Glasgow Warriors V Ulster
Glasgow Warriors maintained their place at the top of Guinness PRO14 Conference A this evening, running in four tries to claim a 30-7 victory over Ulster at Scotstoun.
A full house at Scotstoun saw Dave Rennie’s side mark Jonny Gray’s 100th appearance for the club in style, with the bonus-point win ensuring that the Warriors remain in pole position for a home semi-final.
Embroiled in a battle to secure a playoff spot in Conference B, it was Ulster that struck first. A high tackle from Glasgow saw the resulting penalty kicked to the corner, and from the resulting lineout the visitors took full advantage. Rob Herring was the man to bundle his way over the line, Billy Burns adding the conversion to give his side a 7-0 lead after nine minutes.
Glasgow’s response was to produce a near-carbon copy of Ulster’s score to record their opening try of the night on 14 minutes. A kick downfield from Adam Hastings and a strong kick-chase from Niko Matawalu and Stuart Hogg saw the Warriors earn a penalty at the breakdown, before Fraser Brown was driven over the line from the lineout to touch down. Hastings’s conversion drew his side level, to a roar of approval from the Warrior Nation.
The Warriors were motoring following Brown’s score, duly repeating the trick just four minutes later. This time, it was the backs that applied the finishing touch; Kyle Steyn’s half-break took him to within five metres before Ali Price fed Hastings, who finished well under pressure. The fly-half’s conversion came back off the upright, leaving the score at 12-7 in favour of the hosts.
Glasgow’s pack was enjoying a degree of dominance in the battle with their opponents, with the club’s newest centurion Jonny Gray proving to be a sizeable thorn in the side of the Ulster lineout. The scrum was also providing the home side with some joy, winning a penalty 45 metres from the Ulster try-line after 26 minutes. Hastings duly hammered the ball between the posts with plenty to spare, extending his side’s lead to eight points.
In defence, the forwards were fronting up impressively. An Ulster lineout drive was repelled in no uncertain terms, before another scrum penalty saw Hogg thump a clearing kick into opposition territory.
It was the spark for the phase of play that resulted in Glasgow’s third try of the night. Clean lineout ball gave the Warriors a platform in the Ulster half, before Rennie’s men set about their business in workmanlike fashion. Multiple phases and strong carries later, it was left to Hogg to give the scoring pass to Tommy Seymour, the winger crossing for a simple run-in on his return from injury. Hastings saw his attempted conversion once again denied by the post as the clock ticked into the red, with the scoreline reading 20-7 to Glasgow at the interval.
With every point vital in the closing stages of the season, the Scotstoun faithful weren’t made to wait long for the bonus-point score. Price’s dart from the base of the ruck threw the Ulster defence, with Zander Fagerson on hand to collect the offload and crash over. Hastings drilled a tricky conversion through the middle, and Glasgow led 27-7 after 44 minutes.
Ulster thought that they had the perfect response on their next attack, as Jacob Stockdale broke the defensive line before offloading to Luke Marshall for the run to the line. The centre’s handling let him down at the crucial juncture, however, spilling the ball forward as he went to ground the ball under pressure from Seymour.
Indeed, the visitors had no answer to the Warriors aggressive defence, with Steyn ferocious in pressurising Ulster’s back-line. His line speed forced Burns into the concession of a penalty, which Hastings duly dispatched from within the Ulster 22 to extend the lead by a further three points as the game approached the hour mark.
It took Ulster until the 70th minute to get in behind the Glasgow defence once more, as Rob Lyttle intercepted a wayward pass and set off for the line. Yet again, though, Seymour came up with a crucial intervention, producing a last-gasp tackle to deny the Ulster winger. The TMO confirmed the ball had slipped from the Ulster winger’s grasp, and the scoreline remained unchanged.
Another lineout steal provided the game’s final act, as Hogg put the ball into the South Stand with 80 minutes showing on the clock. A resounding victory, roared to the rafters by the capacity crowd, sends Glasgow into next week’s meeting with Leinster at the RDS in rude health, as the battle continues to finish atop of Conference A.