Townsend delight as Warriors go whole Hogg for famous five
Gregor Townsend praised the self-belief and fighting qualities of his Glasgow Warriors team last night as they beat Ulster 27-17 at Scotstoun to increase their prospects of claiming a play-off place in the PRO12.
The defending champions and Ulster are now both on 51 points, just outside the top four in the table, but Glasgow have a game in hand on Ulster and the other teams above them – Connacht, Leinster, Scarlets and Munster.
Stuart Hogg had an early lapse when he was yellowcarded in the opening minutes for a professional foul, but he redeemed himself with a fine individual try and the lastminute penalty which denied Ulster a losing bonus point.
“I think the yellow card was a wee bit harsh, but you can understand why the referee gave it,” Townsend said. “He [Hogg] responded very well. He didn’t get the best possession, but he’s full of energy and his try reminded me of the one he scored here against Ulster in the last game of the regular season last year. We’ve got that belief that if we keep attacking the tries will come – and the goal kick at the end was never in doubt, was it?”
The Warriors have five games of the regular season left - against Treviso, Zebre home and away, then Scarlets and finally Connacht. Their fate is in their own hands.
GLASGOW recovered from a shaky start to record their fifth win in a row last night and close in on the play-off places in the PRO12. That sluggish beginning and an early yellow card for Stuart Hogg were ominous signs, but the Warriors grew stronger as the game went on and profited from some exceptional moments of skill from the fullback, Finn Russell and Tommy Seymour.
The potentially most vital moment, however, came at the death when Hogg stretched his team’s lead to ten points. That meant no bonus point for Ulster – something that could be important in the final shake-up in a league where at least six teams are chasing those four play-off spots.
The Warriors were lucky not to concede a try in the opening minute after a Ruan Pienaar chargedown went just too long, then a minute later only a professional foul by Hogg denied a score. The full-back was sinbinned, but the opening score was only delayed.
The try-scoring move began from a five-metre scrum, and was largely due to swift recycling. Two phases after the set piece Pienaar fed Stuart Olding, and the full-back then passed inside to flanker Iain Henderson, who crossed close to the posts. Paddy Jackson converted, and Ulster were well worth their seven-point lead.
No further damage had been done, and the Warriors had begun to assert their presence as an attacking force, by the time Hogg returned to the action. The tempo of Ulster’s counter-attacks continued to cause the home team trouble at times, but by the end of the first quarter Glasgow had begun to exert a lot of pressure. In the end, though, it was only with a penalty that they got on to the scoreboard, Finn Russell kicking the points after he had been tackled late.
Five minutes later, the stand-off added a second penalty, this time after Ulster prop Callum Black had gone off his feet at a ruck. Those two awards were far from the only occasions on which the visitors had resorted to illegal methods, but referee John Lacey appeared to opt for a laissez-faire approach.
Jackson stretched Ulster’s advantage to four points with his second penalty five minutes from half-time, but in the last minute before the break Russell countered with his third to take the score to 9-10. The Warriors started the second half on the front foot too, but then a lapse of concentration cost them as they conceded a second try.
Sean Lamont shepherded a long Pienaar kick ahead into touch safely enough, but then, as three or four Glasgow players stood waiting for the lineout to form, Craig Gilroy threw in quickly to Stuart McCloskey, who could hardly believe his luck as he scampered across the line.
Glasgow captain Jonny Gray tried to suggest that the referee seek the help of the TMO to determine whether the throw had travelled five metres, but he was told to go away. It was a close call, although the frustration from the home crowd was understandable given that in the first half the referee had called back several attempts by the Warriors to take penalties or free kicks quickly.
A long-range penalty by Russell fell short, but then a moment of brilliance from Hogg brought the Warriors back into the match. Gathering a pass inside his own half, the full-back chipped ahead, beat three defenders to the ball, then touched down. The score was referred to the TMO, but it rightly stood. Russell was again off target with the conversion attempt, but minutes later conjured up some magic of his own that led to his team’s taking the lead for the first time. The fly-half’s cross-kick to the right was gathered by Tommy Seymour close to halfway, and the winger had the speed to outstrip his pursuers to score. Russell’s conversion made it 21-17 with quarter of an hour to play, and Glasgow then had to turn to defence for a long stretch before a penalty against Ulster finally relieved the pressure.
Coach Gregor Townsend changed his whole front row with ten minutes to play, then Russell added another three points with a penalty. The stand-off was wide with another attempt three minutes from time, but in the last action of the match Hogg was on target with that kick from inside his own half.
Glasgow tries Hogg, Seymour. Con: Russell. Pens: Russell 4, Hogg. Ulster: Tries: Henderson, McCloskey. Cons: Jackson 2. Pen: Jackson.
Glasgow Warriors S Hogg; T Seymour, M Bennett, A Dunbar, S Lamont; F Russell, H Pyrgos (G Hart 67); G Reid (J Yanuyanutawa 70), F Brown (J Malcolm 70), S Puafisi (Z Fagerson 70), J Gray, L Nakarawa, R Harley, C Fusaro (R Wilson 24), J Strauss (T Swinson 64). Unused substitutes D Weir, T Naiyaravoro.
Ulster S Olding; C Gilroy, L Marshall, S McCloskey, R Scholes (D Cave 78); P Jackson, R Pienaar (P Marshall 76); C Black (K McCall 64), R Herring, R Lutton (A Warwick 76), A O’Connor (R Diack 28), F van der Merwe, I Henderson, C Henry, N Williams (S Reidy 41). Unused
substitutes J Andrew, S Windsor. Referee J Lacey (Ireland).
JOB DONE: Captain Jonny Gray takes the acclaim of the Glasgow supporters after last night’s crucial victory over Ulster at Scotstoun moved the PRO12 champions ever closer to a play-off spot.
KEY MOMENT: Stuart Hogg scores Glasgow Warriors’ first try of the evening.