Ulster 19-14 Glasgow Warriors
Glasgow Warriors were edged out in their final pre-season fixture this afternoon, as Ulster claimed a 19-14 victory at Kingspan Breffni in Cavan.
Tries from Jamie Dobie and Gregor Hiddleston would ultimately prove in vain, as the Warriors would have to settle for keeping their hosts scoreless in the second stanza.
With a shade over 7,000 spectators packed into Kingspan Breffni, it was a bright start for the Warriors. A short-range maul saw Angus Fraser go close, while the hard-charging Henco Venter made his impact known from the start.
The hosts, however, were also in the mood to play, and were beginning to enjoy the majority of the territory and possession in front of a partisan Breffni crowd. Yet the Warriors defence was in no mood to roll over, Max Williamson and Lucio Sordoni leading the charge with a couple of bone-crushing hits.
Ulster’s pressure would eventually tell, though, as the hosts struck for the first try of the afternoon on 18 minutes. A well-executed short-range lineout saw Dave Ewers crash over for the try, and while the conversion drifted wide the home side led 5-0.
Their lead was extended just six minutes later, and would once again come from sustained possession inside the Glasgow 22. Despite over 10 phases of physical defence from the men in black, Franco Smith’s side was powerless to stop James Hume when the centre picked his line and dived over next to the posts. Jake Flannery’s conversion took the score to 12-0, and the home crowd were in fine voice.
Glasgow’s response, however, was the perfect one. Back-to-back penalties at the breakdown would allow Weir to take play into the corner, before Fraser and Venter would go close. In the end it was the skipper who would apply the finish, Dobie sniping over from close-range for a second score in as many weeks. Weir converted, and Glasgow were back within a score as the half-hour mark came and went.
Both sides were giving no quarter to their opponents, with Williamson and Ally Miller each landing textbook shots in defence. The last word of the half would go to Ulster, though, Tom Stewart burrowing over from close-range after a tapped penalty drive was stopped short. Flannery converted, and the hosts led 19-7 at the break.
It took the Warriors just 90 seconds to respond with a try of their own after the restart, albeit with an element of fortune. Going for broke with a penalty, Weir’s spiral penalty hit the corner flag and bounced into touch, and Glasgow took full advantage of their good fortune. From the resulting maul, Hiddleston was driven over the line for the score, Weir adding the extras to reduce the arrears to 19-14.
Glasgow were in full flight with ball in hand, a half-break from Dobie and a fleet-footed dart from Facundo Cordero almost getting the Warriors in behind the defence once more. Kyle Rowe and Sebastian Cancelliere were also getting involved, the wingers hungry for work as the game began to open up.
The replacements, too, were making an impact on proceedings. Ben Afshar’s tempo kept his side on the front foot, whilst the returning front-row duo of Oli Kebble and Enrique Pieretto were taking no backwards steps with ball in hand.
With the match in the balance inside the final 10 minutes, the atmosphere both on the field and in the stands would ratchet up another notch. The pendulum would swing back Ulster’s way once more as the hosts searched for a match-clinching score, only for Ruaraidh Hart to secure a superb turnover in the shadow of his own posts.
Time would run out on the Warriors in their pursuit of the victory, yet a performance full of positives will see Smith’s men attack the new BKT United Rugby Championship in good stead. With another Irish test looming in the form of Leinster’s visit to Scotstoun in a fortnight’s time, preparations take another step up as the new season comes further into view.