Scott Cummings scored two second-half tries for Glasgow Warriors, but it wasn’t enough to upset Ulster who claimed a bonus-point win at Kingspan Stadium.
New signing Brandon Thomson also crossed for Gregor Townsend’s side, but two tries in the opening 12 minutes of the second half secured the win for the home side.
Some woeful tackling cost Warriors throughout, while a pair of tries from Ulster replacement Jacob Stockdale put the game beyond doubt.
“We slipped off too many tackles, which made it easy for Ulster,” said Townsend. “We gave then seven points, then suddenly it goes to 14 and the game goes away from you.
“We did really well at the end of the first half to give ourself an opportunity in the second, but we can’t miss tackles against such a good attacking team.”
With 61 per cent of possession before the interval, and having forced their opponents to make 115 tackles, Townsend must wonder how his side were 15-5 in arrears at the midway point.
But Ulster only missed 11 of those tackles as Glasgow lost the gain-line battle far too often for their liking.
The first score of the game came when Scott Cummings was penalised for failing to release the ball on the ground after he carried powerfully, a kick that Ruan Pienaar was never going to miss.
The decision-making of Glasgow in attack was surely questioned at the interval, and one glaring example came after 13 minutes when Henry Pyrgos chipped over the defensive line five metres from the try line, but with no Warriors chaser in sight it was an aimless kick.
Warriors were right in the game at that point, but an excellent choke tackle from Franco van der Merwe on Sila Puafisi earned Ulster a scrum on their own 22 that would turn the game in their favour. From the scrum Pienaar, Luke Marshall and Reidy gained almost 70 metres for their side, and eventually Warriors were forced to carry possession over their own try line.
Another scrum followed and after a couple of phases Pienaar’s zippy pass and Jacob Stockdale’s soft hands sent Tommy Bowe over in the corner.
Just after the half-hour mark Chris Henry and Marcell Coetzee once more forced a penalty with some good tandem work, and after the Ulster maul was halted some patient play and Pienaar’s inside pass saw Reidy scramble over for a second try.
Pienaar’s conversion made it 15-0 to Ulster, but just before half-time Glasgow summoned a superb effort to retain the ball for 23 phases and eventually Pyrgos’ long pass saw Thomson dive over for his first try since he arrived from the Stormers.
It didn’t take Ulster long to extend that 15-5 half-time lead though. Three minutes into the second-half Pienaar drilled over a penalty for Ulster, but six minutes later their third try arrived.
It was a slick first-phase move off the top of a lineout that sprung the Warriors defence, but the ease with which Stockdale charged through the Glasgow defensive line on to Luke Marshall’s soft pass will disappoint. Again Pienaar added the simple extras for a 25-5 lead, but his kicking tee wasn’t long on the sidelines as Ulster clinched the bonus point when the South African scrum-half finished off a brilliant counterattack for his side’s fourth try.
After Mark Bennett’s good attack was halted, Pienaar was at the zenith of the move when his goose-step broke the tackle. And after six pairs of Ulster hands saw the ball up to the other end of the field, a breathless Pienaar raced in the try in the left corner.
A 68th-minute yellow card for Rob Harley following a tip tackle meant Glasgow were down on numbers for ten minutes, but they started that sin-bin slot with a try after Cummings blocked down Paul Marshall’s box kick, booted through and dived on the ball – although the grounding was a bit questionable.
Five minutes later Cummings powered through a tackle and stretched to score his second try – his third of the season, but Stockdale wrapped it up late on.
SCORERS: ulster: Tries: T Bowe, S Reidy, J Stockdale (2), R Pienaar. Cons: R Pienaar 3. Pens: R Pienaar 3. glasgow: Tries: B Thomson, S Cummings (2). Con: B Thomson.
ULSTER: L Ludik; T Bowe, L Marshall, D Cave, C Gilroy; P Nelson, R Pienaar; C Black, J Andrew, R Lutton; P Browne, F van der Merwe; S Reidy, C Henry (c), M Coetzee. Subs: J Stockdale (for Ludik 14 HIA), R Herring ( for Andrew 34 HIA), A Warwick (for Black 34 HIA), W Herbst (for Lutton h-t), P Marshall (for Cave h-t), K Treadwell (for Browne 54), J Owens (for Nelson 68).
GLASGOW: B Thomson; L Jones, M Bennett, N Grigg, S Lamont; P Horne, H Pyrgos (c); A Allan, J Malcolm, S Puafisi; B Alainu’uese, S Cummings; R Harley, S Favaro, A Ashe. Subs: R Hughes (for Jones 25 HIA), R Vernon (for Bennett 54 HIA), C Flynn (for Malcolm 54), J Bhatti (for Allan 54), D Rae (for Puafisi 54), L Wynne (for Favaro 54), G Hart (for Hughes 65).
referee: D Jones (WRU).