Glasgow travelled across to Belfast to face old foes Ulster, fresh from the disappointment of last weekend’s humbling from the Scarlets. Gregor Townsend had only a few options to update his side, with short term signing Brandon Thompson coming in at full back, and returning utility man Pete Horne, having signed a new 3 year deal this week, coming in at 10.
To be fair to the reserves that are always pressed into action at this time of year, particularly given Scotland’s injury worries, this was not as bad as last week.
That, however, does not mean much.
Ulster dominated this game from the off, with their international calibre back row of Chris Henry, Sean Reidy and South African behemoth Marcell Coetzee making large dents in a decent Warriors defence. Add this front foot ball to a world class general in Ruan Pienaar and you can see how difficult the Warriors task was. This task was not helped with some clueless decisions from the more experienced players, with Henry Pyrgos in particular very guilty in this facet of play and doing no good to his chances of a Scotland recall.
Pienaar was first on the score sheet, with a simple penalty after 10 minutes. 3 points didn’t represent a fair return for the level of control the Ulster side were exerting and Glasgow took heart from this. Simone Favaro, in particular, seemed intent on making the SRUs decision not to renew his contract look foolish, with sensational breakdown work keeping Glasgow in touch. Ulster though continued to hammer at the door and it was no surprise on 20 minutes when Tommy Bowe dotted down in the far right after nice handling from his backline compatriots. Pienaar missed the conversion, but 8-0 and Glasgow making mistakes and not looking like scoring, the Ulster fans were in full voice.
Ulster though continued to hammer at the door and it was no surprise on 20 minutes when Tommy Bowe dotted down in the far right after nice handling from his backline compatriots. Pienaar missed the conversion, but 8-0 and Glasgow making mistakes and not looking like scoring, the Ulster fans were in full voice.
Worse was to come. Lee Jones departed with a very serious looking injury before Sean Reidy added another try for Ulster. Simple, efficient brutality in ball carrying and Glasgow eventually run out of numbers. It isn’t pretty but it works. Pienaar added the extras, and 15-0 sounded about right.
Glasgow, for all their failure in execution, never gave up and it paid dividends right on halftime. Slick work from the forwards, 26 phases of ball and finally Pyrgos made the right call, sending a delightful 3 man miss pass off his good side to send new boy Brandon Thomson over. The South African had taken the kicking duties from Horne early on, but he couldn’t add to his score. A 10 point gap at halftime was not insurmountable, but Ulster would have felt they deserved more.
HT Ulster 15 – 5 Glasgow
Glasgow needed the first score of the second period to stay in this one, but it was not to be. Ulster came out firing, and within 15 minutes had secured the bonus point and a 25 point margin. Pienaar was at the heart of everything for the Irish, this time from
Ulster came out firing, and within 15 minutes had secured the bonus point and a 25 point margin. Pienaar was at the heart of everything for the Irish, this time from the fly-half position, and 3 points after 44 minutes stretched the lead. A lovely set play from lineout ball then allowed Jacob Stockdale to stroll over after a lovely pass from Luke Marshall in the centre. Pienaar added the extras and Ulster could sense the bonus point try was coming. To be fair to Ulster, when it came, it was a cracker!
Glasgow had made a break from their own half, with some excellent offloading sending Mark Bennett into clear air for the first time. The centre, who is off to Edinburgh to make way for Huw Jones at Glasgow, looked like he was in but great cover work saw him catch the ‘stupid decisions’ bug, throwing a horrendous offload straight to Pienaar on the Ulster 22m line before injuring himself. Rather than clear their lines, Pienaar set off, with Ulster going to length of the park through Coetzee, Stockdale and Craig Gilroy all involved. It fittingly finished with Pienaar, who had picked himself up and run all of 50 metres from the initial break to get in place to support, to cross the line, securing the bonus point and in all honesty, the game. He missed the extras, perhaps still shattered from the effort but at 30-5 Ulster it was another reminder of how disappointed Ulster fans are going to be when they say farewell to the South African at the end of the season.
Glasgow went to the bench at this point, and similar to last week against Edinburgh, Ulster seemed to take their foot off the gas with the bonus point secure.
Rob Harley managed to get himself on the wrong side of referee Dan Jones, ending up in the sin-bin for lifting at a ruck, but the only positives from the last 20 minutes for Glasgow were Scott Cummings, who attempted to drag his side back into the game with 2 tries. The first one look dubious at best, with the ‘grounding’ not exactly evident but the young lock deserved his moment after a great charge down then some outstanding footballing skills to give himself a chance to dive on the ball. The second was more like a traditional second row try, from all of 3 metres out he bounced a couple of tackles to go over under the posts. Thomson managed 1 of the 2 conversions but Glasgow were within a converted try of coming away with 2 points from this one at 30 – 17.
Alas, this would have been way more than Glasgow deserved. Peter Horne had a fairly dreadful day at the office, with poor decisions and distribution exacerbating the frankly rubbish service he was receiving from Pyrgos. The halfbacks combined to make another error, with a knock on at halfway after a hospital pass to Thomson summing up the lack of cohesion from the side. Ulster picked up the ball, sent it wide and Stockdale showed real quality to grubber the ball through. There was little cover in the backfield, and Stockdale collected the ball to seal the deal for Ulster. Pienaar converted, putting an end to a frustrating weekend for Scottish pro club rugby.
Is it time the SRU start lobbying for a fixture break during internationals? Glasgow just don’t have the strength in depth to cope with losing a full team of internationals for a quarter of their season.
FT Ulster 37 – 17 Glasgow
SRBlog Man of the Match: Ruan Pienaar rightly took the sponsor’s award, and no Glasgow player would have been in the top 5 for this award if we’re honest. From the Scottish perspective our award goes to Scott Cummings, who made yards on every carry and seemed to lead the side in spite of his relative lack of experience. His second row partner Brian Alainu’uese played well, and in the back, I like the look of Thomson, even playing out of position.
Ulster – Louis Ludik, Tommy Bowe, Luke Marshall, Darren Cave, Craig Gilroy, Peter Nelson, Ruan Pienaar, Callum Black, John Andrew, Ricky Lutton, Pete Browne, Franco van der Merwe, Sean Reidy, Chris Henry, Marcell Coetzee
Subs – Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Wiehahn Herbst, Kieran Treadwell, Robbie Diack, Paul Marshall, Jacob Stockdale, Jack Owens
Glasgow Warriors – Brandon Thomson, Lee Jones, Mark Bennett, Nick Grigg, Sean Lamont, Peter Horne, Henry Pyrgos, Alex Allan, James Malcolm, Sila Puafisi, Brian Alainu’uese, Scott Cummings, Rob Harley, Simone Favaro, Adam Ashe
Subs – Corey Flynn, Jamie Bhattie, D’arcy Rae, Tjiuee Uanivi, Lewis Wynne, Grayson Hart, Richie Vernon, Rory Hughes
Referee – Dan Jones (WRU)