Warriors too strong for Ulster
It was cold, it was wet and a raw wind swirled around Ravenhill making life difficult for both sides. Just call, it another of those December nights in east Belfast.
The conditions meant errors were inevitable and numerous. A wet ball, cold hands and the tension in view of what was stood to be won or lost meant it was never going to be a night for purists. This was about the desire to win and a willingness to suffer in pursuit of that goal.
In the final analysis Glasgow had more of it. In truth, though, they received considerable assistance from Ulster whose concession of cheap penalties was punished mercilessly by Dan Parks, the most prolific points scorer in the history of the Magners League.
He arrived with 875 to his credit, 25 short of 1,000. By the time he left Ravenhill he had trimmed 20 off that tally.
In the countdown to the meeting of the sides occupying third and fourth positions, Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin had urged the hosts’ supporters to get behind their team and make the Ravenhill factor count.
In tandem with that request he had reminded his players of the requirement to give those same supporters something about which to shout. Neither responded as he had hoped.
Ulster were flat as were their cold, wet supporters in the crowd of 8,761.
In addition, McLaughlin had expressed his respect, tinged with a hint of trepidation, about the Scots’ eight-to-ten axis. That being the case, he must have been boosted when Glasgow named a starting line-up in which Parks was the only one of that menacing threesome to start.
Scrum half Chris Cusiter was on the bench and No. 8 Jonnie Beattie was omitted altogether.
Parks, however, did damage even without his normal colleagues. He was thoroughly deserving of the man of the match award and it is a pretty safe bet than when next he plays in the Magners League he will accomplish his magnificent target.
Parks served early notice by kicking a fourth minute penalty, having already tested the Ulster back three with a couple of towering out of hand kicks which invited handling mistakes.
Ulster were struggling to get out of second gear, with Tamoci Nagusa looking particularly uncomfortable in conditions alien to a man from the South Pacific. It came as no surprise therefore that he exited after 33 minutes to be replaced by Paul Marshall. It was not a straight swap; Marshall entered at scrum half, Isaac Boss switched to full back and Clinton Schifcofske moved to the wing.
At that stage Ulster led 6-3 — penalties by Ian Humphreys provided the points — and even appeared to be gaining an upper hand. And when Glasgow loose head Jon Welsh was sin-binned for repeated binding offences that seemed to confirm the thought.
And when loose head Tom Court promptly got over the guests’ line and Humphreys’ converted to send Ulster in at the break leading 13-6, they were in a reasonable position.
But the second half was a nightmare. Parks kicked three penalties in the opening nine minutes and Ulster faded and died with barely a squeak. Parks’ sixth penalty made it 18-13 and Tom Evans try — which the out-half converted — was the final nail in a very sad, soggy Ulster coffin.
ULSTER: Clinton Schifcofske; Tomoci Nagus, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Isaac Boss; Tom Court, Andy Kyriacou, Declan Fitzpatrick; Dan Tuohy, Ryan Caldwell; David Pollock, Willie Faloon, Chris Henry (captain). Replacements: Nigel Brady, Bryan Young, Ed O’Donoghue, Thomas Anderson, Paul Marshall, Niall O’Connor, Jonny Shiels.
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Bernardo Stortoni; Alex Dunbar, Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, Thom Evans; Dan Parks, Mar McMillan; Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Moray Low; Tim Barker, Richie Gray; Kelly Brown, John Barclay (captain), Richie Vernon. Replacements: Fergus Thompson, Kevin Tkachuk, Dan Turner, Calum Forrester, Chris Cusiter, Colin Gregor, Peter Murchie.
Referee: James Jones (Wales)