Saturday 20 January 2018

Pienaar stars on debut as Ulster extend unbeaten run

Ulster kept their unbeaten record in the Magners League intact against a Glasgow outfit who threatened to spoil the party for the home side's South African recruit Ruan Pienaar.

Debutant Pienaar scored all Ulster's 19 points. The Springbok scrum-half crossed for a try, which he superbly converted, in addition to landing four penalties, to see the Ravenhill side home in a game which saw the lead change hands several times.

The outcome was in the balance until the final whistle, which consigned Glasgow to their fourth straight loss, 19-17.

After Pienaar failed with an early penalty attempt from inside his own half, the Warriors took control of the game with two rapid scores in the ninth and 10th minutes.

Firstly, Duncan Weir slotted a penalty after Bryan Young was penalised in the tackle zone, and then DTH Van der Merwe got on the end of a pass from Max Evans and made the left corner after Andrew Trimble spilled a high ball.

Weir failed to add the extras and Ulster narrowed the margin with Pienaar's first points for the province when he saw his penalty come in off the left upright after Glasgow were penalised at a scrum. He soon added another penalty.

Pienaar got on the scoresheet again when, in the 23rd minute, Ulster drove a lineout near the Warriors' line and Rory Best, on his 100th appearance, peeled off on the blindside to put Pienaar in at the right corner.

The South African then impeccably converted his own score to give Ulster a 13-8 lead.

Two minutes later, Weir's second penalty narrowed Ulster's lead to two points and then, after Dan Tuohy was penalised for taking out Van der Merwe, Glasgow launched an attack on Ulster's line that led to another Weir penalty which put the Warriors ahead by a point at half-time.

Pienaar put Ulster back in the lead with a 44th-minute penalty which bounced in off the crossbar, but that was cancelled out five minutes later by Weir who put the Warriors back in front.

Glasgow number eight Richie Vernon was then curiously not shown the yellow card after he took Trimble out -- though both the Ulster winger and Paddy Wallace appeared to have knocked on in a rare Ulster attack -- and from the resulting penalty, Pienaar kicked wide.

Weir fired wide with a 65m effort and then, with Ulster turning the screw, Pienaar kicked a fourth penalty to put Ulster 19-17 in front.

He sent another easy-looking kick against the upright, and this time it stayed out, making for a tense finale, but Ulster clung on.

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