Pienaar hits ground running to save Ulster
Ulster's big-name signing Ruan Pienaar made a storming start to his Ravenhill sojourn as he scored all of his side's points in a tight and fairly drab affair against a stubborn Glasgow side last night.
Pienaar pitched in with a try, four penalties and a conversion on his debut to lift a rather lethargic Ulster into third place in the Magners League.
Glasgow were the superior side at the breakdown and continually denied Ulster good ball.
They got on a roll, scoring the first try through DTH van der Merwe, with the mighty boot of out-half Duncan Weir landing four penalties.
Pienaar very nearly had the dream beginning to his Ulster career in the opening minute, but his crisply-hit 52-metre penalty veered just the wrong side of the left-hand upright.
It was the only time that Ulster really had their mitts on the ball in the opening 10 minutes, with Glasgow deservedly going ahead after making use of their steady stream of possession.
First, Weir slotted over a penalty, then virtually from the restart, Van der Merwe was put clear down the left to touch down after Andrew Trimble had failed to collect a difficult cross-field kick.
Pienaar finally got Ulster on the board after 15 minutes with an angled penalty.
That appeared to awaken the men in white from their slumber and after some spirited driving play from their pack, Pienaar proceeded to rifle over his second penalty effort from close range.
The Springbok scrum-half was certainly ticking all the right boxes for the Ravenhill faithful and he further endeared himself to the crowd two minutes later when he took a pass around the blind side of a five-metre line-out and dived over in the corner. His touchline conversion was greeted with delight.
Glasgow, though, were proving tough at the breakdown, and quick ruck ball almost brought a second try when Graeme Morrison fed a short ball for Van der Merwe to run in, only for the pass to be ruled slightly forward.
While Ulster were at least putting together some fine passages of play, Glasgow were like a dog with a bone, and would not let go, eventually going in at half-time in the lead after Weir landed a brace of penalties.
Five minutes after the restart, Pienaar sneaked Ulster ahead again with his third penalty creeping over from 45 metres via the crossbar.
The lead changed yet again in the 51st minute when Weir heaved over a tremendous penalty from eight metres inside his own half.
Ulster were struggling with fluency and found it difficult to get a flow of possession going their way, much to the disappointment of a frustrated back line.
The game featured few really exciting moments, although Trimble being baulked by Glasgow No 8 Richie Vernon as he chased down a kick near the goal brought the crowd to its feet, only for Pienaar to miss the resultant penalty.
The game started tight and it ended in similar fashion with the boot of man-of-the-match Pienaar clinching a narrow win for Ulster with his fifth penalty in the 74th minute.
But coach Brian McLaughlin will not be a happy camper with the overall performance of his team, particularly with the Heineken Cup campaign starting next week against Aironi.
Ulster -- J Smith (D McIlwaine 77); A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, S Danielli; N O'Connor (I Whitten 67), R Pienaar; B Young (P McAllister 76), R Best, T Court, D Tuohy (T Barker 51), J Muller, P Wannenburg, R Diack, C Henry.
Glasgow -- B Stortoni; DTH van der Merwe, M Evans, G Morrison, F Aramburu; D Weir (R Jackson 70), C Gregor (Ryan 75); J Welsh, F Thomson (P MacArthur 60), M Low (E Kalman 70), T Ryder (Muldowney 70), R Gray, R Harley, J Barclay, R Vernon (C Forrester 73).
Ref -- Stefano Penne (FIR).