Ulster Rugby started their PRO12 campaign with a hard fought win over Glasgow Warriors on Friday night; Kristian Ross has some thoughts…
The game started with some good early tackling from Robbie Diack, as it was Glasgow who applied the early pressure. Ulster however started to make advances, and eventually were rewarded when Finlay Gillies came in from the side, with the referee awarded the penalty. However following the resulting break in play, Paddy Jackson was replaced following a knock by Niall O'Connor, who then slotted Ulster's first points of the season on his competitive return from Connacht.
Again Glasgow started to push and go through the phases, before finally getting what they wanted just after the 20 minute mark, Nick Williams coming off his feet , allowing Duncan Weir to kick an easy penalty to level it. General lack of possession at the breakdown had saw the game lack fluidity early on. It started to get better for Ulster, moving forward, the passing improving, and when Duncan Weir was a judged offside, O'Connor had the chance to put the Belfast based side ahead, but his effort was scuffed and hit the post. O'Connor tried to gather his missed attempt but was called for illegal use of the shoulder.
Ulster pressed on with new signing Nick Williams showing how good he was, driving forward, and as Glasgow again started to become show indiscipline, Alastair Kellock was called by the referee for side entry at the ruck.
Again though, Niall O'Connor missed a relatively straightforward kick, pushing it wide of the post. A few minutes later a lineout ruck was formed with Rob Herring doing well moving it forward until it was brought down by former Ulster player Tommy Seymour who was binned. The scrum that followed continued to reset, before eventually a Ulster move saw Michael Heaney past to Jared Payne, and a superb pass by the South African saw Michael Allen score in the corner to give Ulster the lead by 8 to 3. O'Connor was unable to put Ulster further ahead failing from the resulting conversion, that was a tough kick.
As the first half closed out, Glasgow tried and mustered one last attack, Tom Ryder dropping a pass back for Duncan Weir to attempt the drop goal, but Weir put his kick wide, making sure Ulster went into the break at half time with a five point advantage.
As the second half begin Ulster were gifted the second try just four minutes in. A Glasgow attack following an earlier scrum saw Duncan Weir end up with the ball and his pass could only find Craig Gilroy who extended the advantage to ten points running from well inside his own half. Niall O'Connor wouldn't miss the easy kick, and Ulster now lead 15-3. Ulster looked better, the passing from Michael Heaney good, and Jared Payne so sharp having came back from last years injury.
Both teams exchanged spells in each others half, before the first changes were made with twenty minutes to go. Paul Marshall coming on for Heaney and Tom Court for Callum Black, Court making his 100th appearance in an Ulster jersey. The Warrior also opting for change, Ruaridh Jackson over Weir at fly half.
As Glasgow again sensed this game wasn't over, they started to press and were awarded a penalty with 17 minutes to go. Ruaridh Jackson hit the post with his effort, Ulster breathing a sigh of relief that the advantage was still intact, but a few minutes later, another Glasgow surge saw a huge overlap appear, and wing Tommy Seymour’s darting run allowed him to get a try for the men in blue. It was swiftly followed by a good kick by Scottish international Jackson, and the gap became just five points. The last 10 minutes were going to prove to be tense.
Ulster were content at keeping Glasgow in their own half, again going through the phases, time ticking slowly in their favour, another penalty awarded, but again Niall O'Connor must have felt it wasn't his night as he pushed another kick wide of the sticks.
With time now firmly on Ulster's side, up towards the Glasgow 22, a quick tap and go from Marshall as Ulster clung on to the ball. Ulster kept recycling until at long last were finally awarded a penalty for Glasgow not releasing. O'Connor knew what he had to do and put the ball out of Glasgow's reach.
There was time for one last play, however that's not what Tom Court thought, a mix up between him and the referee seeing a final lineout, and Ruaridh Jackson a DG, that was charged down, Ulster sensed another try moving up towards the Glasgow 22, until Rob Herring dropped the ball and allowed the referee to call time on what was a scrappy win, but nonetheless four points for Ulster to kick of the season.
Looking forward to next week against Ospreys, Ulster can be happy that Heaney and Paynes passing looked good and that the defence was solid for pretty much most of the Glasgow game. However Niall O'Connor will have to improve on his place kicking despite being good when going for touch, and Anscombe will want to see more free flowing stuff again, after the opening quarter of the Glasgow game seemed very stop-start.
I'm Kristian. 18. And my mind is filled with rugby shaped thoughts. Supporting Ulster Rugby, Newcastle Falcons and of course the mighty Ireland. Tommy Bowe is the MAN !!!! SUFTUM.