Ulster edges Kingspan thriller
URC MATCH REPORT: Ulster held on to win their opening United Rugby Championship clash against Glasgow Warriors 35-29 and take maximum points after scoring five tries.
Played in front of 10,000 supporters at the Kingspan Stadium – the largest number since the pandemic – Ulster scored through a penalty try as well as touchdowns from Brad Roberts, Marty Moore, Nick Timoney and Nathan Doak.
Glasgow bagged two points from what was a robust display and scored through George Horne, Johnny Matthews, a penalty try and a touchdown from Jamie Dobie.
Ulster opened with intent and was awarded a penalty try after three minutes after Cole Forbes deliberately knocked on with Ulster having a three-man overlap.
Forbes was also yellow-carded by referee Ben Whitehouse. The Warriors managed the sin-bin well, though, and then scored thanks to a break by Sione Tuipulotu, who off-loaded to Horne to dot down in the corner.
Ulster hit back after 22 minutes when a penalty was put into the corner and Roberts spun off from the resulting driving maul. John Cooney converted to put Ulster 14-5 ahead.
Duncan Weir narrowed this to 14-8 with a 26th-minute penalty and after Stuart McCloskey’s scoring pass failed to find Cooney – who went off shortly afterwards – it was the Warriors who finished the half the stronger.
The visitors turned down a kickable penalty and were rewarded when Matthews surged over the line in the 42nd minute with Ross Thompson, who had replaced Weir, kicking the conversion to deservedly put the visitors ahead by 15-14 at the break.
Three minutes after the restart, Ulster had their third try when some close-in driving led to Moore touching down which replacement Doak converted to put Ulster back in front.
That became 28-15 after a chip from Billy Burns was collected by Jacob Stockdale, who fed Timoney with the scoring pass which Doak again converted.
Ulster then shipped a yellow card when James Hume was adjudged to have illegally hit Rufus McLean in the act of scoring, with referee Whitehouse awarding a penalty try which cut the home side’s lead to six points.
Despite having 14 men on the field, Ulster scored next when replacement Will Addison’s charge-down led to him supplying Doak for the try which the scrum-half converted.
Thompson fed an inside pass to Dobie for the replacement to dive over for Glasgow’s bonus-point try, the former’s conversion narrowing Ulster’s lead to 35-29, but the home side saw out the game.
Player of the match
Despite ending up on the losing side, Rory Darge produced an excellent shift for the Warriors, who never gave up.
He rallied Glasgow when under the pump and inspired them to keep battling.
Play of the match
Glasgow’s first try was when they were down to 14.
Hard running centre Tuipulotu took a lovely cut-out pass from Sam Johnson and surged down the left wing.
He smashed Robert Baloucoune and shrugged off McCloskey and produced a well-weighted offload to put scrum-half Horne in.
Tries: Roberts, Moore, Timoney, Doak, Penalty
Cons: Cooney, Doak 3
Tries: G Horne, Matthews, Dobie, Penalty try
Cons: Thompson, Bean, Penalty try does not require a conversion
Yellow cards: Cole Forbes (Glasgow, 4), James Hume (Ulster, 55)
Ulster: 15 Ethan McIlroy, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 James Hume, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Greg Jones, 5 Sam Carter (captain), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Brad Roberts, 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Matty Rea, 21 Nathan Doak, 22 Mike Lowry, 23 Will Addison.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Cole Forbes, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Sione Tuipulotu, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Rufus McLean, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 George Horne, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Rory Darge, 6 Ryan Wilson (captain), 5 Richie Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Johnny Matthews, 1 Brad Thyer.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Lewis Bean, 20 Rob Harley, 21 Jamie Dobie, 22 Ross Thompson, 23 Ollie Smith.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Peter Martin (Ireland), Andrew Cole (Ireland)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)