Glasgow Warriors 17-11 Ulster
A powerful display from the Glasgow Warriors pack proved the difference at Scotstoun this evening, as Franco Smith’s side claimed a 17-11 victory over Ulster in Round 14 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.
Tries from Sione Vailanu, Jack Dempsey – who picked up Player of the Match honours to boot – and Fraser Brown put the visitors to the sword, as the Warriors move into fourth place in the overall standings.
Straight from the kick-off, the pressure would come from the home side. Strong carrying from Vailanu and Stafford McDowall would take play to within 10 metres of the Ulster try-line, only for the visitors’ scramble defence to force the error and allow the Ulstermen to clear.
A cagey opening would see neither team able to fully impose themselves on proceedings; the returning Scott Cummings would make himself known to the Ulster pack, stealing two lineouts inside his own 22 within a matter of minutes.
It would be the home side that would strike first, to the delight of a sold-out Scotstoun. Tom Jordan’s decision to turn down a kickable penalty was vindicated almost immediately, as the Glasgow maul proved unstoppable from close range. Vailanu would be the man to emerge with the ball, the big Tongan’s grin the giveaway as to the identity of the scorer of the night’s opening try on 17 minutes.
Jordan’s conversion would sail wide, though, and the score would seemingly spark the visitors into life. Only an excellent cover tackle from Ollie Smith would prevent James Hume from crossing in the corner moments later, whilst Vailanu and Johnny Matthews would show great resolve to hold up an Ulster charge in the shadow of their own posts.
Ulster would not be denied for long, however, as the men in white levelled the scores on 28 minutes. Whilst a close-range maul would be held up short, Harry Sheridan would be on hand to pick up and drive the final metre to dot down. Billy Burns’s conversion sailed wide, leaving the scoreline level at 5-5.
It would be a scoreline that would remain unchanged until the final kick of the half, Burns converting a penalty from 35 metres to edge the Ulstermen ahead at the break after a Glasgow indiscretion at the breakdown.
After a hard-fought opening stanza, it was no surprise to see the second half follow in a similar fashion. A powerful charge from Cummings would see the second-rower power his way into the Ulster 22, as the Warriors looked for a way through the Ulster defensive wall.
At the other end, the men in white would come close to extending their lead on 56 minutes, and might well have done so were it not for a superb turnover from Sam Johnson on his own five-metre line that was roared to the rafters by the West Stand.
With the atmosphere ratcheting up a notch as the game moved into the final quarter, Glasgow made their field position count in the best possible way. A close-range lineout saw the Warriors shift the point of attack, leaving the Ulster defence unable to cope with the power of Dempsey from three metres out. Over went the Scotland number eight, handing the Warriors a 10-8 lead after 66 minutes.
It would almost be a quickfire double for the home side, with replacement Ali Price bringing the Warrior Nation to its feet. A 40 metre dart by the scrum-half would see him link up with Johnson and Vailanu, denied a score only by the breakdown nous of Greg Jones for the Ulstermen.
With six minutes to go and tensions increasing, the Warriors struck the critical blow. Once more the maul would prove the catalyst, as the experienced head of Fraser Brown expertly steered the ship fully 15 metres before crashing over the whitewash for the score. The hooker’s celebration was just one of thousands to erupt inside the home of the Warriors, Duncan Weir adding the extras for a 17-8 lead.
Whilst Burns would salvage a losing bonus-point for the visitors with the last kick of the game, there would be no denying Franco Smith’s men. An invaluable win over a BKT URC rival, and an unbeaten run defended that now stretches 10 games – now a trip to Johannesburg and the Emirates Lions awaits.