Glasgow Warriors moved top of the URC table after weathering an early Ulster storm to claim an exceptional 33-20 statement win as Johnny Matthews maintained his incredible try-scoring form

Ulster showed why they’re one of the most feared teams in the league as they dominated the hosts in the opening 15 minutes at a sold-out Scotstoun but Glasgow’s resilience shone through as they ran riot in the second half to secure the required bonus point to move ahead of Leinster to the URC summit. 

Glasgow’s triumph was a testament to the collective but it’s impossible to ignore Matthews’ quite staggering try record. The 30-year-old famously scored five in one game last season and he’s now on a run of seven tries in six games after scoring a double off the bench - including one within forty seconds of his introduction - to move fifth in Glasgow’s all-time top try scorers.

Glasgow were without both first-choice scrum-halves and other Scotland internationals but they fought back superbly from an early 14-point deficit to make it five wins from six in the URC.

“He’s playing well," Smith admitted on Matthews. "I don’t like mentioning individual players but he has that ability to get on the other side of the white line. He contributes whether he’s starting, coming off the bench or not even playing. His contribution is immense.” 

“I’m very happy with the fightback from the boys. Being 14-0 down, it was an important character test for us. We showed our intent in the last fifteen minutes before half-time. We were inaccurate from the start and we ended up having lots of defensive resets in the first fifteen minutes. It was small things to adjust and the belief they showed was fantastic.

“We always go hard at the scrum and it’s an important part of our gameplan so it was nice to get the rewards. We had a good shape to the scrum. Character in the team is everything and all credit to the boys. Everyone buys into the plan and when they show that belief through their actions on the field - it’s always heartwarming. 

“We are firmly grounded as there’s still lots to happen. We tend to have some good defence sets then give away cheap penalties and the half-time words encouraged them on that.” 

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The hosts won every home game until defeat to Munster in the playoffs last season but their unbeaten run this campaign looked under severe threat as the visitors made a blistering start on a chilly night. 

Glasgow conceded a penalty deep into their 22 and Ulster kicked for the corner before setting up a rolling maul as hooker Tom Stewart drove over the line and John Cooney converted to hand the Northern Irish side an early seven-point lead and they added their second try on 12 minutes. 

It arrived in contentious fashion as scrum-half Cooney appeared to fumble the ball forward before exploiting a gap in Glasgow’s defence to dive over the line from close range but referee Ben Whitehouse - an unpopular figure amongst the home support - awarded the try after reviewing the incident on the TMO. 

Ulster enjoyed 75% possession and 76% territory during a bleak opening 15 minutes for Glasgow but they racked up the phases before winning a penalty with Tom Jordan’s kick to the corner setting up a perfect attacking platform.

Glasgow’s scrum-half issues have been in the spotlight recently with Jamie Dobie and Geroge Horne sustaining injuries after Ali Price’s controversial move to Edinburgh. Sean Kennedy deputised for Glasgow’s injured duo and he responded brilliantly as he opened the scoring for the hosts with a brilliant finish on his first home start for the Warriors in front of a crowd for 11 years. 

Ulster’s defence almost appeared impenetrable as Glasgow peppered their try-line but Kennedy cunningly spotted a gap as he flew through the air to score with Jordan adding the extras to make it a seven-point game. 

Glasgow improved considerably after Ulster’s dominant start but Scott Cummings uncharacteristically fumbled from a line-out as the Warriors applied pressure as the visitor’s defence began to creak. 

Ulster’s discipline began to deteriorate as half-time approached and they were fortunate to escape a yellow card after conceding another penalty as Glasgow amassed a ridiculous number of phases deep in the visitors 22. 

Glasgow’s perseverance, however, was rewarded on the stroke of half-time as they scored their second try, unsurprisingly, from a line-out as George Turner powered over and Jordan levelled the scores at half-time with the conversion. 

It was role reversal at the start of the start half as Glasgow came flying out the traps and Sione Tuipulotu almost gave the hosts the lead but he was held up brilliantly after bursting over the try line. 

Glasgow didn’t need to wait long to surge into the lead for the first time and it was a double celebration for the Scotstoun faithful after Ulster were also reduced to 14 men as ref Whitehouse brandished yellow to Kieran Treadwell.

It was an excellent try as Glasgow sucked in the Ulster defence before spinning the ball wide as Josh McKay brilliantly set up wing Kyle Rowe to score in the corner, but Jordan missed the conversion. 

Ulster reduced the deficit to just two points through Cooney’s penalty but Glasgow hit back in sensational fashion as they capitalised on their man advantage to secure the bonus point. Johnny Matthews has developed into a cult hero at Scotstoun due to his incredible try-record of more than one every two games and he added another to his majestic collection just one minute after entering the action. 

The ball flowed through Glasgow hands smoothly before reaching Matthews and the Scotland international showed his opposite hooker Stewart a clean set of heels to score. Jordan’s conversion gave Glasgow a nine-point lead but Nathan Doak quickly brought it back to six with a penalty for Ulster.

But it was that man Matthew who fittingly had the last say of a thrilling encounter as he burst over from close range to ensure Glasgow moved top of the table.

Glasgow: McKay, Cancelliere, Tuipulotu, McDowall, Rowe, Jordan, Kennedy; Bhatti, Turner, Z. Fagerson, Peterson, Cummings, M. Fagerson, Darge, Dempsey.

Replacements: Matthews, Kebble, Sordoni, Gray, Manjezi, Vailanu, Afhsar, Weir.

Tries: Kennedy, Turner, Rowe, Matthews (2)



Ulster: Addison, Baloucoune, Hume, Marshall, Stockdale, Burns, Cooney; O'Sullivan, Stewart, O'Toole, Treadwell, Henderson, Sheridan, Crothers, McNabney.

Replacements: Solomon, Kitshoff, Moore, O'Connor, Rea, Shanahan, Flannery, Moxham.

Tries: Stewart, Cooney 

Pens: Cooney, Doak

Yellow: Treadwell