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Superb Ulster leapfrog Glasgow Warriors after comprehensive victory

Ulster jumped above Glasgow Warriors and into fifth in the Guinness PRO12 standings, after a thrilling performance at the Kingspan saw them emerge with a bonus-point 37-17 victory.

The hosts dominated the opening half, although after tries for Tommy Bowe and Sean Reidy, Brandon Thomson gave Glasgow some hope just before the interval on his first appearance in a Warriors jersey.

But two brilliant scores early in the second half from Jacob Stockdale and Ruan Pienaar gave Ulster the bonus point and knocked the wind out of Glasgow’s sails.

And Scott Cummings’ late double was no more than a consolation, with Stockdale putting the gloss on the win for Ulster with three minutes remaining.

It was the hosts who drew first blood in the eighth minute, with Pienaar pointing to the posts after Glasgow don’t release at the breakdown, before striking the long-range penalty straight through the posts.

But the Warriors hit back with an extended period of pressure, Pete Horne cutting a brilliant line and coming up just short thanks to some heroic Ulster defence.

And after clearing the ball a wonderful breakaway move saw Les Kiss’ side burst 70 metres up the field, with Bowe in possession on the right wing – only debutant Thomson’s try-saving tackle preventing a score.

Ulster however continued to build the pressure deep in Glasgow territory, and from a scrum worked the ball out wide where Stockdale’s tipped pass gave Bowe a simple finish in the corner.

It was the 32-year-old Irish international’s 65th career try for Ulster, and his seventh against the Warriors in the Guinness PRO12, but Pienaar’s conversion attempt from the right sideline sailed wide.

A lengthy stoppage in play while Glasgow’s Lee Jones received treatment did not curb the hosts’ momentum, with a monstrous rolling maul on the half-hour mark giving them a penalty advantage.

And after wave after wave of attack, a beautifully executed inside ball from Pienaar caught Glasgow unawares, and released the powerful Reidy who scrambled over the whitewash.

The conversion from Pienaar was good this time, making the score 15-0 and giving the Warriors a mountain to climb.

But they did hit back on the stroke of half-time as Ulster’s defence was stretched after several phases inside the 22, and Thomson was there to finish off in the corner.

The full-back pulled his conversion attempt left of the uprights however as the clock ticked into the red, and Ulster’s onslaught continued after the break.

Pienaar notched up an early penalty, before two quick-fire tries effectively decided the contest before the hour mark.

First, Stockdale scythed through the Glasgow line to finish under the posts after some exceptional backline play from Ulster, and then the hosts scored one of the tries of the Guinness PRO12 season so far.

It was end-to-end stuff as Mark Bennett broke for the Warriors, but Bowe won the turnover before starting a length-of-the-field break with Reidy and Luke Marshall also heavily involved before Pienaar finished the move off to make it 30-5.

Glasgow went down to 14 when Rob Harley was shown a yellow for lifting his man past the vertical, but after Cummings charged down Pienaar’s box kick and beat Paul Marshall to the ball to score, the young lock – Scotland under-20s’ skipper last year – ran a hard line through the Ulster defence to touch down again.

Stockdale had the final say however for the hosts, running in their fifth of the afternoon after collecting his own chipped kick through.

Guinness PRO12 Final 2017, 27th May, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Ticket Information: Fans can still avail of an exclusive number of €30 tickets. Book via www.ticketmaster.ie. Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final

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