Glasgow Warriors 29
DANNY WILSON conceded that this was a potential win on the road that had got a way due to his team’s loose kicking and a sluggish start to the second half, but the Warriors coach was clearly encouraged by several aspects of the side’s performance, not least the resilience they showed to bounce back from several setbacks.
Warriors took two bonus points from the game, so it wasn’t a completely wasted journey to Belfast ahead of back-to-back home matches during the next fortnight against two of the South African sides – the Sharks and the Lions – who have been added to the United Rugby Championship (previously the PRO14) this season.
“I don’t know if we should have won but it was definitely one we could have won,” said Wilson. “When you score 29 points away from home, you like to think that you are going to win the game.”
“In most tight games, if you win that 20 to 25 minutes after half-time, you are going to win the game, and that’s the period we failed in tonight, by conceding three tries to one, which meant we were chasing the game.
“I’m proud of the effort and I’m proud of the rugby we played. We scored four tries and came away with two points, which we certainly didn’t manage last year, so is lots of positives but the negatives were that 20 minutes and our exit work wasn’t very good.
“We were all over them at line-out, stole so much possession there that we wanted the ball to be kicked off the park more to give us those opportunities to steal. But we kept struggling to exit well and putting the ball up in the air a bit short and that gave their attack a chance to come back at us.”
Warriors found themselves seven points and a man down with less than four minutes played when full-back Cole Forbes conceded a penalty try and was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on, committed as Ulster looked to exploit a two-man overlap on the left. There was no complaints about the decision as it was a clear try-scoring situation, and the fourth penalty the visitors had conceded since kick-off.
Warriors were then penalised for chasers in front of the kickers at the restart which confirmed that they were rattled, but they managed to hang in there and eventual man-of-the-match Rory Darge winning an excellent jackaling penalty finally settled the early season nerves.
Just before being restored to full complement, an flat miss-one pass from Sam Johnson released Sione Tuipulotu up the left. The Australian centre showed real power to bowl over winger Robert Baloucoune then fed George Horne running an excellent support line on his inside shoulder to set-up the scrum-halve 34th try in his 67th game for Warriors. Duncan Weir couldn’t manage the touchline conversion.
Ulster struck again on 22 minutes when a Horne box-kick was charged-down and Warriors conceded yet another penalty trying to rescue the situation. Billy Burns went to the corner and his forwards built the rolling-maul from which South African hooker Bradley Roberts marked his first competitive start for the province by rumbling over.
Cooney converted, then Weir slotted a penalty to keep Warriors in touch following more good work by Darge over the tackled man, before both men retired on the stroke of half-time with what appeared to be a hamstring strain for the Irishman and a concussion for the Scotsman.
Warriors finished the half hammering away at the Ulster try-line with Forbes and Kyle Steyn both getting within centimetres of scoring, before the visitors finally got their reward when hooker Johnny Matthews squirmed over. Ross Thompson fired home the conversion meaning it 14-15 to the visitors at the break.
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Then came that third-quarter lull. Darge found himself on the wrong side of the referee when he got caught on the wrong side of a tackle situation, and Billy Burns once again spurned the three points on offer to go for the corner, and once again it paid off when tight-head Marty Moore rumbled in for try number three.
And just four minutes later, Ulster claimed the bonus-point when Burns popped a lovely chip over the top, Jacob Stockdale gathered on the first bounce, and No8 Nick Timoney thundered home.
But Warriors wouldn’t lie down and they picked up a fairly contentious penalty try when Rufus McLean was stopped just short by a last-gasp tackle from Stockdale but wasn’t held, and James Hume came flying in to roll the winger into touch. After consultation, referee Ben Whitehouse ruled that the Ulster winger had dived on the Warriors wing on the ground, flashed a yellow and awarded the visitors the seven points to make it 28-22.
Warriors then suffered a self-inflicted wound when Ulster replacement Will Addison charged-down a Thompson kick and offloaded from the deck to send Nathan Doak over, with the 19-year-old replacement scrum-half converting his own try for good measure.
To their credit, Warriors bounced right back with a sweeping first-phase from scrum move leading to Steyn streaking clear up the right wing, then Darge, Jack Demspey and Scott Cummings all carrying with real intent, before Thompson shrugged off his earlier setback to show great composure when jinking away from two potential tacklers and then offloading out of contact to send Jamie Dobie over. Thompson added the extras and Warriors were within converted try range with 14 minutes left to play.
Glasgow set up camp in the Ulster 22 and dominated possession during that final quarter of an hour, but couldn’t find a way through.
Ulster: E McIlroy; R Baloucoune (W Addison 58), J Hume, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Burns (M Lowry 77), J Cooney (N Doak 30); A Warwick (E O’Sullivan 41), B Roberts (R Herring 41), M Moore (T O’Toole 50, A O’Connor (M Kearney 41), S Carter (capt), G Jones (M Rea 68), S Reidy, N Timoney.
Glasgow Warriors. C Forbes; K Steyn, S Tuipulotu (O Smith 67), S Johnson, R McLean; D Weir (R Thompson 30), G Horne (J Dobie 58); B Thyer (J Bhatti 59), J Matthews (F Brown 48), S Berghan (M McCallum 48), S Cummings, R Gray (L Bean 67), R Wilson (capt), R Darge, J Dempsey.
Referee B Whitehouse.
Ulster: Tries Penalty Try, Roberts, Moore, Timoney, Doak; Cons: Cooney, Doak 3.
Glasgow Warriors: Tries Horne, Matthews, Penalty Try, Dobie; Cons: Thompson 2; Pens: Weir.
Scoring sequence (Ulster first): 7-0; 7-5; 12-5; 14-5; 14-8; 14-13; 14-15 (h-t) 19-15; 21-15; 26-15; 28-15; 28-20; 28-22;
Yellow Cards –
Ulster: Hume (54mins)
Glasgow Warriors: Forbes (4mins)