Thursday 18 January 2018

Coetzee proving worth the wait as Ulster continue their resurgence

Ulster 37 Glasgow 17

Ruan Pienaar: Had five successful kicks as well as finishing off a wonderful try. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruan Pienaar: Had five successful kicks as well as finishing off a wonderful try. Photo: Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

'Worth waiting for' might well be the slogan Ulster use to convey their happiness about Marcell Coetzee's fitness. And form. Just two games into his time here, after 10 months out following knee surgery, and the Springbok picks up the man of the match award in a bonus point win for the home side - their second in a row in this competition.

The last one - against Edinburgh - was a fraught affair so typical of Ulster, who were hanging on at the finish. Again here we had the visiting side battling away in the last 10 minutes, making life difficult for their hosts, but this time Ulster managed the final say.

Fittingly it went to Jacob Stockdale, who managed two tries off the bench. So, five tries in all for Ulster, but still they lie six points adrift of the top four in the Guinness Pro12.

At least they're playing better rugby. And on the evidence of the last two games Coetzee has had a significant influence on that. A nightmare to play against at the breakdown, he also carries and cleans to great effect. Sean Reidy and captain Chris Henry weren't too shabby either. And, at last, Tommy Bowe is finding real form.

That trio played their part in squeezing a whopping 19 turnovers from Glasgow, who will be sickened that they left empty-handed. They had 62 per cent possession in the first half and were still 50-50 by the final whistle on a chilly Belfast afternoon.

"Ulster played really well and every slip that we had, whether it was turnover possession or defensive mistake they capitalised on it," Gregor Townsend said afterwards. "We didn't make the most of our possession but I'm proud of the way we came back into it."

A crowd short of 16,000 got good value for money, and at the end you could sense the satisfaction with it all. That's not always the case in this part of the world. They also got a contender for try of the season, from Ruan Pienaar. The closer he gets to the exit, the greater the sense of loss in Ulster. His try clinched the bonus, a score he started from his own 22 and involved nine pairs of hands before it finished close to the corner at the far end. You could watch this one over and over.

That was the cue, however, for Ulster to clock off. They managed to concede two tries in quick succession, both to Scott Cummings. It was when they were chasing the bonus that they were burned by Stockdale. Happier times in Kingspan.

Scorers - Ulster: Pienaar try, 3 cons, two pens; Stockdale 2 tries; Bowe, Reidy try each; Glasgow: Cummings 2 tries; Thomson try, con.

Ulster: L Ludik (J Stockdale 13); T Bowe, L Marshall, D Cave (P Marshall 40), C Gilroy; P Nelson (J Owens 68), R Pienaar; C Black (A Warwick 34-40 HIA), J Andrew (R Herring 34), R Lutton, P Browne (K Treadwell 56), F van der Merwe, S Reidy, M Coetzee, C Henry (capt) (R Diack 75)

Glasgow: B Thomson; L Jones (R Hughes 25; G Hart 64)), M Bennett (R Vernon 55), N Grigg, S Lamont; P Horne, H Pyrgos; A Allan (J Bhatti 55), J Malcolm (C Flynn 55), S Puafisi (D Rae 55), B Alainu'uese, S Cummings, R Harley (yc 68-78) A Ashe, S Favaro (L Wynne 56),

Referee: D Jones (Wales)

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