Pro12 semi-final: Glasgow Warriors beat Ulster 16-14

By Tom EnglishBBC Scotland at Scotstoun
DTH Van Der Merwe scored a late try for Glasgow Warriors
DTH Van Der Merwe scored a late try for Glasgow Warriors
Pro12 semi-final: Glasgow Warriors 16-14 Ulster
Glasgow (6) 16
Tries: Van der Merwe; Con: Russell; Pens: Hogg; Russell (2)
Ulster (8) 14
Tries: Henry; Pens: Pienaar (3)

Glasgow produced a superb comeback that will live long in the memory to qualify for the final of the Pro 12.

With the Warriors trailing 14-9, a DTH van der Merwe try four minutes from time, converted by Finn Russell, gave the home team a dramatic 16-14 victory.

The hosts were second best for much of the night against Ulster, who scored their try through Chris Henry.

Glasgow face Munster or the Ospreys in their second straight Pro12 final next Saturday in Belfast.

It was a semi-final of immense physicality, one that claimed an early victim when Al Kellock, the Glasgow captain playing for the last time in front of his home crowd, retired hurt after just 20 minutes.

By then, Ulster had established their dominance; in the line-out and the scrum, in the collisions and the breakdown and on the scoreboard. For so long they looked set for victory, but the indomitable spirit of these Glasgow men was extraordinary.

Ulster were left completely shocked at the end. Ruan Pienaar's penalty for the visitors after just 30 seconds was cancelled out soon after by Russell - a powerful effort from just inside his own half - but when Henry scored in the corner in the 19th minute it was only what Ulster's early play deserved.

It was a clinical score, sparked by the visitors' grunt up front and finished beautifully out wide when Paddy Jackson linked with Louis Ludik, whose quick hands put Henry over.

There is much attacking nous in this Ulster backline, but Henry can be a bit of a try-machine himself at times. It was his second try in a week at Scotstoun, having scored their only one in last Saturday's 32-10 defeat by Glasgow.

DTH van Der Merwe scored a try to level the score at 14-14 before Finn Russell's conversion for Glasgow Warriors
DTH van Der Merwe scored a try to level the score at 14-14 before Finn Russell's conversion for Glasgow Warriors

The Scotstoun support fretted. Ulster were dictating the tempo and unleashing their ball-carriers. They were winning all the key battles and even when Glasgow had threatened to get some momentum their line-out was a source of frustration.

Several times in the match they engineered good field position only to effectively load a gun and fire the bullet into their own feet with a botched throw or a mistimed lift.

The fact that Ulster were only two points clear at the break was something of a lucky break for the home team, but two points became five when Pienaar landed a second penalty just before 60 minutes had elapsed.

At last, Glasgow found something. Some phases, some urgency, some power. It brought them three points from the boot of Russell and energised the big crowd.

Gregor Townsend leapt off his bench in the hope of finding gaps in a brutish Ulster defence, but for the longest time it looked like Ulster's defence would not be breached.

Ulster scored again. If Stuart Hogg's stunning kick from the tee in the first half was eye-catching then Pienaar's effort from a veritable mile out was even better. It was a thumping kick that restored their five-point lead and left Glasgow needing a try.

And what a try. One of Glasgow's all-time great passes, a 30-yard delivery off Russell's left hand, one of their all-time great run-ins from their departing son, Van der Merwe, and one of the all-time great conversions by Russell from so far out on the right side that he practically had to clear a gap in the crowd in order to kick it.

Tumultuous stuff. Quite stunning.

Glasgow Warriors: Hogg, Seymour, Vernon, Horne, Matawalu, Russell, Pyrgos, Grant, Brown, de Klerk, Gray, Kellock, Strauss, Fusaro, Ashe.

Replacements: Van der Merwe for Seymour (67), S. Lamont for Horne (70), Weir for Matawalu (78), Reid for Grant (45), MacArthur for Brown (20), Cusack for de Klerk (53), Nakarawa for Kellock (20), Wilson for Fusaro (41).

Ulster: Ludik, Bowe, Payne, D. Cave, Gilroy, P. Jackson, Pienaar, Black, Best, R. Lutton, Stevenson, Tuohy, Henderson, Henry, Wilson.

Replacements: McCloskey for D. Cave (76), Warwick for Black (71), Diack for Stevenson (76), Reidy for Henry (77). Not Used: Herring, B. Ross, P. Marshall, Allen.

Att: 10,000.

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