glasgow 25

ulster 25

a record crowd left Hughenden last night baffled at having watched the home side forced to hang on desperately for draw at the end of a thrilling night's entertainment, having urged their side noisily towards what seemed a certain victory for much of the night.

The relentless backing of pipes and drums had also driven Glasgow on during a first hour in which they performed superbly, so the frustration of Richie Dixon, the home coach, at what was a missed opportunity all round, was understandable.

''That was more like a loss than a draw,'' he said on a night when the enthusiasm of a home support of more than 6000, the largest ever at a professional rugby match in Glasgow, was reflected in the fact that the newly extended beer tent was literally drunk dry.

''For 60 minutes we had control of the game but we were not as clinical as we should have been and we paid for that. I think they were a bit nervous for whatever reason and forced one or two little bits and pieces and we have told them that it is the little things that sandbag you, like failing to take your lineout ball when you've had control or giving up the odd turn-over.''

The harsh truth was that Glasgow's composure deserted them in the final quarter and the match ended with them only just managing to hold out Ulster's concerted effort to snatch what Alan Solomons the visitors' South African coach, candidly admitted would have been an undeserved win.

''We could have snatched it at the end but it would have been a travesty, particularly given that first half,'' said the former Springboks assistant coach.

He acknowledged that his men had been outplayed at the lineout, the scrums and the breakdown by the Glasgow pack in that period, yet he was proud of the way they rallied to maintain an unbeaten record in the Celtic League following last week's win over Welsh/Scottish League champions Swansea.

''We didn't play well enough to win and were lucky to bed just a few popints behind at the break but at half-time we could have thrown in the towel or gone out and played and I am delighted that even with our captain sidelined we went out and played,'' said Solomons, referring to the forearm injury which saw Andy Ward, their international flanker, sent to hospital for an X-Ray.

Even an hour into the match the only likely result seemed to be a home win with Glasgow 16 points ahead at that stage. Their superiority was built upon setpiece control, setting the tone at the first lineout which Nathan Ross stole on the Ulster put in, the visitors' frustration producing the long range penalty opportunity from which Tommy Hayes gave his side the lead.

From the re-start however newboy Ross let David Humphreys, Ulster's international stand off, the chance to level things from wide on the left and he was to prove the more impressive goal-kicker over the piece.

Glasgow eased ahead after forcing the Ulster pack off their own ball at a scrum deep in the 22, setting up their own solid platform then patiently sucking in defenders before Gordon Simpson continued his eye-catching early season efforts by squirming his way over.

Hayes missed the conversion, however and a subsequent penalty attempt, before Humphreys hit the target from long range to reduce the deficit to two points in it. Simpson, though, extended the lead by working out the perfect angle to charge on to Hayes' well-timed inside pass to power through unstoppably from 15 metres out.

Having scored the tries that gave his side the advantage in the opening half the flanker then set the tone for the second with an impressive piece of defending, with an impressive cover tackle on Tyrone Howe, the British & Irish Lion.

When, from a scrum inside the Ulster 22, Andy Nicol roared onto Jon Petrie's pass at the base of the scrum to burst through at point blank range Glasgow then seemed to be in complete control 16 points clear.

Yet as the match moved in to the final quarter Glasgow Ulster offered a reminder that the game was by no means over when Russell Nelson, Ward's replacement, claimed the touchdown as a rolling maul powered over.

Hayes then missed a penalty and Kiddie a drop goal attempt before Humphreys produced a moment of brilliance which transformed the match, with a break from inside his own half which took him deep into the 22 before he found Ryan Constable, another of Ulster's replacements, in support to take the scoring pass as the cover got to him.

After Wallace's conversion the unlikely figure of McLaren stepped up to take over Glasgow's kicking duties and knock over a long range score to extend their advantage.

However the scores were levelled five minutes from time when an overlap was created for the Ulster full-back to race away on the left, Humphreys converting to set up the tightest of finishes and with their forwards apparently having run out of steam, Glasgow only just managed to keep their line intact during five agonising minutes of Ulster pressure in injury time.

Glasgow G Kiddie; J Steel, J McLaren,

A Henderson, I McInroy (R Reid 64); T Hayes, A Nicol; C Blades, G Bulloch, D Hilton, N Ross (C Stewart 71-79), J White, G Simpson, D Macfadyen, J Petrie

Ulster P Wallace; J Topping, J Bell, A Larkin (R Constable 49), T Howe; D Humphreys,

B Free (K Campbell 61); J Fitzpatrick (C Boyd 60), P Shields (R Weir 50), S Best, J Davidson, G Longwell, D Allen (M Blair 55), A Ward

(R Nelson 40), T McWhirter

Referee N Whitehouse (Wales)

Scoring sequence (Glasgow first) 3-0, 3-3,

8-3, 8-6, 15-6 (half-time); 22-6, 22-11, 22-18, 25-18, 25-25

Scorers Glasgow Tries Simpson (15, 39), Nicol (50). Conversions Hayes (39, 50). Penalties Hayes (1), McLaren (72)

Ulster Tries Nelson (60), Constable (66), Wallace (75). Conversions Wallace (66), Humphreys (75). Penalties Humphreys (2, 33)