Ulster return to Pro12 summit with Glasgow Warriors win
Ulster returned to the top of the Pro12 - alongside inter-pro rivals Connacht - after a hard-fought win over reigning champions Glasgow Warriors.
And it took, of all players, prop Callum Black to get things moving with his second half try — his first score and on his 100th appearance too — which was supplemented by Paddy Jackson’s conversion and penalty.
There was some good work during the course of the game by man of the match Craig Gilroy and fellow winger Jacob Stockale but, too often, balls were spilled or possession lost when they really should have been pushing on.
And then the Warriors with 14 men on the pitch still had enough to take that losing bonus point with Taqele Naiyaraoro’s 80th minute try to snatch that losing bonus. A deeply frustrating evening for Ulster – who conceded two tries as well – but it could have been so much worse if the win hadn’t been bagged against the reigning champions.
Ulster went on the offensive from the off and after Leone Nakarawa was penalised for sealing off, Ruan Pienaar managed to skew a straightforward effort after six minutes.
I was a worrying sign and things got worse as Sam Johnson burst through, after the Warriors rumbled forward from the lineout, and moving the ball at pace Peter Murchie put winger Lee Jones over in the right corner.
Gregor Hunter missed the tricky conversion but Ulster now knew they were in a game. It didn’t help matters that Stuart McCloskey and then Pienaar both knocked on with the centre trying to power through off a Rob Herring turnover and the South African spilling a kick infield from Glenn Bryce.
Then just after the 20 minute mark Ulster surged into the Scots’ 22 and with the visitors infringing another penalty – from nearly the same spot as the earlier miss - was this time nailed by Pienaar.
Now with their tails up, Ulster came again and just after Stuart Olding’s break helped put Craig Gilroy in space, Pienaar was presented with a chance to score off the winger’s kick infield only for Ali Price to beat him to the bobbling ball as it rolled over the line.
It pretty much proved Pienaar’s last significant act in the game after he left the field just before the half hour.
Ulster then again brought play deep into Glasgow territory with Pienaar’s replacement Paul Marshall making a searing break which saw him just held short.
The home side then went through several phases before Marshall nearly got on the end of another bobbling ball only for it to be ruled out by the TMO with Sila Puafisi getting there first.
However, play was brought back for an Ulster penalty which saw them go for the corner only for a miscommunication to see the lineout lost. Gilroy then had a dangerous run after he collected his own kick but then couldn’t manage to regather his second booting of the ball.
And matters began to just look as if they weren’t going to stick for the home side when Marshall tried to take a quick tap penalty only to knock it on and a disappointing half ended with Glasgow leading by 5-3.
Kiss tried to change things up by bringing Paddy Jackson on after the interval but his first act was to put restart out on the full which hardly seemed to offer a huge amount of hope that Ulster’s fortunes were about to change.
Ulster then lost Herring to injury and the Warriors put huge pressure on the home side’s scrum only for Kiss’s men to exit their 22 via a breakdown penalty.
Hunter then missed a long range penalty as Ulster struggled to get clear of their own half. Something needed to stick for Ulster and it fell to Gilroy to work some magic by stepping two defenders which helped create the momentum for Black to barge over for his vital try.
Jackson converted and Ulster now led 10-5 as Chris Henry joined the action for the hard-working Sean Reidy.
Another spark was then lit by Stockdale who charged out of his 22, collected his own chip and kicked again to take the game from one end to the other with the Warriors just about clearing their lines.
Franco van der Merwe took a quick throw to Olding who surged into the Glasgow 22 before Marshall was sacked as he darted for the line close-in.
Still, Ulster came again through Gilroy and secured a penalty which Jackson dispatched to take it to 13-5.
On 70 minutes, Ryan Wilson was then sin-binned for pulling down an Ulster player in the lineout giving Kiss’s men the extra man for the final 10 minutes though they did manage to butcher a chance and get pinged for crossing.
Indeed, Ulster failed to score again leaving the last say to the visitors when sub Naiyaravoro to score bringing Gregor Townsend’s men a losing bonus point.