Ulster curse the one that got away after agonising loss
Yet again, Ulster saw it all slip away. Just when it looked like they were destined to make the PRO12 final at the Kingspan Stadium, their hopes were cruelly dashed by a late surge from Glasgow Warriors to snatch last night’s semi-final at Scotstoun.
Ulster were left to rue missing a golden opportunity to earn their place in next Saturday’s showdown and with it their hopes of getting their
hands on silverware again ending in ruins as they were painfully beaten 16-14 by the Warriors.
With only five minutes to go, a try from DTH van der Merwe tied the scores at 14-14 with Finn Russell’s touchline conversion sending Scotstoun into raptures.
“I thought it was won,” Ulster coach Neil Doak said after Ruan Pienaar, who had earlier missed a crucial conversion of Chris Henry’s first-half try, had landed a 66th minute penalty to put Ulster into a 14-9 lead.
“But if you look at his kick it was fully from 45 metres and that was indicative of the second half in that we didn’t get into the right areas.”
Ulster led 14-9 with less than 20 minutes remaining, but were agonisingly, unable to close the deal as the Warriors hit back with a try and conversion to snatch the result.
It was cruel but now the inquest begins.
A clearly gutted Doak - who had seen his much-altered side lose 32-10 last week to Glasgow at the same venue - tried to explain just how things had gone wrong again after he had watched his side lose a second successive semi-final.
"Credit to them they came back and got that score and then landed a great kick," he said.
"That's rugby, you've got to play for 80 minutes. The boys put everything on the line.
"The disappointing thing is that we played so well in the first half, but didn't start the second half well enough and ultimately that put us under a little bit of pressure.
"If you look back it was like Munster in that we played some pretty decent rugby, but ended up with a draw and in this I thought we were also pretty decent for large portions of the game.
"A few fundamentals let us down and we were up against a good and consistent side who have been this way nearly all season.
"We didn't get a big enough lead and they got in for that score.
"That's sport, it's frustrating.
"We'll go away and come back after the summer and work hard to make sure that if we get into a similar situation we take it next time."
Ulster had led 8-6 at half-time after Chris Henry's try and two further penalties, to add to his first-half effort, from Pienaar appeared to put the visitors into a winning position, but it wasn't to be.
"If we'd got in for that score just before half-time, it might have been a different kettle of fish," said Doak.
"You've got to make sure that when you get small opportunities you take them. We didn't and Glasgow did.
"It's frustrating as it's been a difficult season with the turmoil at the start and then the injury profile.
"To get to this stage and be pretty competitive for 75 minutes is pretty frustrating."