A PROMISING and entertaining start by Glasgow came to nothing as they went down to a heavy defeat at the Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Dave Rennie’s side failed to score after the 32nd minute, and, having led by a dozen points at that stage, they ended up losing by an embarrassingly wide margin.
The score in pre-season friendlies is of little or no consequence, and if this game is judged purely as a chance to give a large number of players a first run-out of the campaign it can be considered purely as a success. Nonetheless, the Warriors faded badly in the second half, and while the number of substitutes had to be a factor in their increasing incoherence, it should be said that Ulster also made numerous changes yet looked slicker and more confident as the continued.
We can expect Glasgow to have improved their stamina considerably when the teams meet again at Scotstoun in a week’s time, and it will be interesting to see if Rennie opts for a smaller squad. Some individuals showed up well in cameo appearances in this match, but on the whole it was an afternoon that the PRO14 finalists will want to put behind them as soon as possible.
“I thought we played pretty well in the first half,” Rennie said on the Warriors website after the game. “We led 19-7 with about 10 minutes to play in the half, so we were in a good place. I thought Ulster were sharp, but we’ll be better for it next weekend.
“We got a bit of a lesson in the second half, but we had a lot of young men on the field that deserved their opportunity,” continued Rennie, who gave 12 players their Warriors debuts. “They’ve worked hard in pre-season and will learn a lot from today.”
The game began at an impressive tempo, with Nick Grigg in particular looking very sharp in a couple of early carries. It was the centre who got the opening score of the match, finishing off in the left corner after new signing Johnny Matthews had recycled off the back of a lineout drive. Brandon Thomson missed the conversion.
Ulster soon hit back, and after a penalty to touch gave them the chance to make good ground with a lineout drive, Craig Gilroy eventually finished off out wide, with Billy Burns putting the home team ahead with the conversion.
Both teams remained eager to play a running game, and a fine Glasgow attack led to Ratu Tagive touching down to put them back in front after 25 minutes, with Thomson this time adding the two points. The third try was not long in coming, and it was claimed by Matt Smith after a series of drives following a penalty to touch had edged closer to the line.
Thomson made it 19-7, but Ulster finished the half strongly, scoring two more tries to close to within two points. First No 8 Greg Jones finished off a move from close range, with a lineout again having set up good position. Then, in stoppage time, Gilroy claimed his second try, touching down on the right after heavy pressure close to the posts.
Rob Harley was one of several changes to the Warriors team for the start of the second half as Rennie began to make use of the 17 substitutes he had named, and the forward and his team-mates had to put in a lot of work in defence as Ulster threatened to retake the lead. They eventually did so after 54 minutes thanks to Angus Kernohan on the left wing
The Warriors had been on the back foot for nearly half an hour by that point, and lacked the incisiveness up front that had served them so well in the first 30 minutes. Their cause was not helped when Chris Fusaro was sent to the sinbin, and Ethan McIlroy put Ulster further ahead just after the hour mark. Another sub, Sam Carter, claimed try No 6 a couple of minutes later, and from being well in charge Glasgow were down and out at 36-19 behind.
Nick Timoney got the seventh with five minutes left, then Graham Curtis rounded off the rout with the try of the day, setting off on a solo run from well inside his own half and eluding several defenders en route to touching down. John Cooney converted both, and that ran up the half-century for Dan McFarland’s side.
Ulster: M Lowry; C Gilroy, M Faddes, J Hume, A Kernohan; B Burns (c), J Stewart; K McCall, A McBurney, R Kane, A O’Connor, D O’Connor, C Ross, M Rea, G Jones. Substitutes: J Andrew, E O’Sullivan, T O’Toole, S Carter, K Treadwell, M Rea, S Reidy, N Timoney, D Shanahan, J Cooney, A Curtis, L Marshall, G Curtis, E McIlroy.
Glasgow Warriors: G Bryce; R Nairn, N Grigg, R Fergusson, R Tagive; B Thomson, S Kennedy; O Kebble, J Matthews, A Nicol, T Swinson (c), K McDonald, M Smith, T Gordon, A Ashe. Substitutes: P O’Toole, A Allan, D Rae, G Thornton, R Harley, L Morrice, C Henderson, M Sykes, C Fusaro, N Frisby, J Dobie, R Thompson, P Kelly, A Coombes, K Rowe, M McFarland, O Smith.
Scorers: Ulster: Tries: Gilroy 2, Jones, Kernohan, McIlroy, Carter, Timoney, Curtis. Cons: Burns, Lowry 2, Cooney 2.
Glasgow: Tries: Grigg, Tagive, Smith. Cons: Thomson 2.
Scoring sequence (Ulster first): 0-5, 5-5, 7-5, 7-10, 7-12, 7-17, 7-19, 12-19, 17-19 half-time, 22-19, 24-19, 29-19, 31-19, 36-19, 41-19, 43-19, 48-19, 50-19.
Sin bin: Glasgow: Fusaro 56mins.
Referee: R O’Sullivan (Ireland).