Glasgow 27 - 17 Ulster: Outlook now bleak for reckless Ulster
It was far from a Good Friday for Ulster as they threw away a last quarter lead to lose 27-17 against champions Glasgow at Scotstoun last night.
On the ground where they were beaten in last season's PRO12 semi-final, Les Kiss' men had a 17-9 advantage thanks to tries early in each half from the fit-again Iain Henderson and Stuart McCloskey, but the hosts came roaring back to claim a win that will have a significant bearing on the race for play-off spots.
Scores from Stuart Hogg and former Ulster player Tommy Seymour turned the game in the last 20 minutes and the former's last-kick-of-the-game penalty denied the visitors a losing bonus point.
Ulster have won only once at the stadium Glasgow have called home since 2012, but have often started well only to struggle late on.
Such was the case again this time and with only 25 seconds on the clock, a Ruan Pienaar charge down of Finn Russell had the home fans in a panic but the ball went dead.
Undeterred, the visitors kept pressing with linebreaks from Stuart Olding and Stuart McCloskey. When the latter charged forward, an inside ball from Paddy Jackson - on his 100th appearance for Ulster - set Rory Scholes away before captain Rob Herring drove for the line.
Stopped short, Pienaar was quick to the breakdown and Hogg cynically stopped the Springbok. He was shown a yellow card with just two minutes on the clock.
The lineout almost created a gap for Chris Henry to break through but the flanker was held up over the line.
From the scrum Henry was again on the charge and Ulster moved the ball left for Olding. Looking inside, he had Henderson on his shoulder and gave the pass for his former BRA schoolmate to score on his return from injury.
Jackson converted and a dash from Craig Gilroy seemed set to continue a dream start but his offload failed to find Luke Marshall when there was a chance of a second try.
Kiss had earlier highlighted the breakdown as key to the contest and penalties threatened to derail the effort. The first of three first-half Finn Russell efforts from the tee came after a period of intense pressure, Gilroy eventually pinged after straying offside.
Jackson's restart failed to go 10 and, eventually, Glasgow doubled their tally with Ulster called for not releasing. But Nick Williams got over the ball well to earn a penalty, Jackson stroking over.
The four-point lead didn't hold until half-time, with McCloskey coming in at the side to give Russell more easy points.
After the turn, Ulster replicated their quick start, McCloskey providing the try.
Jackson's conversion had Ulster in a 17-9 lead but Glasgow scored the game's final 18 points. Their next score was controversial, Ulster sure that there was a forward pass from Russell in the build-up.
While referee John Lacey went to the TMO, he checked only Hogg's grounding and Glasgow were back in it.
Minutes later they were ahead and, after Ulster surrendered possession thanks to sub Sean Reidy's knock-on, Seymour did the damage.
Russell's cross-field kick seemed to catch Scholes and Olding unawares and Seymour charged over.
With indiscipline rife, Ulster's best attempts were thwarted and Glasgow spurned their first chance to deny a losing bonus. However, when Paul Marshall, who replaced Pienaar, was held up and the scrum penalised, Hogg allowed no such let off and Ulster left with nothing.
With table-topping Connacht to come on Friday and second-placed Leinster after that, a play-off place looks an increasingly tall order while there is still some way to go to secure the top-six position that would likely bring a place in next season's Champions Cup.
With only four games left, an upturn in fortunes is required but Ulster are running out of time to provide it.
Glasgow: S Hogg; T Seymour, M Bennett, A Dunbar, S Lamont; F Russell, H Pyrgos; G Reid, F Brown, S Puafisi; J Gray (c), L Nakarawa R Harley, C Fusaro, J Strauss.
Replacements: J Malcolm (for Brown, 70), J Yanuyanutawa (for Reid, 70), Z Fagerson (for Puafisi, 70), T Swinson (for Strauss, 63), R Wilson (for Fusaro, 29), G Hart (for Pyrgos, 67), D Weir, T Naiyaravoro
Ulster: S Olding; C Gilroy, L Marshall, S McCloskey, R Scholes; P Jackson, R Pienaar; C Black, R Herring (c), R Lutton; A O'Connor, F van der Merwe; I Henderson, C Henry, N Williams.
Replacements: J Andrew, K McCall (for Black, 62), A Warwick (for Lutton, 75), R Diack (for O'Connor, 28), S Reidy (for Williams, 40), P Marshall (for Pienaar, 75), S Windsor, D Cave (for Scholes, 75).
Match rating: 7/10
Man of the match: Finn Russell
Referee: John Lacey