SHAFAQNA – Like all good things, Glasgow’s unbeaten start to the season had to come to an end at some point – and that point was in Belfast. When I looked at the fixture list at the start of the season, this was the match that stood out as the first real test of the Warriors.
Leinster, first up at Scotstoun, had all the glamour with it being a re-run of the Pro12 final just a few months earlier but away trips to Cardiff, Dragons and Treviso and a home match against Connacht, although quite challenging, were games I expected Warriors to win. Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium was always going to be a different sort of challenge and so it proved.
Ulster’s Craig Gilroy scores his side’s first try as they beat Glasgow Warriors 29-9 on Saturday
I was at the Kingspan Stadium the week before for the Edinburgh game but all the chat amongst the Ulster staff, players and fans was the next game against Glasgow. They knew they would beat Edinburgh but were so focused on the bigger game the following week. This just sums up how far Gregor Townsend’s side has come and how highly regarded they now are in the Pro12.
There is a target on their chests now, which means everyone wants to take them down and that offers a different challenge altogether – going from being the hunter to the hunted.
The better sides, like Ulster, do each component part of the game better than the lesser sides in the league. This meant that the occasional problems the Warriors had the previous week in Treviso when the scrum was under pressure, the contact was a bit loose and the defence not as secure as it can be, were exacerbated in Belfast.
Edinburgh beat Newport Gwent Dragons 24-10 thanks to tries from Tim Visser and Dougie Fife
Ulster were very good at scrum time and especially good in contact where Nick Williams and Chris Henry gave a contrasting master-class in contact skills. Henry was all subtlety whereas Williams was all power and weight but both proved a real handful for the Warriors to cope with.
Ulster are very good in these tight games because they keep pressing to find where the weaknesses are. The defensive lapses we saw in Treviso were punished much more severely this week as basically two defensive lapses turned this game from being very tight to a comfortable win for Ulster.
Both the Ulster tries came from Warriors mistakes and in the games against the top teams, one or two mistakes are all that is needed for the good teams to take advantage. Glasgow’s defence, overall, was better against Ulster than it had been against Treviso, more physical, better line speed but twice it was exposed and that was the game.
Glasgow are still in great shape with some of their key players coming back from injury like Sean Maitland and Jonny Gray and go into the European Cup full of confidence despite the slight set back in Belfast.
Edinburgh managed to get their second win of the campaign with a comfortable performance against the Dragons at Murrayfield but it’s not the game I want to comment on but the venue.
Maybe it was due to both the Scottish sides being on TV back-to-back but the contrast of Edinburgh playing at a near-empty Murrayfield to Glasgow playing to a packed Kingspan Stadium was very marked. Something has to be done about finding Edinburgh a more suitable home because it is beyond a joke now.
I know there is no easy answer but how much lobbying of Edinburgh Council has taken place? Edinburgh Rugby is the only team that represents the whole of the capital city yet they are still playing in a stadium that is more than twice as big as any other club ground in Europe.
Toulon, the French and European Champions, would struggle to half fill a stadium the size of Murrayfield. If Meggatland is not suitable, although I think it is, surely there must be some piece of land on which something temporary could be built within the city.
Nearly 40,000 fans turned out at Murrayfield for Edinburgh’s European quarter-final a few years back so there is the potential but the fan base will not grow as long as Edinburgh remains in the cavernous, soulless Murrayfield.
It was reported just over 3,000 were there on Saturday but how much better would the atmosphere have been if that game was played at Meggatland or some other temporary home? Atmosphere creates excitement which, in turn, enhances the overall spectator experience which leads to the spectators returning and telling their family and friends who come as well.
Oh, by the way, all this will only help the team on the pitch, as well.
Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/article-2790159/glasgow-lost-ulster-head-european-cup-confidence.html