Glasgow Warriors 30
DAVID BARNES @ Scotstoun Stadium
THIS was just the antidote Warriors needed after the disappointment of last Saturday’s flat performance and heavy defeat to Saracens in the Champions Cup. Ulster may have made it easy for them with a pretty slipshod display but the home side deserve credit for taking full advantage in scoring four tries and conceding just one to pick up a valuable bonus point win.
This result keeps Warriors’ in pole position at the top of Guinness PRO14 Conference A, although second-placed Munster’s bonus point win at home to Cardiff Blues means the gap remains at just three points. Dave Rennie’s men also did Edinburgh a big favour here because it means that a full haul for Richard Cockerill’s side away to Scarlets tomorrow (Saturday) will move them to just two points behind second-placed Ulster in Conference B, with those two teams meeting at Murrayfield next Friday.
“That was the response we wanted, we knew it would be tough, we knew both sides had a lot on this game, and we felt we had a bit to prove, so I’m really rapt with the attitude,” said Rennie.
“Some guys were playing for their future in regard to the next few weeks. What everyone understands is that we are not scared to take big decisions around selection. We needed to stand up, last week wasn’t good enough and we know we’re a better side than that, so this was a good chance to do that. We conceded a try early and to not concede anymore points beyond the eight minute mark was a hell of an effort.
“We thought we did some good stuff with the ball in hand last week and we were pretty good again tonight, but the big turnaround was the quality of our defensive effort, which was much better.”
“We’ve got good depth and there is pressure in certain spots, so the guys who got a chance to play tonight needed to stand up and I think they did.”
Some sort of Saracens hangover was evident early on, with Warriors falling behind in the seventh minute in a frustratingly familiar fashion when Ulster kicked a penalty to the corner and then burst from the back of a driven line-out with Rob Herring getting the ball down, but that seemed to shake Rennie’s men back into life, and from then on in they never really looked back.
The scores were soon tied after Stuart Hogg cut out a promising Ulster attack with an interception, then chased down Adam Hastings’ rushed clearance to win a penalty against visiting loose-head Eric O’Sullivan for holding onto the ball on the deck near the away team’s 22. This allowed Warriors to go to the corner, and it was Fraser Brown who subsequently got the downward pressure after the ball was caught cleanly and the heaving mass of bodies rumbled over the whitewash.
Warriors then snatched the lead when Hastings stretched out of a tackle and over the line following a powerful midfield burst from Kyle Steyn. The stand-off missed the conversion but was on target just before the half hour mark when he nudged over a 40-yard scrum penalty to open up the gap to eight points.
Then, in the second minute of overtime at the end of the first half, some slick handling through several phases eventually sent Tommy Seymour in on the right for try number three, and within four minutes of the resumption after the break, the bonus point was in the bag when Zander Fagerson rumbled across the whitewash from five yards out following another slick passage of continuity play.
Ulster had turned over 12 times in the first half and their carelessness carried on into the second half, when Jacob Stockdale sent Luke Marshall on his way for what looked certain to be a lifeline securing try, but the outside centre fumbled the ball in the act of scoring under pressure from Seymour.
Hastings kept the scoreboard ticking over with his second successful penalty of the night just before the hour mark.
The game then fizzled out, although there was some drama when Ulster winger Rob Lyttle scooped up a dropped ball on the halfway line and scurried all the way to the right corner flag, but he couldn’t shake-off the irrepressible Seymour, who for the second time in the match managed to do just enough to prevent what should have been a certain try.
“That kind of summed up our defensive effort,” concluded a satisfied Rennie.
Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour (R Nairn 70), K Steyn, S Johnson, N Matawalu; A Hastings (P Horne 60), A Price (G Horne 62); O Kebble (J Bhatti 32), F Brown (G Stewart 65), Z Fagerson (S Halanukonuka 65-71), R Harley, J Gray, A Ashe (S Cummings 60), C Fusaro ( 66), M Fagerson.
Ulster: M Lowry (A Kernohan 20); R Lyttle, L Marshall, S McCloskey (D Cave 56), J Stockdale; B Burns, J Cooney (D Shanahan 61); E O’Sullivan (A Warwick 45), R Herring (J Andrew 45), M Moore (T O’Toole 62), A O’Connor, K Treadwell (I Nagle 52), S Reidy, J Murphy, M Coetzee (M Rea, 66).
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Glasgow Warriors: Tries: Brown, Hastings, Seymour, Z Fagerson; Con: Hastings 2; Pen: Hastings 2.
Ulster: Tries: Herring; Con: Cooney.
Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors first): 0-5; 0-7; 5-7; 7-7; 12-7; 15-7; 20-7 (h-t) 25-7; 27-7; 30-7.