Glasgow 20-14 Ulster: Glasgow target top spot

Glasgow's Nikola Matawalu during the RaboDirect PRO12 League match at Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow. Picture: PA
Glasgow's Nikola Matawalu during the RaboDirect PRO12 League match at Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow. Picture: PA
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GLASGOW stormed to within three points of the top of the RaboDirect Pro12 table after surviving a late onslaught by league leaders Ulster. Four tries and a fearless team spirit produced a sixth win in a row, although it wasn’t a clinical performance like the one that destroyed the Dragons last week.

Scorers: Glasgow: Tries: Swinson, Seymour, Murchie, Matawalu. Ulster: Tries: Olding. Pens: Pienaar 3.

Ulster might even have snatched it at the end despite the try count of four to one and left with a losing bonus point. Ruan Pienaar, whose boot had kept his team in the game, missed the kick that would have put them ahead and Glasgow were able to rally and close out the result.

If it wasn’t perfect, it was still pretty good; a wee bit tarnished by Peter Horne missing all four conversions maybe, and by the near fatal lapse in concentration in the third quarter that threatened to hand a dangerous Ulster spoils they didn’t really deserve.

Glasgow captain Ryan Wilson said: “It was a very important win for us. We have gone from wanting to be a top-four team, to being in the top two, and now after this we are going to push for the top spot. We didn’t put Ulster away as we have done with other teams but we should have done. We were angry that we did not turn the pressure we had into points, and that is a measure of how far this club has come to be in this position.”

The first opportunity of points came in two minutes when a Pienaar penalty attempt from 40 metres out on the right slipped just wide. But the Ulster scrum-half had another chance from the same distance within a minute and this time the ball sailed between the posts.

Glasgow gradually gained territory, launching an attack off a short lineout, then again off a the rear of a set scrum to set up a penalty just outside the 22. Stand-off Horne, turning out in his 50th game for the club, saw his kick drop inches under the bar and the visitors got it clear.

Back came Glasgow with some slick passing, followed by a lineout maul that rolled into the Ulster 22. The ball went left, then swiftly right again for lock Tim Swinson to collect the scoring pass and drop over the line unopposed. Horne’s conversion was high and wide.

Ulster struck back immediately with the simplest of penalties for Pienaar right in front of the posts and a long lecture from the referee to Glasgow about their back row going offside.

Glasgow nicked a lineout and scrum half Niko Matawalu jinked over the gainline, but his offload in the tackle went forward. Tommy Seymour found space on the right and passed inside to fellow winger DTH van der Merwe who went into the 22 but the support couldn’t keep up with him.

Ulster were on the back foot as Glasgow battered into them again and again and it was a relief for the Irish team when a little pop pass from Matawalu to a close runner inside the 22 was forward. But Ulster made a mess of the scrum, Glasgow won the ball back and, in a flash, Seymour was over in the corner. Horne’s conversion attempt was again off target.

Ulster replied with a flurry of attacks that were absorbed by the Glasgow defence until centre Andrew Trimble found half a gap and Glasgow killed the ball. Pienaar hooked the easy penalty wide. Ulster stayed in Glasgow faces until they were penalised for holding on and Horne kicked clear. Glasgow switched the ball through a dozen pairs of hands as Ulster scrambled backwards and No 8 Ryan Wilson was over the line but held up in a pile of bodies on half time.

After the restart Wilson took a speculative quick lineout and all full-back Peter Murchie could do was kick it deep. Ulster’s Paddy Wallace was too slow in retrieving it and Murchie was able to follow up, charge down the lazy clearance and touch down for the try. Horne couldn’t convert.

Pienaar settled Ulster’s fraying nerves with his third penalty from 40 metres before a long period of delay while van der Merwe was treated by medics.

Ulster then looked like they had got their first try when No 8 Robbie Diack crossed the line on the left but the referee called it back for a forward pass. Ulster put the squeeze on at the scrum but Glasgow turned it over and pushed them back. But it was Glasgow doing all the defending inside their own 22 and centre Stuart Olding was on the end of several phases to score the try that brought Ulster to within a single point. Pienaar missed the conversion from way out on the touchline.

Glasgow had lost concentration and control of the game but then Matawalu came up with an offload to replacement centre Graeme Morrison who reutrned the pass to open up space for the Fijian to waltz behind the posts for the bonus point try. Somehow, Horne missed the conversion but by then it didn’t really matter.

Glasgow: Murchie; Seymour, Bennett, Dunbar, van der Merwe; Horne, Matawalu; Fainga’anuku, MacArthur, Kalman, Swinson, Ryder, Strauss, Barclay, Wilson. Subs: Wight for Murchie (73), Morrison for Bennett (57), Kennedy for van der Merwe (49), Brown for MacArthur (70), Mountford for Kalman (78), Eddie for Barclay (62), Campbell for Wilson (70).

Ulster: Andrew; Allen, Trimble, Olding, Walsh; Wallace, Pienaar, Black, Brady, Afoa, McComb, Tuohy, Joyce, Birch, Diack. Subs: P. Marshall for Wallace (51), Herring for Brady (49), McComish for Birch (49).