Ulster blown away by rampant Glasgow in Pro14 semi-final mauling

Dave Rennie’s side ran in seven tries to emphatically book their place in next Saturday’s decider.

Rory Best's Ulster career ended in disappointing fashion.
Rory Best's Ulster career ended in disappointing fashion.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Glasgow Warriors 50 

Ulster 20

Adam McKendry reports from Scotstoun 

THIS WAS NOT how Rory Best’s Ulster career was meant to come to an end, but as the legendary captain and hooker brought the curtain down on his provincial stay, it was on the back of a thrashing.

When he trudged off the pitch at Scotstoun in the 63rd minute, his side were already well beaten, and by the time John Lacey blew the full-time whistle they’d conceded a half-century of points and the gap between the two sides was 30 points.

Adam Hastings pulled the strings from out-half, Stuart Hogg showed exactly why Exeter Chiefs are paying the big money for him next season and, in truth, the 50-20 scoreline at the final whistle was a fair reflection of the gap between the two teams.

It will still go down as a good season for Ulster as a whole — a domestic semi and a European quarter nothing to be sniffed at — but this is a hugely disappointing way to finish the season, as well as Best and Darren Cave’s careers, with the centre at least tying the all-time caps record for his province.

But on the day they were a long way off the pace, and even from the start you’d have been forgiven for thinking Ulster were the side who hadn’t played in three weeks given the way the game began, Kyle Steyn streaking clear of the trailing Ulster defenders straight off the kick-off and setting up the opening score.

Although the northern province scrambled to recover well in defence, they were only delaying the inevitable. With the defensive line sucked in narrow, Hastings floated the perfect skip pass into the hands of Tommy Seymour on the left wing, and he showed great poise and power to finish in the corner.

Tommy Seymour scores a try despite Michael Lowry Seymour scored twice for Glasgow. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Glasgow were playing with a considerable wind advantage in the first half, as reflected by Hastings’ next kick, which should have rolled dead only for Michael Lowry to set it down in the in-goal area for some reason, and it was a boost they made the most of and then some.

The second try came in the 17th minute and it too was wholly avoidable, Hogg giving the hosts the field position by thumping a penalty right down into the corner and, from there, the strike move caught Ulster napping.

The maul was stopped short, but, as the Ulster defenders peeled left to cover the impending pass wide, DTH van der Merwe quickly switched back down the blindside, Ali Price followed him and the scrum-half had enough pace to shrug off the feeble tackle from Iain Henderson to score in the corner.

Hastings converted both from out wide, before Ulster proved just how quickly momentum can shift in a game.

On their first excursion into the hosts’ 22, some bruising forward driving got Dan McFarland’s side up to the line, only for them to fail to convert the chance, and when they went to the corner with a kickable penalty, the lineout failed to function — as has been the case so many times this season — and the chance was gone.

At the other end, Glasgow were clinical. Working their way into the Ulster half again, they got the penalty from a scrum and Hastings converted for the 17-0 lead.

John Cooney finally got Ulster on the board as he responded with a kick of his own immediately off the restart when the hosts were called for blocking, but it would be the Scots who would end the half on a high.

Having once again worked their way deep into Ulster territory, the Warriors turned down a kick at goal in favour of the jugular and they were rewarded handsomely. Hogg had the initial first-up carry from the back of a scrum and, after a couple of drives at the line, it was Rob Harley who made the telling incision to go over under the posts.

The half-time break did Ulster some good, seemingly refocusing their efforts, but ultimately they couldn’t get the early score that would get them back in the game, despite forcing their way into the Scots’ 22, Stockdale dropping the ball under pressure as they attacked off a scrum.

Instead, Glasgow showed them how to be clinical in the cruellest fashion possible. Seymour got a hand on a clearing kick from Stockdale to force Ulster back into their own 22 and, when the visitors failed to secure the lineout, Glasgow took advantage by crossing for the try, Hastings setting Hogg through and he, in turn, fed Seymour for his second.

Adam Hastings and Stuart Hogg celebrate after Kyle Steyn scored their sides fifth try Hogg and Hastings were outstanding for the Warriors. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

If that wasn’t game over, then the Warriors scoring a simply scintillating try off the restart was the death knell. Hastings once again started it all off, chipping over the top for the ever-impressive Hogg. He timed his pass perfectly to set Matt Fagerson away and from there it was a case of who would score, rather than if. It proved to be centre Steyn, who shrugged off a tackle to score.

From there the game turned into something of a defences optional game, with neither side seemingly willing to put their bodies on the line for a game that was, by this stage, a foregone conclusion.

Marcell Coetzee battered his way over from the back of a maul to finally get Ulster a five-pointer on the hour mark, and that, in turn, led to the withdrawal of Best for the final time in the white jersey of Ulster to a standing ovation from the appreciative Scotstoun crowd.

On the pitch, their players were less so respectful to their opponents. Brothers George and Peter Horne were summoned from the bench by coach Dave Rennie and promptly linked up for their sixth score, scrum-half George chipping over the top for centre Peter to gather and score, before Rob Herring went over from the back of another maul for Ulster’s second.

Then it was George’s turn to get in on the act of scoring, the younger Horne sibling the benefactor of another Hastings surge for their seventh score, with Lowry rounding off the madcap finish by crossing at the death for a consolation score for Ulster.

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There were tears at the final whistle in admiration of two stunning careers in an Ulster jersey. It’s just a shame it wasn’t a better send-off.

Glasgow scorers:

Tries: Tommy Seymour [2], Ali Price, Rob Harley, Kyle Steyn, Peter Horne, George Horne.
Conversions: Adam Hastings [6 from 7].
Penalties: Adam Hastings [1 from 1].

Ulster scorers:

Tries: Marcell Coetzee, Rob Herring, Michael Lowry.
Conversions: Billy Burns [2 from 3].
Penalties: John Cooney [1 from 1].

GLASGOW WARRIORS: (15-9) Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Kyle Steyn, Sam Johnson (Peter Horne 59), DTH van der Merwe (Huw Jones 70); Adam Hastings, Ali Price (George Horne 59); (1-8) Jamie Bhatti (Oli Kebble 53), Fraser Brown (Grant Stewart 57), Zander Fagerson (Darcy Rae 67); Scott Cummings (Ryan Wilson 57), Jonny Gray; Rob Harley, Callum Gibbins (Tom Gordon 70), Matt Fagerson.

ULSTER RUGBY: (15-9) Michael Lowry; Louis Ludik, Luke Marshall (Darren Cave 59), Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale (Angus Kernohan 70); Billy Burns, John Cooney (Dave Shanahan 48); (1-8) Eric O’Sullivan (Andy Warwick 51), Rory Best (Rob Herring 62), Ross Kane (Tom O’Toole 51); Iain Henderson, Kieran Treadwell (Alan O’Connor 53); Nick Timoney (Sean Reidy 50), Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee.

Referee: John Lacey [IRFU].

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