Ulster hold off a late surge from Glasgow
United Rugby Championship: Ulster 35 Glasgow Warriors 29
ULSTER held off a late surge from Glasgow on Friday night to claim a bonus point victory in their opening United Rugby Championship game of the season at the Kingspan Stadium.
In front of the biggest attendance at the home of Ulster Rugby in over a year-and-a-half, a sterling defensive effort in the final 10 minutes deprived a battling Glasgow side, a last-ditch victory.
Twice in the second half when Ulster looked to be pulling away from the visitors, Glasgow came roaring back into the contest and Dan McFarland’s side were made to dig deep in those closing stages to hold on for the win in a nine-try epic, while also playing with a man down for 10 minutes following a controversial yellow card to James Hume in the 54th minute.
“We had to put in four sets in the ‘22’ in the last 10 minutes and I thought we were outstanding there. But history would tell that when it gets tight in the end, if effort is required and hard work and every inch attitude then we’re not found wanting. That doesn’t necessarily mean we succeed every time, but we are not found wanting when it comes down to effort and fight,” said a delighted McFarland afterwards.
But the former Glasgow coach was left bemused following not only the awarding of a penalty try to the opposition, but also issuing of a yellow card to his centre Hume midway through the second half.
The recent Irish cap seemed to have denied Glasgow winger Rufus McLean a certain try, but after Hume got down low to tackle McLean into touch, but after a lengthy conversation with the Television Match Official, referee Ben Whitehouse penalised the Ulster man for a reckless tackle.
When asked for his opinion afterwards, McFarland took a long pause to carefully gather his thoughts before saying: “I would wonder what he’s meant to do. Now, I saw that exact situation last weekend not dealt with like that. I actually don’t even think that James played the man on the floor. I actually think he played the ball on the floor. He actually went to try and hold the ball up. So, it’s not even a situation where he plays the man, but even if he does, what’s he meant to do?
“In the history of rugby, that kind of thing, in the act of scoring, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it penalised before. I’ve been involved in rugby for a long long time, I don’t think I’ve seen it penalised before. I could easily be wrong but I don’t, so, maybe to the letter of the law, maybe, but we all know the game is not refereed to the letter law otherwise it’s so complicated we’d get like a hundred penalties a game so, I’ll be really interested to find the feedback out on that”.
A major plus for Ulster was the performance of rookie scrum-half Nathan Doak.
When John Cooney had to be withdrawn with a hamstring injury on the half hour, Doak brought a new energy and pace to the Ulster back division that had been mostly missing in the opening exchanges, and he capped off a stellar performance with eleven points including a try after 59 minutes when he crossed the line after great work by Will Addison.
Commenting on his debut, 19-year-old Doak said: “To get that real taste, of a competitive match, at home, with the crowd and when we’re on our line for the last ten minutes when they really dug deep for us, it’s awesome. Something I definitely want to be a part of more.”