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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 23 March, 2018


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Good evening and welcome along to our live coverage of the first Guinness Pro14 inter-pro fixture of the festive period, as Connacht host Ulster at the Sportsgrounds [KO 7.35pm].

Both sides come into this game on a high having enjoyed back-to-back wins in the Challenge Cup and Champions Cup respectively, with the hosts looking to avenge the narrow defeat they suffered in Belfast in October.

We’ll have minute-by-minute updates from Galway right here so stick on the kettle, grab that box of Roses and join us for some festive rugby.

TEAM NEWS: Kieran Keane has been able to name a strong team for tonight’s clash with Tiernan O’Halloran, who signed a new contract with the western province yesterday, back in the side at fullback. There’s also a return for Jarrad Butler from injury for the first time since October.


15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Niyi Adeleokun
13. Bundee Aki
12. Tom Farrell
11. Matt Healy
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Coulson
2. Shane Delahunt
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Ultan Dillane
5. Quinn Roux
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Jarrad Butler
8. John Muldoon (Capt)


16. Tom McCartney
17. Peter McCabe
18. Conor Carey
19. James Cannon
20. Naulia Dawai
21. James Mitchell
22. Eoin Griffin
23. Darragh Leader.

TEAM NEWS: Ulster, meanwhile, have included Jacob Stockdale at fullback for their visit to Galway and Darren Cave makes his 200th appearance for the province in the centre alongside Louis Ludik. Iain Henderson once again captains the team at six.


15. Jacob Stockdale
14. Craig Gilroy
13. Louis Ludik
12. Darren Cave
11. Andrew Trimble
10. Peter Nelson
9. John Cooney

1. Andy Warwick
2. John Andrew
3. Wiehahn Herbst
4. Matthew Dalton
5. Robbie Diack
6. Iain Henderson (captain)
7. Sean Reidy
8. Nick Timoney


16. Adam McBurney
17. Schalk van der Merwe
18. Ross Kane
19. Matthew Rea
20. Clive Ross
21. Paul Marshall
22 Johnny McPhillips
23. Rob Lyttle

A view of Guinness PRO14 match balls Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ulster arrive Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Les Kiss Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

John Muldoon ahead during the warm up Source: James Crombie/INPHO

In 29 meetings between these two provinces, Ulster have won 24 times and Connacht just four. They have drawn once — but Kieran Keane’s side have won their last four matches at the Sportsground in all competitions since Cardiff Blues beat them there in round four back in September.

LATE CHANGE: Ulster have been forced into a late reshuffle with Matty Dalton ruled out with a throat infection. Clive Ross comes into the starting XV at flanker with Henderson shifting to the second row. Greg Jones is added to the replacements bench.

FORM: Here is how the teams have gone in the last three Pro14 games, with Connacht losing their last two.

Screen Shot 2017-12-23 at 19.35.38

Flag 1Mins

KICK OFF: It’s a perfect evening for rugby in Galway and Peter Nelson gets us underway, the visitors playing left to right as we look in this first half.


1 min – Very bright start from Connacht as they fly out of the blocks. The hosts move it left quickly through Bundee Aki and Jarrad Butler to set Matt Healy away. Ulster scramble and manage to force it into touch on this near side.


3 mins — TRY! Connacht 5-0 Ulster (Eoghan Masterson)

That’s some start from Connacht! Delahunt’s throw finds his man and the hosts’ maul rumbles on towards the line before Masterson applies the finishing touch. Jack Carty is unable to add the extras.


5 mins – Jacob Stockdale tries to gain some territory for Ulster and settle the visitors somewhat but miscues the kick off his left foot.


8 mins — TRY! Connacht 12-0 Ulster (Bundee Aki)

Peter Nelson’s clearing kick is loose and straight down the throat of Tiernan O’Halloran. From there, Connacht cut Ulster open again through the initial break from Matt Healy and then the supporting Kieran Marmion, who offloads inside for Aki to finish powerfully under the posts.


10 mins – Ulster are all over the place. Nelson’s kick is charged down and then Trimble throws a forward pass to hand Connacht the attacking scrum in a very good position.


12 mins – Connacht are putting Ulster under all sorts of pressure as their aggressive linespeed and energy around the pitch is forcing the visitors to make unforced errors all over the place. Cooney just about clears the danger for now with a hack into touch from behind his own line.


ACTION SHOT: Connacht celebrate Eoghan Masterson’s opening try.

John Muldoon and Ultan Dillane celebrate as Eoghan Masterson scores a try Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


17 mins – The game has just settled down after that frenetic opening 15 minutes. Connacht’s defence has been very impressive so far and they look dangerous every time they get ball in hand.


19 mins – Ulster living off scraps at the minute and after a brief period of possession, are penalised for being off their feet at the breakdown.


20 mins – Much better from Ulster on that occasion as they move it left with good hands from the initial scrum and Gilroy draws in the last man before freeing Trimble. The Ireland winger opts to kick but his chip over the top is poorly executed and it trickles into touch.


22 mins — Penalty! Connacht 12-3 Ulster (John Cooney)

The visitors are on the board. Ultan Dillane is penalised for taking Sean Reidy out in the air at the lineout and Cooney, the former Connacht man, strikes it sweetly between the posts.


ACTION SHOT: Bundee Aki breaks clear of Ireland team-mate Jacob Stockdale.

Bundee Aki evades Jacob Stockdale Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO


24 mins — TRY! Connacht 17-3 Ulster (O’Halloran)

But straight down the other end, Connacht strike through O’Halloran as he shows pace, power and brilliant footwork to evade two tackles and a host of bodies to get it down over the line.


26 mins – A lack of concentration cost Ulster there having just got themselves back in the game. The kick off from Carty hung in the wind but O’Halloran beat two or three tackles to create the opening and then had an awful lot to do to finish it off. Connacht are flying.


28 mins – Just about sums up Ulster’s night so far. They retain possession well through multiple phases and just as they look to make inroads towards the Connacht line, Cave knocks on a loose pass.


ACTION SHOT: O’Halloran and Trimble grapple on the touchline.

Tiernan O'Halloran and Andrew Trimble Source: James Crombie/INPHO


32 mins — Penalty! Connacht 17-6 Ulster (Cooney)

Bundee Aki is penalised by the referee at the breakdown and Cooney calls for the tee. The scrum-half makes no mistake and there’s 11 points between the sides as we head towards half-time.


CHANGE: Greg Jones, who travelled to Galway outside the squad but was a late call-up to the bench following Dalton’s withdrawal, now finds himself in the thick of the action. He has replaced Sean Reidy and Connacht are pressing for their fourth try.


37 mins — Connacht have worked the overlap but Adeleokun loses his footing at the wrong moment and butchers the chance in the far corner. We’re going back for a penalty and the hosts have turned down the shot at goal for a scrum five metres out.


39 mins — Penalty! Connacht 20-6 Ulster (Carty)

Ulster scramble well but are penalised again and this time Carty calls for the tee to extend Connacht’s advantage to 14 points.


KICK OFF: The teams are back out in Galway and we’re set for the second half. Ulster, 14 points down, are also playing into a stiff breeze.


41 mins – Connacht have picked up where they left off and are five metres out from the Ulster line after Bundee Aki’s powerful break — but Ulster win the scrum and the pressure is momentarily relieved.


44 mins – Connacht completely obliterate the Ulster scrum and the visitors’ front row lose their feet and concede the penalty. Carty launches it deep into opposition territory and here comes the rolling maul again…


46 mins – Ulster do well to halt the initial drive but then concede another penalty and tempers momentarily flare under the posts. Andrew Warwick is the guilty party on this occasion — not rolling away and slowing the ball down — and he’s sent to the bin.


47 mins — Penalty! Connacht 23-6 Ulster (Carty)

Carty knocks over the penalty and Connacht extend their advantage.


CHANGE: Les Kiss has seen enough and sends Adam McBurney on for his senior debut at hooker in place of John Andrew, and


ACTION SHOT: Jack Carty’s right boot extends Connacht’s advantage to 17 points.

Jack Carty kicks a conversion Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO


CHANGE: Another Ulster replacement as Andrew Trimble makes way for Rob Lyttle. It’s been a scrappy start to this second period but Connacht still very much in the ascendancy.


54 mins – Connacht going for the kill as Marmion exposes Ulster off the back of the maul as he sets Healy free. The winger is hauled down but offloads inside for Farrell, who has his attempted pass to Carty slapped down by Louis Ludik.


54 mins — Yellow card! Louis Ludik (Ulster)

After consulting with his touch judge, the referee sends Ludik to the bin for slapping Farrell’s pass down with one hand and Ulster are down to 13 men.


55 mins — TRY! Connacht 30-6 Ulster (Ultan Dillane)

And there’s the bonus point try! Superb work from the Connacht forwards again as they power their way over the whitewash and Dillane is the man credited with the try. Carty nails the conversion, too.


ACTION SHOT: Bundee Aki rips through the Ulster defence.

Bundee Aki makes a break Source: James Crombie/INPHO


CHANGES: Kieran Keane shuffles his pack and has brought on a new front row with Peter McCabe, Tom McCartney and Conor Carey all introduced.


59 mins — TRY! Connacht 37-6 Ulster (Jarrad Butler)

Connacht are rampant. The cross-field kick exposes young McBurney and Adeleokun tears clear. He’s eventually hauled down by a superb Stockdale covering tackle but Connacht are able to recycle and eventually Butler runs it over on the far side.


CHANGES: Both benches being emptied now. Eoin Griffin, Darragh Leader, James Mitchell and Naulia Dawai are all on for Connacht.


65 mins – Ulster think they’ve scored as Johnny McPhillips — just on the field — stabs it through and Cave and Louis Ludik race after it, with the latter thinking he’s got it down. We’re going upstairs but replays clearly showed he knocked it on before grounding it.


66 mins — TRY! Connacht 37-11 Ulster (Gilroy)

They’re over this time as Gilroy shows great feet to open up the gap after a solid maul effort from the forwards. McPhillips, on debut, misses the conversion.


ACTION SHOT: John Cooney looks away as his former team-mates celebrate Connacht’s fourth try.

John Cooney dejected after Connacht scored there fourth try Source: James Crombie/INPHO


74 mins – McPhillips has been very impressive since coming on and he streaks clear after blocking down Mitchell’s kick, but is hauled down yards from the line. O’Halloran is being sent to the bin, however, and Ulster kick for the corner. A little over five minutes remaining.


76 mins — TRY! Connacht 44-11 Ulster (Dillane)

From defence to attack, from one end to another and Connacht strike. Ulster spurn their chance and the hosts break with pace and precision to send Dillane over under the posts. The icing on the cake.


79 mins — TRY! Connacht 44-16 Ulster (Rob Lyttle)

Ulster finish with a flourish as Rob Lyttle goes over for his fourth try for the province.


So a superb performance from Connacht sees Kieran Keane’s men ease to a record win over Ulster and in the process end their year on a high with a third straight victory. It was a sorry showing from the visitors and their slow start ultimately set the tone. Thanks for joining us and we’ll have a full report and reaction from Galway to come imminently.


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