Ulster secure bonus-point win but fall over the line in the end

Dan McFarland’s side get off to winning start in the United Rugby Championship

Ulster 35 Glasgow Warriors 29

A bizarre game of ebb and flow finally saw Ulster flop over the line to win their first-up United Rugby Championship game and claim a hard-earned bonus point as well.

Not quite what the approximately 10,000 Kingspan faithful – the largest number allowed through the gates since Covid – had hoped to see as Ulster were made to fight for every inch to see off a physical and determined Warriors who left Belfast with two points of their own.

Ulster played well in parts with replacement scrumhalf Nathan Doak’s cameo being particularly noticeable. It was just that too often they coughed up possession and made errors which Glasgow gratefully accepted to their own advantage.

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The home side actually trailed 13-14 at the break despite a promising start and were still unable to kill the Scots off when 35-22 in front at the hour mark. Though they will undoubtedly feel hard done by over James Hume’s yellow card just prior to their fifth score from Doak.

Other worrying issues for Dan McFarland were the sight of John Cooney leaving the field early and Billy Burns hobbling in the second half.

After Stuart McCloskey’s early surge nearly led to a score from Bradley Roberts, Ulster laid siege to the Glasgow line and had put two penalties into the corner before Warriors fullback Cole Forbes deliberately knocked-on with the home side having an overlap outside him.

The result was a third-minute penalty try and yellow card for Forbes. However, Glasgow battened down the hatches and resisted well during the sin-bin period, to the extent that George Horne scored in the corner after Sione Tuipulotu's break. Duncan Weir missed the extras.

Ulster regrouped and hit back on 22 minutes after a penalty was put into the corner. From the lineout, Roberts spun off from the maul which Cooney converted to put Ulster 14-5 ahead.

Weir narrowed this to 14-8 with a 26th-minute penalty and left shortly afterwards after shipping a heavy knock while Cooney also departed with Doak replacing the Ulster scrumhalf.

A fairly scrappy half – with Ulster's lineout nowhere near as accurate as it should have been – then sprung into life in the closing minutes when the Warriors forced several penalties from Ulster's defensive sets and then with a kickable penalty under the sticks available they tapped the ball and worked hooker Johnny Matthews over in the 42nd minute.

Ross Thompson’s conversion put Glasgow 15-14 ahead for the first time as the sides trooped off.

Three minutes after the restart and Ulster – with Rob Herring, Eric O'Sullivan and Mick Kearney now on – with a much more direct approach had their third try when some close-in driving led to Marty Moore touching down which Doak converted to put Ulster back in the lead by 21-15.

That became 28-15 after a chip from Burns was collected by Jacob Stockdale who fed Nick Timoney with the scoring pass. Doak again converted.

Once again, though, Glasgow came back into the game and it took a last-ditch tackle by Hume to prevent Rufus McLean getting over in the corner. Referee Ben Whitehouse, in consultation with the TMO, awarded a penalty try to Glasgow after adjudging Hume's hit on the prone Warriors' winger to have been illegal.

It looked like a significant blow but Ulster then scored their fifth try when Thomspon was charged down by Will Addison who supplied the covering Doak after being hauled down just short of the line. Doak converted and Ulster now led 35-22.

Thompson then fed an inside pass to Jamie Dobie for the replacement to dive over for Glasgow's bonus-point try, Thompson's conversion narrowing Ulster's lead to 35-29 which how things stayed despite another strong late surge by the Warriors.

SCORERS – Ulster: Roberts, Moore, Timoney, Doak try each, pen try; Doak 3 cons, Cooney con. Glasgow Warriors: Horne, Matthews, Dobie try each, pen try; Weir pen; Thompson 2 cons.

ULSTER: E McIlroy; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Burns, J Cooney; A Warwick, B Roberts, M Moore; A O'Connor, S Carter (capt); G Jones, S Reidy, N Timoney.

Replacements: R Herring for Roberts, E O'Sullivan for Warwick, M Kearney for Carter (all h/t), N Doak for Cooney (30), T O'Toole for Moore (48),W Addison for Baloucoune (57), M Rea for Jones (68), M Lowry for Burns (76).

Yellow card: Hume (54 mins).

GLASGOW WARRIORS: C Forbes; K Steyn, S Tuipulotu, S Johnson, R McLean; D Weir, G Horne; B Thyer, J Matthews, S Berghan; S Cummings, R Gray; R Wilson (capt), R Darge, J Dempsey.

Replacements: R Thompson for Weir (30), F Brown for Matthews, M McCallum for Berghan (both 48), J Dobie for Horne (57), J Bhatti for Thyer (62), L Bean for Gray, O Smith for Tuipulotu (both 67).

Yellow card: C Forbes (3 mins).

Referee: B Whitehouse (Wales).