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Glasgow 17 – 22 Ulster

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

Ulster made the short hop over the Irish sea to take on a Glasgow side containing the returning Finn Russell at 10. Other changes for the Scots included first starts for Tijuee Uanivi and Lewis Wynne in an already depleted back row. We’re only in week four.

Both sides have been playing nice rugby this season, but the weather in Glasgow was at its worst. Horizontal rain would prove tricky for the kickers, but it didn’t stop the entertainment as both sides set out to dominate the contact area. Some of the hits coming in were bone-jarring and it’s no surprise that the injury count in this one was high.

The first ten minutes were all the way of the visitors, with the Ulster backs seeing plenty of ball. Charles Piutau was unsurprisingly very involved, showing quality throughout with some sensational running that made Glasgow’s all international backline look a bit amateur. Ulster took the first points on the 6 minute mark, having missed a penalty on 3 minutes, with a solid thump from Paddy Jackson bisecting the posts. An early warning was also issued to Glasgow co-captain Jonny Gray over discipline by referee Ian Davies.

Ulster thought they had the first try of the game on 9 minutes, with a lovely move finished by Darren Cave. Referee Davies had the TMO review a bit of foul play 6 phases previously where Iain Henderson had stupidly dumped Tommy Seymour out of a ruck. Davies rightly chalked off the score and also saw fit to put Henderson in the sin bin for the indiscretion. A big let off for the Scotstoun men, and not the first.

Against 14 you would expect Glasgow to kick on and get themselves into the game. However Ulster are a top class side and on 16 minutes Cave eventually got his try, with lovely handling creating a huge overlap. Jackson missed the extra 2 points but 8-0 to Ulster was a fair reflection of the game so far.

With a sold out Scotstoun roaring them on, this Warriors side was always going to make a decent game out of this. Big Gordon Reid dragged the side into play with a short range try from a close range lineout, which Russell converted beautifully, making it a 1 point game after 20 minutes.

At almost every phase of play bodies from both sides were going down injured, indicating the level of intensity of which the tackling had reached. For Glasgow, who already had a decent injury list coming into this one, it was not great to see Greg Peterson, then Reid and Uanivi depart before 30 minutes. This last substitution did allow another debut, with Sam Thomson coming on in the second row beside Gray.

Glasgow’s task was to be made more difficult, again by indiscipline, but not before another massive let off from Iain Davies. A makeshift rolling break from the maul saw Ulster tear over the line, but Rodney Ah You was adjudged to have blocked Henry Pyrgos from tackling in the act of dragging his ball-carrying scrum half over the line by the collar.

A harsh decision against the burly Ulster prop, but Davies followed this up with an another dodgy call. Leonardo Sarto tried to make a tackle on Charles Piutau but was pinged for not using his arms, despite his left arm clearly being wrapped round the New Zealander’s leg. A yellow for Sarto, a penalty try – even less clear with Glasgow defenders poised to make follow up tackles – and Ulster walked into the changing rooms with an 8 point lead.

Half-time: Glasgow 7 – 15 Ulster

Glasgow got out of the blocks faster in the second half, and Russell was at his creative best, forcing the lines and calling the shots from 10. He was also kicking well, and a penalty on 46 minutes made it an unlikely 5 point game.

More was to come, and on the hour mark, man of the moment Tommy Seymour scored an easy touchdown after lovely work from Stuart Hogg to draw the defence and pop a pass through the tackle. A touchline conversion not unlike that in the playoff game against the same opposition 2 years ago had the same outcome, with Russell smiling away as he jogged back to halfway. Somehow Glasgow had sneaked a two point lead at 17-15.

The Ulstermen had only 1 win in 5 against Glasgow, but they were a superior side on the night and it was fully deserved that Paddy Jackson, after a brilliant run, would get the try to seal the win. He had been denied earlier after a superb break by another intervention from Ian Davies, but a slide over the artificial turf with Hogg clinging off him was enough to convince Davies this time that he had scored. A check of the TMO might have said otherwise, but it was not coming and Jackson converted for a 5 point lead with 16 minutes to play.

Glasgow threw the kitchen sink at the Irish defence for the last 15 minutes, but to no avail as bodies and minds tired by constant defending early on started to falter.

A deserved win for Ulster, a losing bonus for Glasgow. It was a pulsating and engaging game, but one that will have done no favours for the physiotherapists of both teams.

Let’s hope the injury list hasn’t been significantly increased.

SRBlog Man of the Match: Chris Paterson gave the sponsor’s award to Finn Russell, who had a terrific game. From a Glasgow perspective I have to agree with this but the actual best player on the park by a country mile was Charles Piutau. The former All Black was unstoppable at times. Other honourable mentions for Alex Dunbar, Fraser Brown and Lewis Wynne who was superb.


18 Responses

  1. Have to agree with you Bulldog. Ulster deserved their win and were the best team all night long. I can’t even complain that the reffing affected the result on the night, although some of the decisions like the Ulster disallowed try, and then the penalty try they were given were simply wrong I thought. Ulster were just too experienced, too highly motivated, and had too much ‘dog’ at the breakdown, for a makeshift Glasgow back row.
    The set piece went well and Glasgow won all their scrums and line-outs, but they couldn’t make any progress at all in loose play against the Ulster defence, and the spills and silly errors allowed Ulster to continually build up the pressure.
    Piutau looks like a great signing for Ulster and caused problems all night. No one seemed able to get to grips with him.
    Still, only 5 points away from Ulster at the top, so Glasgow shouldn’t be written off just yet.
    The back row injury list is crippling though, and could lead to a few more defeats.

  2. Agree that Ulster deserved the win. It was a real stramash of a game. The number of missed tackles by Glasgow (particularly the first half) seemed uncharacteristic. To be fair, Glasgow looked a lot better in the second half, even following the injury toll to players subbed and otherwise. It did look a bit men against boys at times, but that is unsurprising given the callowness and makeshift nature of some parts of the Glasgow pack. Glasgow’s injury list is a bit eye-watering, and they could be very stretched indeed come the AIs.

  3. Hugely physical game, Glasgow really missed Favaro/Fusaro (a proper 7) and Josh Strauss. (Brown should’ve started @ 7)

    Fusaro is out because of “knees” pretty worrying, Wynne & Matt Smith are richly promising but I reckon John Barclay would be a great signing for Glasgow.

    It wasn’t a penalty try & that was the difference, Ulster deserved to win but it was a tremendous effort by a very under-strength Glasgow

    Piutau looks a magnificent player, I haven’t seen anyone give Glasgow such a hard time for years.

    Dragons, Zebre, Treviso, Scarlets, Ospreys, Munster next in the Pro 12, I reckon Glasgow can win all these games. (if the injury list improves)

    It says somewhere that Hugh Blake has bought a house in NZ, anyone any info on him returning??

  4. Men against boys up front in the first half. Agree that the back row was beaten badly and steps need to be taken to strengthen this area as the first team regulars look injury-prone.
    The penalty try award was a bad decision, as the slow motion shows Satro try to grasp the leg but by then Glasgow had already conceded a number of cheap/stupid penalties and maybe the ref had lost patience.
    Courageous tackling and the number of injury substitutions show the commitment of the team and the willingness to tough it out. Facing a similarly rampaging team one would imagine Edinburgh caving in after 10 minutes. Ulster were mightily impressive in the first half with wave after wave of human missiles barrelling towards the line, with close to test match intensity. A great advert for the Pro-12.

  5. Talking of men against boys – Edinburgh’s scrum was just minced by Munster. It’s frustrating, as if they’d had parity there, there wasn’t much between the sides otherwise. In fact, Edinburgh had them at the breakdown and probably did as much, if not more, in terms of attacking play (even if it was still far from cohesive at times). The back row is quite a unit. Toolis was doing a lot of good stuff too.

    1. Another new low for Solomons and Scott. What do you expect when you try and manufacture front row players? We already have a non-hooking hooker in the national team closing in on the record for caps. An indictment on recruitment policy. Whoever thought it a good idea deserves their P45.

  6. Good to see Corey Flynn ‘hooking’ properly. Hopefully a change in policy
    here rather than the 3 prop shove. It works well when done quickly and the front row is balanced.
    It’s gone all quiet about the American no 8 Haupeakui.
    Any news anywhere?
    We desperately need some extra bulk at Glasgow with the Euros looming large.

    1. Haupeakui isn’t gonna be up to speed for Euro Champions Cup – his highest standard of rugby except for a solitary USA cap is in a semi-pro league with 5 teams that only runs for 3 months. He’s potentially a diamond in the rough nit someone who’s going to make an instant impact.

  7. Thanks FF. I was hoping he would be a ‘bolt on’ player who could hit the ground running. Not sure where Gregor goes from here, other than stick with the new boys to give them experience.
    Fagerson the younger looks like a prospect, but he is only 18.
    I do think Glasgow are short of a wrecking ball type of player, which other teams seem to import.
    The Euro’s might be a bruising experience given the size and playing style of our opponents. The Glasgow pack will be seriously targeted up the middle in an arm wrestling contest. None of the other teams will want to play to Glasgows strengths by playing a frantic open kind of match.
    I’m not suggesting that the Glasgow pack are not tough opposition, but I do remember the Toulon, Toulouse, Northampton and Racing matches in previous years. Many were very close and were marginal defeats, but they were still defeats in matches which were forward dominated.
    The French and English do play a different brand of rugby which involves trawling the world for monsters. If they can win by sticking the ball up their jumper, they’re quite happy to do so.
    Although I applaud the Glasgow attitude and the way that they play the game, it does leave them vulnerable when they can’t go toe-to-toe with the rugby juggernauts.

    1. I think you’re bang on the money but those kinds of players are just gonna be hoovered up by the English and French leagues if they’re the finished article. Townshend is probably trying to do something like you’re suggesting but if this guy makes it, we probably won’t see him until later in the season (unless re injury crisis persists). I don’t know why we aren’t producing these kinds of players – although Bradbury could fill this role for Scotland if he continues his current development. He is a tackle-busting machine.

      1. Tackle busting and bruising tackling machine. He has the skills and mindset, but also those extra few kgs that our back rows often seem to lack. I’d like to see him feature in the AIs. A back row of something like Bradbury, Strauss and Hardie has a nice feel and momentum about it. I doubt he’ll start (depending on how the injury landscape develops) but I do hope to see him involved.

  8. I have held back on this harsh observation, but here goes.

    The makeshift pack, did well, all things considered, however the back line , which was all class, could have done better in the first half.

    It was the missed tackles which annoyed me. Not where they should be and half harted attempts to tackle big when what was needed was gutsy low tackles. What ticked me off , was the individual who was missing them. Our top performers, seemed , IMO, to be hanging back.

    I cannot help feeling their eyes are on staying injury free for Autumn Intenationals where they will be noticed for Lions selection.

    They stepped up second half, hopefully someone had a word at half time and reminded them that we play our rugby, one game at a time.

    Finn Russell must be commended , he really has been accelerated back after what could have been a life changing injury and showed no fear.

    1. I wonder if the ‘elephant in the room’ for Glasgow this year is the new pitch. Agree with Bulldog that in some instances, players have seen a bit less keen to go hard and low, and we’ve seen a worrying number of injuries – particularly shoulders – which could I suppose result from landing on a less forgiving surface.

      1. An interesting thought, but not in my opinion. Glasgow thrive on firm surfaces where great ball handling bring rewards. Injuries happen. Vastly better than struggling in a sea of mud.

  9. Mike , I agree the surface is much better than mud, however it still begs the question , they are not going in for the low tackles, for whatever reason ? They are pros , low or high is an instinctive decision made in a heartbeat.

    The hard surface suits Glasgow’s attacking ambitions , no question on that. I have never even considered any shortfalls in defence.

    I think Andy has a point to note and watch , however, the counter argument would be that a hard surface might be seen as an opportunity to take them low and drop them hard. But they did not , so back to my cynical observation , it could be personal ambition over team performance.

    Time will tell.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion