Ulster through to Celtic Cup final

Glasgow 13 Ulster 20

Ulster have ensured Irish representation in the Celtic Cup final following a tightly contested semi-final win over Glasgow at Hughenden.

Out-half Adam Larkin kicked four penalties and a drop goal to see them through.

Glasgow, the Celtic League’s bottom side, put up a stoic effort against the visitors, and it proved a tougher test for Alan Solomons’ men than their 33-6 defeat of the Scottish side at Ravenhill earlier in the autumn.

A tight first-half, played out in wet and windy west city conditions saw the visitors edge the scoring with their first points coming from a 12th minute try from centre Ryan Constable.

With Glasgow on the attack, well marshalled by scrum-half Sam Pinder, a loose ball fell to Ulster skipper Andy Ward and the flanker hoofed the turnover ball up past the halfway line.

Showing an excellent turn of pace, Ward collected his punt and under pressure offloaded to the supporting Ryan Constable.

The centre had enough speed and strength to fend off both David Millard and Sean Lamont before touching down in the right corner to the cheers of the 800-strong travelling support.

Out-half Larkin missed the conversion. Daniel Parks, Larkin’s opposite number, went narrowly wide with a drop goal effort from 30 metres 60 seconds later, but had his side’s first points on the board after a 26th minute penalty.

Two minutes later Ulster extended their lead back to five points with a well-struck right-sided penalty from just outside the Glasgow 22 by Larkin.

Parks, Glasgow’s top scorer on 39 points in Celtic competition this season, brought Glasgow back to within a single score of the visitors with his second penalty within five minutes of the break.

Ireland World Cup squad members Neil Doak and Simon Best came on for Kieran Campbell and Bryan Young after the break, and a cutting run from a scrum-capped Tyrone Howe on 43 minutes almost saw the former Lion nosedive over the home line.

Larkin hit his second successful kick of the night in the 45th minute, and with home lock Andy Hall sin-binned for a ruck infringement after 51 minutes, it seemed odds-on that Ulster would score a second try.

However brave defending by the Scots kept the score at 11-6, with Ulster’s best attempt falling to the impressive Andy Ward, but he managed to lose the ball forward when gunning for the Glasgow try line on 54 minutes.

A period of aerial tennis saw Ulster’s Bryan Cunningham come out on top after the hour mark, but Glasgow generally survived Ulster’s most dominant spell of the game, to improve themselves in the territory stakes.

But the side’s fourth loss against Irish opposition from five games was effectively sealed with five minutes of normal time remaining when Larkin slotted over his third penalty.

The Sydney-born 29-year-old hit over a lengthy drop goal a minute later for a 17-6 lead, before Glasgow centre Graeme Morrison gave his side a lifeline with a close range try, converted by substitute out-half Calvin Howarth.

It was soon turning into a fretful ending for Ulster but a fourth Larkin penalty four minutes into stoppage time sealed the win.

Glasgow: R Kerr, D Millard, G Maclure, G Morrison, S Lamont, D Parks, S Pinder, M Proudfoot, S Lawson, L Harrison, A Hall, N Ross, C Mather (captain), D Macfadyen, P Dearlove.

Replacements: S Gunn, A Kelly, J Beardshaw, R Reid, M McMillan, C Howarth, J Steel.

Ulster: B Cunningham, J Topping, R Constable, P Steinmetz, T Howe, A Larkin, K Campbell; B Young, M Sexton, R Moore, M Mustchin, M McCullough, A Ward, N Best, T McWhirter.

Replacements: P Shields, S Best, R Frost, R Wilson, N Doak, S Stewart, S Young.


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