Glasgow Warriors v Ulster: progress but another costly loss for hosts

Danny Wilson believes his team's performance proves they are headed in right direction

Ulster celebrate Michael Lowry's first half try. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Ulster celebrate Michael Lowry's first half try. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Glasgow Warriors 13

Ulster 19

ONE bonus-point gained which might be crucial when the Champions Cup spots for next season are being passed around, but Warriors should view this as a missed chance to pick up a morale-boosting win against one of the top teams in the PRO14.

Warriors are now 11 point adrift of the Ospreys in third place in Conference A and time is running out. With four games left to play in this PR014 campaign, including Leinster away next Sunday, they are not quite looking for a miracle yet, but it is getting to that stage.

This was not exactly a game they should have won but they certainly could have with a bit more composure at key moments – most notably when they let Ulster right back into the match after both of Adam Hastings’ penalties either side of half-time.


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Having said all that, Warriors were trounced by the same opposition when the two sides met three months ago, so this was a big improvement, and head coach Danny Wilson was clearly encouraged by the way his team had gone about their business.

“It was an improvement,” he said. “The last time we played Ulster we had 40 points shoved on us and weren’t even close to being competitive. Granted, it’s different personnel but I thought we were extremely competitive tonight. Tight games come down to big moments and a couple of big moments cost us.

“But the attitude was outstanding from the boys. I thought we played some good rugby and defended well at times. The one thing we need to really improve is control at breakdown which stopped us going through the amount of phases we need to break them down.

“Credit to the boys. They turned up tonight and certainly put in a performance with pride, but there’s lots to work on.

Fast out the blocks

Glasgow dominated the opening quarter but couldn’t convert possession and territory into points. They turned over the ball at several key moments, and failed to secure decent possession from a number of set-pieces in promising positions.

It looked like Ulster had shown them how to be ruthless in the red-zone on 20 minutes when Marcell Coetzee broke from the back of a line-out maul on his team’s first visit to the Warriors 22 and powered past a passive Leone Nakarawa on his way to the line, but the home defence somehow managed to stop the ball being grounded.

The big Fijian, who is swapping Scotstoun for Ravenshill next season, blew hot and more often cold all match. One or two of his trademark offloads went to hand, but there was a few loose balls as well, and he certainly didn’t dominate proceedings in the way we know he can when fully fit and switched-on.

Rob Harley then did brilliantly to snaffle possession when resisting the next Ulster wave and Warriors escaped up-field.

Just after the half hour mark, the game burst into life when Thomas Gordon brilliantly snaffled possession on the deck and Jamie Dobie set off up the short side with blistering pace, taking the game from his own 22 to the opposition’s, and prompting a breathless passage of play in which the ball was turned over half a dozen times before Ulster loose-head Eric O’Sullivan was penalised for not rolling away from the tackle, and Hastings fired home the 35-yard penalty.

Dobie was heavily involved when Ulster bounced back just a few minutes later, showing what a special ball player and athlete he is when taking the ball in the air with real panache, but then offloading to Ulster stand-off Ian Madigan. The visitors put the ball through the hands to James Hume, who bounced opposite number Robbie Fergusson, and John Cooney acted as the link to Michael Lowry, who had gas to spare as he scooted home from the Warriors 10m line. Cooney converted to make it 3-7 at the break.

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Scotland squad member Oli Kebble needed treatment on his shoulder early in the second half but stayed on, and it didn’t seem to inhibit him at the next scrum when he got on top of replacement tight-head Tom O’Toole to squeeze a penalty, which Hastings turned into three points, to make it a one-point game with half an hour to play.

Ulster roused themselves and mounted a furious onslaught and it took a great tag-team tackle from Huw Jones and Ratu Tagive  to deprive Craig Gilroy a try in the corner.

Dobie did well to tidy up messy ball from the scrum-five, but when Warriors cleared downfield Ulster came right back at them, with Madigan making the initial dent, Cooney, O’Toole and Lowry carrying the move on, and this time there was nothing going to stop Gilroy going over.

It was now one way traffic, and with Warriors conceding penalty after penalty in desperation, another try became increasingly inevitable. It arrived on 62 minutes when Nick Timoney got the ball down after a powerful line-out surge, and Cooney kicked the conversion to make 6-19.

Warriors looked dead and buried, but they were handed a lifeline when replacement scrum-half Alby Matthewson was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on with six minutes left on the clock.

Sensing that they had a chance to salvage a win which would kick-start their season, Warriors threw the kitchen-sink at it, and when replacement loose-head Aki Seiuli rumbled over and replacement stand-off Ross Thompson slotted the tricky conversion with less than five minutes to go it set up a nerve-jangling finale.

This time Warriors controlled the restart and swept back up field in the hunt for a dramatic late win, but Ulster held out, and when Madigan won a crucial turnover, he sealed the away win.

The good news for national head coach Gregor Townsend is that the four Scotland players he released for the match appeared to come through without injury.

He will be particularly pleased to have seen Hastings manage 64 minutes and kick two long-range penalties in his first appearance since injuring his shoulder three-and-a-half months ago.

“I thought he did really well to be fair,” said Wilson. “He has had a long time out the game and hasn’t had a chance to do much contact in training sessions apart from what we needed to get him right for this game.

“He was physical and there was a lot of good in his game management. There are bits to improve on and he will be the first to say he was a bit rusty in certain areas but on the whole I thought he was very good on his first game back.

“I took him off because when a player has been out as long as he has you have to phase them back in and 50/60 mins was the cap today so you don’t risk a soft tissue injury. Obviously, in a tight game you would keep him on longer but he is on a process that started tonight.”

Teams –

Glasgow Warriors: H Jones; R Tagive, R Fergusson, S Johnson, R McLean; A Hastings (R Thompson 64), J Dobie (S Kennedy 68); O Kebble (A Seiuli 61), J Matthews (G Stewart 40), E Pieretto (D Rae 71), R Gray, L Nakarawa (T Ioane 57), R Harley, T Gordon, R Wilson (J Scott 62).

Ulster: M Lowry, C Gilroy (M Faddes. 71), J Hume, S McCloskey, R Lyttle, I Madigan, J Cooney (A Mathewson 68); E O’Sullivan (A Warwick 51), J Andrew (A McBurney 51), M Moore (T O’Toole 46), A O’Connor, K Treadwell (C Izuchukwu 57), N Timoney, J Murphy, M Coetzee (G Jones 40).

Referee: Ben Blain (Edinburgh)

 

Scorers –

Glasgow Warriors: Try: Seiuli; Con: Thompson;Pen: Hastings.

Ulster: Try: Lowry, Gilroy, Timoney; Con: Cooney 2.

Scoring sequence (Glasgow Warriors first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-7  (h-t) 6-7; 6-12; 6-17; 6-19; 11-19; 13-19.

 

Yellow cards –

Ulster: Matthewson (74mins)


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David Barnes
About David Barnes 2212 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

5 Comments

  1. Both teams understandably rusty, but Ulster simply looked better prepared, fitter, and better trained than us – no excuses for that as that’s all in the control of the Coaches and any Covid restrictions are same for both…. Those that are leaving should be on the bench at most so we can build for next season especially young Thomson who looks assured and Weir may not be available at the start of the season as he is undergoing shoulder surgery – although I do appreciate that Hastings needs game time for Scotland…

  2. Very frustrating to watch. So many basic mistakes in both open play and the set piece. Missed tackles all over the place making Ulster look like world beating runners, and no apparent plan or inspiration in attack.

    Nakarawa’s return has been a total waste of time. The guy couldn’t look less interested and is a shadow of his former self (and a very out-of-shape shadow at that).

  3. The car crash season draws inexorably to an end.Is there anyone who still thinks Wilson is the coach we need, because I see no light at the end of his tunnel. What made Glasgow the best team in the league to watch is gone. The support off the ball running , the offloading , the general speed all seem to be gone. The coach seems to think this is good enough, we keep improving,etc and a bunch of other excuses. This is a team that made the final not so long ago and came within Hogg fumble of a second title.
    The only positives from last night , thought young Dobie had a good game apart from his pass to Madigan which lead to the try and Ryan Wilson was huge , cannot just be a coincidence when he went off Ulster took control of the game and only lost it a bit when down to 14 men. Another performance from Harley who rarely fails to deliver.
    I think Leinster next week is a lost cause, the next big game is against the Ospreys a place in the European top table competition is a must, the challenge cup is not acceptable.

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    • I completely agree, what is the strategy at Glasgow? Also why does Wilson always qualify the use of young players as a necessary burden, Ulster used young players in the game who seemed comfortable and I don’t think it’s the younger players letting this Glasgow side down. Rennie s tenure also has to be questioned, what legacy did he leave, he largely ploughed on with the squad he inherited and Glasgow are left now with an aged squad shrine of its best players and needing a complete rebuild. The midfield is very poor, I think Johnson’s best is behind him, grigg and co are not good enough and the fact jones (who is clearly going to leave) plays at fullback makes no sense. Thomson (not Brandon) should be playing 10 every week now as there is nothing to lose and he has played well and more young players should be getting a run out to see who has the ability and heart to develop at this level. I completely agree that all we get from Wilson is excuses and little evidence of a plan. If we are still seeing no progression next season he has to go.

  4. So sad. A lot of huff and puff but very little imagination in attack. Should have had the game sewn up inside 30 minutes but never looked likely to cross the Ulster line. Rennie and Wilson have turned a great team with awesome potential into no hopers no wonder Hastings wanted to leave.

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