to defeat from him!

    Maybe if i knew what Hugh Dan was saying, i might have to accept his bias, but i cant, so i wont! Barnes had me raging on Friday moaning about Niko yet turning a blind eye to Chris Henry’s sneaky little obstructions, which were referred to as “clever play” by Paddy Wallace. Rory Lawson just let it go, why? Are all Scots pundits obliged by contract to just suck it up or are they afraid of being called chippy. Andy Nicol is the worst of all for this sort of passive behaviour when Scots teams get the sh*t end of the stick.

    Dont get me started on the muppet who commentates for BBC Ulster………

    1. After the game and Best had thrown his toys out of the cradle the Sky commentator advertising the games ‘still to come’ stated the times for the Munster V Ospreys game and encouraged you to come and watch it to see if it would be ‘an all Ireland final’ Maybe it was pre-recorded, maybe they played the wrong one or maybe he was a bit concussed after being hit on the head by an Ulster dummy tit.

  11. I thinks we have to admit that the English press have already declared us independent.

      1. Love thy neighbour. I can never understand why there is so much rivalry between nations that are so similar in terms of culture, outlook and geography.

  12. Man, what a game – and the Ulster post match whinging just makes it all the more special – can’t wait for Saturday – booked tickets, flights and hotel months ago so was absolutely convinced I’d totally jinxed us!

    When we got the penalty just before end of the 80 mins, we had a bit of a debate in North Stand about what was the best way to close the game out (as they also did on the pitch). If we kicked directly for touch, I assume Clancy had told them we would have to take the lineout as there was still 20 secs or so on the clock, so going for goal allowed us a further minute to run the clock down and make sure it went into the red – so kick for goal is the right decision. But then my mate asks why doesn’t he just duck-hook the kick into touch or blooter it in a straight line directly at the dead ball area? When I watched it back later that night, you can overhear Clownshoes telling Hogg to make a genuine effort, but is that right – could the ref reverse the penalty if in his opinion, Hogg had deliberately kicked the ball dead to end the game?

  13. @Andy

    Yes, the ref was correct. The kicker must make a genuine attempt to make the kick – hoofing it straight out would have resulted in a penalty against Glasgow.

    1. My vote would have been for his mightiest hoof in the general direction of the posts with the priority being to kick it dead

  14. I have this message for the Ulster fans. I’m sorry, so sorry, so very very sorry. If Glasgow beat Ulster one more time they may get to keep them. If Ulster are so good then how come Glasgow beat them almost every time the two teams meet. They shouold just stick to what they are good at- er sheep farming.
    Ulster are just one of those ‘almost teams’ They almost won the pro-12, almost beat Glasgow etc etc. When the fall short their fans like to invent excuses- the moon was in the wrong position etc. They fact is they are a rubbish team.

    1. Neil, as usual you oversimplify everything and end up coming across as a bit thick. Just because Ulster havent won the Pro 12 that doesnt make them rubbish. Zebre are rubbish, Ulster are a very good side. By your childish logic, jimmy white was a rubbish snooker player cos he never won the World Championship.

      Please try to be a bit more measured rather than acting like an internet troll. If you cant, stick to twitter!

    2. A bit premature to be gloating Neil. In Ulster’s history they have won the European Cup in 1999 and the league in 2006. Between Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Borders Scottish rugby has won sweet f*** all.

      The fact is they are a good team that Glasgow were rather fortunate to beat after playing quite poorly.

    3. Neil – I would have to disagree. Ulster are nobody’s fools and have the track record to prove it. Some you win,some you lose, so it is better to be dignified winners and losers, and that is one thing I am proud of about Glasgow, they are dignified at all times.The better team for 70 minutes did not win, however we deserve a bit of luck and we got the result.Importantly, Glasgow are developing character and it was that which brought them through on Friday. The stats showed we were hardly in their half , amazing , what resiliance and defiance.

    4. Of course I was joking but it is great to do a bit of gloating as so many teams have done that to us over that last 15 years. Great that Glasgow are now a better team than Ulster and the welsh pro sides.

  15. I would just like to draw an analogy- probably not a valid one but nevertheless it may be significant. Ireland were rubbish in the 80’s and 90’s but developed very good club sides in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Their national squad still came up short for 2-3 years but then developed into one of the best teams in the World.

    I just wonder if the same could happen with Scotland. I guess the difference is that they had 4 pro teams filled with home grown talent. We have only two, both of which have their fair share of foreigners. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see what happens over the next 2-3 season. Sadly, I dont hold out much hope for us in the WC.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion