They say a pessimist is never disappointed, but even when you expected little from Glasgow Warriors away to a strong looking Ulster side, they’ve managed again to disappoint after a fairly bright start.
Not sure what happened at the very start due to problems with Premier Sports’ coverage (NB: multiple sources have regaled the same, frequently irritating occurrence from the broadcasters) but once visuals arrived, Tom Gordon won a penalty at the breakdown on halfway, allowing to take it to touch in the Ulster 22.
Multiple phases of forward drives didn’t gain much ground but did suck defenders in. Once the Warriors added depth through the backs, Matawalu’s cute inside run took him beyond the Ulster defensive line. He couldn’t find the finish or offload on that charge, but TJ Ioane burrowed over from close-range just a couple of recycles later.
Ulster found a bit of width and threatened the Glasgow line when lock Kieran Treadwell put a grubber in which Glenn Bryce did well to tidy up. Although Sean Kennedy completed the clearance to touch, Ulster won a penalty via the maul, and after further infringements they got another go at a 5m maul which they converted through hooker John Andrew to level the scores.
The home side went close again when utilising the grubber, but although they were fortunate to regather the bouncing the ball, full-back Michael Lowry’s offload went forward to give Glasgow the put-in at the scrum.
Tom Gordon’s vice-like mitts won another breakdown penalty which allowed Peter Horne to stroke over the penalty, but his knock-on when Glasgow looked to capitalise on the counter turned possession over to Ulster.
Robbie Fergusson was then caught offside in an eminently kickable position, but rather than look to level the scores, Ulster again went to the corner again. The maul didn’t quite make it over the line, but off the next phase Marcel Coetzee barrelled through the tackles of Kiran MacDonald and TJ Ioane.
Ioane nearly made amends for his part in the try with a surging run through the middle after some excellent rugby from Glasgow, but he spilled the ball as he was hauled down just shy of the Ulster line to seemingly relieve some of the pressure.
However, Sean Kennedy – a late replacement at scrum-half for Jamie Dobbie had other ideas. He snaffled Coetzee as he picked up from the base to disrupt the set-piece. Ulster’s hurried clearance was returned, and Kennedy nearly scored from a quick tap when Ulster were caught offside, only to be denied by a superb cover tackle by earlier try-scorer Matthew.
For all of Glasgow’s attacking endeavour, Ulster were eating ground up when they carried, and with the half drawing to a close they again scored from close-range via the help of a set-piece, Sam Carter finishing off.
With the clock in the red and the Warriors switched off, John Cooney took the ball down the blindside to hare into Glasgow’s 22. The ball was spread wide where Nico Matawalu went for the intercept ahead of Craig Gilroy. He didn’t get there in time and was sin-binned for the deliberate knock-on. Down to 14-men, the Warriors defence – or what was left of it – succumbed again from the set-piece, and it was Cooney who finished what he had started some two minutes earlier.
Half-time: Ulster 28 – 10 Glasgow Warriors
With the bonus point already secured, Glasgow decided to try and gift Ulster another 5-pointer when Peter Horne’s duff kick was returned with interest by Cooney and Gilroy.
They then took a penalty to touch for another go at the close-range shove over, however the charge was repelled and Glenn Bryce then showed great defensive skills again to read Madigan’s cross-kick, bump Michael Lowry, and release a bit of pressure.
However, Glasgow being the generous sort that they are this term, decided again to turn possession over again and again.
The line-out was a toss-up as to whom’s hands it would end up in, and a dreadful kick from Horne which went out on the full by miles, gifted Ulster possession back deep in Glasgow territory.
Ulster knocked it on on that occasion, but it wasn’t soon before they were ghosting past Glasgow defenders again on their way to the try-line when Sean Reidy crossed in the left-hand corner after Lowry had completely wrong-footed Ryan Wilson.
Matt Faddes capitalised on another Glasgow error to kick ahead and score from halfway, although Coetzee appeared to interfere with play from an offside position to stretch the lead to “pure riddy” level, before the excellent Lowry saw yellow for the same earlier offence as Matawalu.
Glasgow went to the line, Grant Stewart’s arrow this time hit its mark, and he finished as Ulster’s maul broke apart.
Warriors chased a potential try bonus-point as some kind of consolation, but their evening – and to a further extent their season – was encapsulated in one moment of adventure that ended in abject failure.
With a penalty less than 10m from the Ulster line, replacement hooker Johnny Matthews went for a tap and go, only to knock on as he went to handle his tap.
The scoreline makes it look more horrendous than it actually was – a couple of Ulster tries could’ve been called off for earlier infringements – but Danny Wilson will have concerned about the ease with which Ulster scored when they had possession in Glasgow’s half. And the number of daft mistakes. And the set-pieces. And the… I feel this is going to be a long season.
SRBlog Player of the Match: despite being short of professional match practice, former Edinburgh scrum-half Sean Kennedy hardly put a foot wrong, and the same applies to Glenn Bryce.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)