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Ulster v Glasgow: Pain of Warriors' victory still fresh in Gilroy's mind

By Jonathan Bradley

Sitting top of the table for the first time since the spring of 2013, Ulster's players will hardly need any extra incentive to ensure victory tonight but the sight of Glasgow Warriors arriving at the Kingspan Stadium (7.35pm kick-off) will certainly give the contest some added edge.

When Gregor Townsend's men last played in Belfast they secured the PRO12 title, beating Munster in a final that then-boss Neil Doak's men so wanted to be involved in on their own turf.

And indeed they would have been battling their inter-provincial rivals for silverware that evening in May if not for a late and controversial victory from tonight's opponents in the semi-final at Scotstoun, Ulster's late lead erased by a converted try in the final minutes.

With Doak's side rankled by the theatrics of the now-departed Fijian Niko Matawalu in the dramatic end-game, it is a defeat that still hurts for a side who have endured so many near misses in recent years.

Craig Gilroy, who starts on the wing tonight, said: "They're almost old foes after putting us out last year.

"Getting knocked out in the semi was tougher (to watch than Glasgow celebrating on Ulster's home ground).

"We played them three times last year so it'll be good to have a crack at them again. They're a tough team, as we know.

"They're last season's champions even if this year maybe hasn't gone as well for them, especially the last couple of games.

"They'll come out of the blocks quickly. They've got some big players, some key signings in now, and they'll definitely be a big challenge.

"For us, it'll just be a case of taking confidence from the Dragons win (last week).

"We didn't play 100 per cent to our ability but still got the win which was a big plus. We've just got to be confident."

On Ulster's lofty position at the top of the table, Gilroy believes it is just reward for the form shown in what has been a season disrupted by first the World Cup and now the Six Nations, but knows that getting to the summit and staying there are two very different propositions.

"We've worked hard this season," he said. "It feels like we deserve to be there.

"Although there are a few teams with games in hand, we have worked hard to get to where we are at the minute.

"There are a lot of good teams in this league though and they only seem to be getting better every season. There's no team you can guarantee points against.

"Against the Dragons we didn't finish opportunities but we still won that game and that says a lot.

"If you can win games and not be at your top standard (that's the sign of a good team) but you can't rely on that every week.

"Now that we're top, there's still a lot of rugby to be played. A lot can happen but now we're here, we want to stay here."

With the offloading skills of Fijian lock Leone Nakawara to the fore, Townsend's side play a fast-paced game that will suit the likes of Gilroy, the wing admitting that space has been hard to come by for Ulster's outside backs in recent weeks.

"They're a high tempo team," he said of transformed Scottish outfit.

"You know it'll be quick taps, quick line-outs and playing from the 22. If you allow them to play at that tempo then they can be quite dangerous.

"For us, it's all about trying to play the game that we want to play.

"I'd like a bit more ball to be honest. I'm just trying to get my hands on it as much as I can.

"I struggle to create a bit of a buzz when the weather is bad and when the pitch is turning up too.

"Over in Treviso, it was like playing on a beach, it was so mucky and Friday for the Dragons game, the rain was lashing down when I woke up.

"I just want as much time and space as I can."

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