In Pictures: Ulster beaten by Glasgow
Glasgow 25 Ulster 18
Another disappointing defeat, another night of mistakes and frustration.
If there is a plus to be taken from it, it is that Ulster managed to escape with a losers’ bonus, courtesy of a 76th minute try by replacement full-back Jamie Smith converted by Ian Humphreys.
That, in a nutshell, is the story of their trip to the Firhill Arena where Glasgow took the game by the scruff of the neck at the interval, turning a 5-3 half-time deficit into a 25-18 full-time victory.
Five successive defeats and three Magners League points from their past six matches is Ulster’s record. That just will not do.
The Scots, one point shy of the top four going into the fixture, were motivated by the knowledge that victory would keep alive their dream of a place in the knock-out stages.
In contrast, Ulster’s determination stemmed from a desire to halt their spectacular free fall towards the bottom of the table.
But Brian McLaughlin’s men were dealt a pre-match blow when Stephen Ferris (bruised ribs) was ruled out after failing to come through the warm-up. David Pollock was promoted from the bench, joining the pack on the open side with captain Chris Henry moving to number six.
Glasgow opened brightly, so Ulster’s third minute breakaway try by the impressive Paul Marshall’s - one of the few in white who can hold his head high after this — was right out of the blue. A lax Glasgow pass on the left touchline was twice hacked on by the scrum-half who ran 70 metres, outpacing the hosts’ Argentinian full-back Bernardo Stortoni, before making the most of a kind bounce to complete the touchdown.
Humphreys, the scorer’s half-back partner, missed the conversion and when his opposite number, Dan Parks, who holds the record as the only man to have scored 1,000 Magners League points, replied with a penalty minutes later, the home crowd settled back in anticipation of more to follow. But those were the last points of an error-strewn first half in which Ulster, for all their bravery, conceded too many penalties and committed too many basic errors.
Ulster’s rush defence was very, very good, but the number of first-up tackles missed was a constant worry. A 12th minute break by Max Evans, initially through the number 10 channel, saw him beat three more would-be tacklers before debutant Nevin Spence, who was uncomfortable throughout beneath the high ball, finally managed to halt him.
Ulster had the better scrum and once again one could not fault their all-round endeavour. But they repeatedly shot themselves in the foot by making unforced errors and messing up on basics. And once again their indiscipline was a major problem, at times verging on total irresponsibility.
The second half became a story of Glasgow domination. For although a 45th minute Parks drop goal quickly prompted a two-penalty salvo from Humphreys in the 50th and 53rd minutes, after that it was more or less relentless pressure by the Scots.
A Parks double — a penalty and a drop goal — edged them into a 12-11 lead after 58 minutes and when No 8 Johnnie Beattie ripped through the disintegrating Ulster defence, Graeme Morrison made it through more wretchedly flimsy tackling to touch down.
Parks converted and then dropped two further goals as Ulster’s agony continued.
With four minutes to go, however, Smith managed to reverse his way over the Glasgow line to apply the finish to a great pass by Simon Danielli. Humphreys converted for a bonus point which could yet prove vital in keeping Ulster off the bottom.
Glasgow Warriors: Bernardo Stortoni; Colin Shaw, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, DTH van der Merwe; Dan Parks, Mark McMillan; Kevin Tkachuk, Fergus Thomson, Moray Low; Tim Barker, Alastair Kellock (captain); Kelly Brown, John Barclay, Johnnie Beattie. Replacments: Dougie Hall, Ed Kalman, DanTurner, Calum Forrester, Chris Cusiter, Ruaridh Jackson, Hefin O'Hare.
Ulster: Simon Danielli; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Nevin Spence; Ian Humphreys, Paul Marshall; Tom Court, Andi Kyriacou, Declan Fitzpatrick; Ed O'Donoghue, Ryan Caldwell; Chris Henry (captain), David Pollock, Robbie Diack: Replacements: Nigel Brady, BJ Botha, Dan Tuohy, Thomas Anderson, Isaac Boss, Niall O'Connor, Jamie Smith.
Referee: Tim Hayes (Wales).