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Ulster concede too easily in 34-20 defeat in Glasgow

Ulster concede too easily in 34-20 defeat in Glasgow

Things are going from bad to very bad for Ulster at the moment. They conceded four tries to a struggling Glasgow on Saturday in a performance they will want to forget.

When Mark McCall and his team sit down to review this tape, there will be a fair old rush to grab spots behind the couch. There were times during this when the errors were just embarrassing, and there were sequences where error was piled upon error.

When teams are struggling coming into a game, very often the pattern is not too bad to begin with. But when things begin to go awry, they unravel far quicker than they should. And so it appears to be with Ulster at the moment.

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When you see David Humphreys dropping balls that he would catch normally with his eyes closed, junior members of the side start thinking that all bets are off.

Ulster started brightly, showing good handling and ambition before a searing break from Kieran Campbell – what pace he has – off a lineout had Glasgow at sixes and sevens. His pace actually took him clear of the support, so the tryscoring chance wasn’t availed of. To make sure, Jon Petrie, slapped the ball down on the recycle and got ten minutes in the bin for his troubles. Humphreys availed of the three points on offer on 8 minutes.

But 6 minutes later, Ulster’s frail defence was carved up for the first time, but not the last, by Dan Parks, Glasgow’s international outhalf. Gary Brown and Neil Best left too big a gap between them and Parks didn’t need asking twice. He raced forty yards before finding Andy Craig. From the recycle, prop Tkachuk used his strength to barrel over close to the posts.

A Glasgow failing against Munster was in conceding directly after scoring, and incredibly they did it again. The restart was fumbled and Ulster transferred it quickly through the hands to Howe, appearing off his wing to cruise outside Henderson. The big Ulster contingent enjoyed the moment and the Humphreys convert for 10-7 to Ulster.

With a man down, Glasgow were struggling to contain Ulster. Using Maggs up the centre and delivering quick ball, Bowe was nearly away. The Ulster front row had the edge in the tight all night and demolished a Glasgow scrum. But then Simon Best got snared by the touch judge on 25 minutes throwing a punch and that was the beginning of Ulster’s problems.

When Paul Steinmetz had a clearing kick blocked down, Ulster were under huge pressure. However, it got worse when Matt McCullough came in from the side of a ruck and was sinbinned, leaving Ulster with 13 men on the pitch. Glasgow moved wide and after one recycle Morrison was able to get past a couple of forwards in midfield. With the conversion, Glasgow took a lead they wouldn’t surrender.

Humphreys was hoisting balls rather than kicking for touch and this was generally working, as Craig and Kerr were playing out of position at wing and fullback respectively. The other tactic generally was to use Maggs up the middle, but there were few tryscoring opportunities being created against a solid and determined Glasgow defence.

A couple of crooked lineout throws by Brady didn’t help, nor did a missed tackle by Humphreys on Henderson. While not fatal these errors were undermining the Ulster efforts and the tide was firmly with Glasgow now.

Glasgow scrumhalf Pinder helped himself to a huge gap round the fringe of a ruck but the chance was lost when he didn’t make the pass. The half ended with an embarrassing Humphreys knock-on and a sense that the train was coming off the rails.

Ulster came out fighting at the start of the second half, keeping the ball alive better. Steinmetz tried a couple of steps that just needed a support runner to hit a line. But it didn’t happen and Ulster looked a bit frantic.

A needless penalty against McCormack didn’t help matters, as Parks pushed the score to 17-10. Glasgow then moved wide freeing Craig who kicked on. Ulster defended well initially but Humphreys was charged down to concede a 5m scrum. Again the defence was dreadful as Parks cruised past Humphreys’ non-tackle to glide in under the posts for 24-10.

Ulster came back to nab a three pointer to reduce the deficit to 11 at 24-13. For the following twenty minutes Ulster desperately tried to get the try that would force them back into the game. And how close they came, especially when Frost showed the backs how to do it by breaking to the line, but he was just held up. Try as they might, Ulster couldn’t break down a resilient Glasgow, who were fighting for every inch.

Bowe was forced into touch in the corner by a pumped-up Kenny Logan (!), much to the frustration of Cunningham, who had wanted Bowe to straighten and send him in on 71 minutes.

That was Ulster’s bolt shot, really. There was a second awful Humphreys knock-on from which Parks kicked long into the Ulster 22. When Glasgow regained possession down the right, Parks, off slow ball, availed of a dog-legged forwards defence in front of him to break the first line, then jink past the covering Wallace to dot down under the posts unmolested. A stroll in the Parks, if you like. The bonus point secured, the outhalf added the extras for 34-13.

Humphreys initiated a Bowe try on 77 minutes when breaking well. Bowe latched onto a loose pass from Shields before cutting back against the grain and powering over to reduce the deficit to 31-20.

But from the kick-off, Neil Best conceded a penalty for a needless obstruction to allow Parks finish the scoring at 34-20. There was only time for the depressing sight of another injury to Jonny Bell before the final whistle and a double for the Scots over the Irish on the day.

On the evidence of this, Mark McCall has serious problems. Neil Best, despite that late penalty, is not one of them. He was wonderfully combustible and was, by a distance, Ulster’s best performer on the night.

At the moment, if it can go wrong for Ulster, it is going wrong. One suspects that there will be much work on defence in the week ahead, particularly around the fringes. The word discipline may feature prominently, too.