Glasgow Warriors’ Friday night clash with Ulster could produce fireworks at Scotstoun.
The early weekend action will see Conference A’s top team take on Conference B’s second-placed team as the season heads towards its conclusion and points become ever more valuable.
What’s at stake?
For Glasgow it is top spot in Conference A that is on the line.
David Rennie’s side have got Munster breathing down their necks, just three points behind them, and defeat could open up the door for the Irishmen to leapfrog them.
Meanwhile it is second place in Conference B that Ulster will be trying to hold on to and a Finals Series berth.
Leinster have accumulated an insurmountable 18-point lead at the top but Ulster will be paying more attention to what is going on below them this weekend as Benetton are just four points below them in third.
Team news (Glasgow Warriors)
Jonny Gray will play his 100th game for Glasgow and Tommy Seymour returns to the starting XV having recovered from a rib injury picked up playing for Scotland. He joins fellow centurions Stuart Hogg and Niko Matawalu in the back-three.
Kyle Steyn shifts from wing to centre to play alongside Sam Johnson in midfield. Ali Price and Adam Hastings once again start as half-backs.
Rob Harley partners Gray in the engine room. Adam Ashe and Chris Fusaro are promoted to the starting line up to play with Matt Fagerson in the back-row.
It is an unchanged front three for the third consecutive game. Oli Kebble and Zander Fagerson once again packing down either side of Fraser Brown.
Team news (Ulster)
Luke Marshall, who made a try-scoring impact on his return from a long-term injury lay-off last weekend, has been named to start at outside centre, where he will partner Stuart McCloskey in the Ulster midfield.
Winger Rob Lyttle also returns to the starting lineup, as he joins Jacob Stockdale and Abbey Insurance Ulster Academy livewire Michael Lowry in the back three.
The half-back pairing of John Cooney and Billy Burns is retained once more.
Alan O’Connor will captain the side from the second row alongside Kieran Treadwell. Hooker Rob Herring, Ulster’s top try scorer (six) in the PRO14, will pack down with Eric O’Sullivan and Marty Moore in the front row.
Sean Reidy, who made his 100th Ulster appearance on Saturday, starts at blindside flanker, with Jordi Murphy and Marcell Coetzee named as the other loose forwards.
Glasgow Warriors Head Coach Dave Rennie said: “It’ll be a great occasion for Jonny (Gray) and his family. To have played 100 games for your club and 50 for your country by the age of 25 is unheard of and a testament to Jonny and his work ethic.
“Historically these games have been tasty and it’s great that we’re going to have a packed, noisy stadium at our backs to carry us through. Everyone knows what’s at stake.
“It’s the business end of the season now and we’ve got ourselves in a pretty decent spot but the real fight starts now and the boys are certainly up for it.”
Key battle Tommy Seymour v Jacob Stockdale
Seymour’s inclusion will be his first since the send of the Guinness Six Nations and will be a massive boost given his try-scoring pedigree.
He will be up against Stockdale, whose meteoric rise hit its first road bump with his error in the Aviva Stadium last weekend.
One thing is for sure, with both of these players on the pitch from the outset, we should expect to see tries.
Did you know?
Glasgow have lost only twice at Scotstoun this season, to Saracens in round 1 of the European Champions Cup and Edinburgh in round 12 of the Guinness PRO14.
Ulster are unbeaten in their last five Guinness PRO14 matches since Leinster were victorious at the RDS Arena in early January.
Glasgow Warriors: Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Kyle Steyn, Sam Johnson, Niko Matawalu, Adam Hastings, Ali Price, Oli Kebble, Fraser Brown, Zander Fagerson, Rob Harley, Jonny Gray, Adam Ashe, Chris Fusaro (c), Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Jamie Bhatti, Siua Halanukonuka, Scott Cummings, Tevita Tameilau, George Horne, Peter Horne, Robbie Nairn.
Ulster: Michael Lowry, Rob Lyttle, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Billy Burns, John Cooney, Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor (c), Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee.
Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Tom O’Toole, Ian Nagle, Marcus Rea, David Shanahan, Darren Cave, Angus Kernohan.
TV: At Scotstoun Stadium, 7.35pm, Live on Premier Sports, Eir and DAZN.
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referee: Mike Adamson, Ian Kenny
Xander Fagerson crashed over to seal a bonus point for Glasgow Warriors as they retain their place at the summit of the Guinness PRO14 Conference A.
Ulster scored the opening try through Rob Herring but Fraser Brown hit back straight away, before tries from Adam Hastings and Tommy Seymour put Warriors on the front foot before the break.
A clinical fourth by Fagerson wrapped up the points and it was a smooth ride in for the Scots as they edge closer to a home semi-final.
It was a rapid start at the Scotstoun as Ulster came flying out of the blocks, making inroads from the off through Jacob Stockdale and Mike Lowry, earning them an early line-out.
The visitors utilised their strength in the pack and Herring peeled off the back of a driving maul line-out to crash over for his seventh try of the Guinness PRO14 season.
John Cooney converted but Glasgow didn’t take long to respond.
The Scots chased down a defensive kick to put pressure on Ulster that resulted in a penalty, then scored in similar fashion as their counterparts through Fraser Brown from a driving maul line-out.
Hastings slotted the extras and was the scorer of their next try, bundling over acrobatically after Kyle Steyn exploited a massive gap in the Ulster defence.
The fly-half hit the post with his conversion, but Glasgow capitalised on the momentum to grab a third try on the stroke of half time.
After 17 phases picking and going down the centre, the ball was whipped wide and some lightning hands in midfield released Seymour to trot over on the right.
Again, Hastings’ conversion bounced back off the up-right but Warriors went into the break with a 20-7 lead to build on.
The hosts had the bonus-point secured shortly after half time, Ali Price making ground with a sharp break and offload to Fagerson, who powered over from close range.
Ulster looked to have finally hit back when Stockdale broke the Warriors line and popped brilliant to Luke Marshall, but Seymour dived on the centre from behind as he crossed the line and knocked the ball to the floor.
Hastings nailed his second penalty of the night to make it 30-7 before he left the field and the hosts could see the end in sight.
Ulster were to be denied another agonisingly close chance before the game was up though, as Lyttle demonstrated his electric pace all the way into the corner but couldn’t escape a covering Seymour, whose last-ditch tackle once again stopped the visitors scoring a second.
Glasgow saw out the rest of the match with some dogged defence lead by Jonny Gray, who – on his 100th appearance for the club – was named man of the match for his efforts.
04 Apr 2019