Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Glasgow 32-10 Ulster

Al Kellock - pic © Al Ross
Al Kellock celebrates - pic © Al Ross

In the blustery sunshine of Scotstoun, Glasgow took on Ulster in front of a sellout crowd with a Guinness PRO12 home semi-final at stake. The gusty wind had an influence from the kickoff as Ian Humphries undercooked the kickoff, which allowed the Glasgow scrum an early chance at a penalty.

The ensuing lineout drive was bullied into touch by the Ulster pack, and further ineffectual phases of attack followed before referee Ian Davies whistled them back to allow Finn Russell a simple shot at goal.

The wind seemed to affect Glasgow’s handling too – there were plenty of knock ons – but at least the relatively dry conditions allowed a return to the attacking style so absent against the Ospreys last weekend.

Defensively they dealt with Ulster’s first foray into the 22 with confidence but clearance box kicks were a risk in the wind for both sides; goal kicking was a bit of a luxury. It was physical stuff though with both sides making blood and full substitutions in the first half hour. Paul Marshall was living up to his name and keeping the game pinned in the last third of the pitch and only forward passes (well refereed by the home fans) were stopping them from scoring.

It served very well to keep Glasgow well away from scoring themselves though, and the worry was that all the near misses would stick eventually, especially as Louis Ludik only just butchered an easy 2 on 1.

In the face of the pressure, Davies’ patience ran thin and Jonny Gray was binned for persistent offsides.

And then the rain came.

With a brief but horizontal shower flowing from behind them, Ulster made their extra man count and the visiting fans cheered the try as the rain lashed in their faces.

When the sun reappeared, Glasgow battled hard to get into Ulster’s half and were rewarded with a shot at goal. Retaining possession they made ground in the midfield channels; but the conditions and an inability to hold on to the ball gave Ulster an opportunity to strike straight back, Humphries finally having mastered the conditions.

HT Glasgow 6-10 Ulster

News from other fixtures around the league meant that Glasgow needed 4 tries with the wind at their backs to snatch a home semi-final and avoid a trip to Thomond Park.

Ulster had the better start, again keeping Glasgow locked in their own half. Finn Russell and Chris Fusaro did well to hold up their man and win a turnover but for every one of those there was a knock on or Ulster piling on the pressure at the breakdown, some of it only marginally legal. It was 9 or 10 man rugby but it was keeping Glasgow shackled and Ulster seemed in control, especially as Glasgow made ineffectual use of those gifts that were offered by the referee.

Then, with 30 minutes to go, Townsend emptied the bench and everything changed.

The major change was Henry Pyrgos in at 9 with Niko moving to the wing (where he is most effective in tight games). But it was on the other wing that saw the first moment of magic, Stuart Hogg chipping then outstripping his marker to regather the ball and dive over from what seemed like a superhuman distance. He was flying.

Glasgow took the lead and the new front row asserted themselves with another penalty. Russell boomed the kick deep into Ulster territory and another attacking platform. Brilliant solo try of the day #2 came from Russell, who slipped past the shoulders of the Ulster midfield then showed surprising power to batter past 2 more defenders to cross the line, before kicking the conversion too.

Ulster fans may have felt aggrieved as first Richie Vernon wasn’t sin binned for a physical but mostly legal tackle while Ulster prop Andrew Warwick was, for a breakdown offence.

Glasgow, with that wind now filling their sails, went on the charge down the wing. Hogg mistimed an overlap in a similar spot to Ludik’s in the first half, but Seymour made the best of it, fighting for every yard, and managed to get Jonny Gray close enough to be held up over the line.

Glasgow regathered for a scrum and luckily didn’t push their luck, after one previous reset, the next penalty saw Pyrgos tap and go, neat passing through a maze of dummy runners picking our Russell who carved over for his second converted try.

With ten minutes left and one more try needed, the now audibly exultant Scotstoun crowd didn’t have to wait long for Richie Vernon to batter through the Ulster line (as he has done all season when called upon) and hit the gas to dive over unopposed and secure the bonus point.

As the driving rain returned to compound Ulster’s misery – most of their fans were sat in the teeth of it, and many could not be blamed for heading to the exits a few moments early – Glasgow were in no mood to let the weather spoil their party. With Weir and Murchie on to shut up shop, the home semi final beckoned until the whistle confirmed it.

If nothing else, when Glasgow play attacking rugby, the sun truly shines on them. Next up they will face Ulster – again – this Friday, at the same venue, and hopefully with the same crowd that Al Kellock paid tribute to after the game. He talked of their consistent aim to go one better each time, to always improve.

This time they have topped the table at the end of the regular season, and the playoffs await.

SRBlog Man of the Match: Vernon and Strauss both had good games, while Hogg and Seymour had moments of excellence as did Jonny Gray despite his binning. But Finn Russell scored 22 of the 32 points, and after a shaky start had a massive influence on the second half.

11 Responses

  1. Good win eventually for Glasgow.
    They were anonymous for the first 50 minutes, and need to have a more active start against the Ulster A team, or the game might get away from them.
    With Pienaar and the rest back, it’ll be a different match entirely.
    Hopefully Nico will be on the wing. Pyrgos does provide a faster and more reliable service to the backs.(Nico has improved his game management but still gives me the vapours at times)
    There is no doubt Glasgow can win it, but Ulster have a very good pack and will probably try and squeeze the life out of the Glasgow attacking game. Glasgow need to conjure up some line breaks and get behind them. Any hint of complacency and Ulster will turn them over.

  2. Good to see Ryan Wilson back minus the mask! He gives more options in the back row.

  3. The back row is rife with options at the moment. Strauss and Ashe played well and Wilson was effective off the bench. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rob Harley left out of the match day 23 for the semi. I thought Ryan Grant played very well too, compared to the unremarkable season he’s had for club and country. Signs not looking good for a Euan Murray send off, there are 3 tighthead at Glasgow better than him.

    1. Not sure I agree on Euan Murray – I think you are underating him , he has experience in spades.

      One thing concerns me, Ulster had nothing at stake last week really , they were away anyway for the semi, and we had to play our best moves , aganst all odds to claim the bonus and the Home advantage. Showed our hand. However Ulster have a great incentive as the final is at the Kingspan. Now that is the 16th man for them. It is first past the post , no bonus points , Just winner takes all, One Yellow card , could tip the game.

      One point I noted in the game was when Ulster dropped to 14 and we opted to convert penaltys to scrums twice which subsequently needed continually reset. I think they should have taken the kick to the corner and mauled it. We won the Lineouts easily especially with Franco VDM off. The scrum resetting just leaked time. Glasgow need to be more savy – poor captaincy IMO, They need to be sharp, clinical, professional and ruthless on Friday.

      1. In his recent time at Glasgow we’ve seen Murray put in some good performances, but as of current his form simply isn’t good enough. De Klerk, Cusack and Welsh all offer more around the park, and I fear Murray may miss out on the semi final 23. I do agree that we will face a far more ferocious Ulster side on Friday, and a full strength one at that (minus Franco VDM who I think is injured). Perhaps more than anything Glasgow will have to be relentless in their pressure, they can’t let Ulster out of sight.

  4. Fair do’s PJ, It is not in our hands, however agree all the way , it will be a different Ulter on Friday and the pressure is on Glasgow. Forcast looks ok , no rain and a light west wind. God himself has set it up as a running game , lets see what happens.

  5. Hopefully it’s dry on Friday. In conditions like that Glasgow will struggle. Ulster are masters at the tight game and are every bit as good as Munster when it comes to cheating at the breakdown (audible chants of “are you Munster in disguise” heard on telly).

    I don’t think Kellock or Hall will play. Send off or not, they were both poor and are both done.

    Think it’s no more than a 50/10 ball game to be honest.

    1. It’ll be an interesting selection. I can’t imagine there’ll be any surprises in the backs but there are plenty of options in the pack depending on what kind of game Toonie wants to play. We have breakdown muckers in Brown, Swinson and Fusaro. But I’d be a lot more confident if we had a truly test class 7. Anyway, Glasgow shouldn’t worry too much, we did after-all win that last semi-final against Munster at Scotstoun.

      1. Glasgow are without DTH, Maitland, Dunbar and Bennett from the backline. Plenty to worry about IMO.

  6. Personally I would start Kellock. Firstly because the line out functions much better when he’s on (it was mince against Ospreys), and secondly because of the leadership he brings. I still think we look somewhat bereft of guidance without him. Big Leone is also much more effective as an impact player. Also whilst I agree next year may be a season too far, big Al has been excellent when he’s played this season. Against Ulster the whole team were poor for 50 minute not just Big Al or Hall, but given how horrendous the conditions were there’s an argument for only being 10-6 down at the break being pretty decent defence, given we also had a man in the bin.

    I do agree about the need for a test class 7, and hopefully Favaro will give us just that, but Fusaro is the best we have and has to start IMO. I share people’s concerns about the game, as Ulster can surely only improve, but I would fancy us more at home against them than I would against either Munster or the Ospreys. I’m also more nervous than ever because we’ll probably never have a better chance of winning the Pro12 than this year. There’s talk of DTH maybe being available, fingers crossed.

    1. I’d even go so far as to give props to Kellock and Hall in the first half, given how steady the lineout was in such poor conditions. I don’t think Hall will get a look in for the semi but Kellock should start Glasgow are fractured without him.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion