Could Brian McLaughlin’s men keep the away fires burning to steal into a Top 4 spot or would the Westerners add another impressive scalp to their collection? We went minute-by-minute to find out.
We went minute-by-minute for the Connacht v Ulster league encounter in the Rabo Pro 12.
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the game.
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Connacht 26-21 Ulster
Welcome along to our live coverage of Connacht’s league clash with an Ulster side that must be brimming with confidence after last weekend’s Heineken Cup win over Munster.
Here are the line-ups:
Connacht: Duffy (capt); O’Halloran, Tonettie, Fa’afili, Vainikolo; Nikora, Murphy; Wilkinson, Reynecke, Loughney; Swift, McCarthy; Muldoon, Ofisa, Naoupu.
Replacements: Flavin, Buckley, Ah You, Kearney, O’Connor, O’Donohoe, Jarvis, Griffin.
Ulster: Terblanche; Whitten, Spence, Jackson, D’Arcy; Humphreys, Marshall; McAllister, Brady (capt), Court; Stevenson, McComb; McComish, Faloon, Diack.
Replacements: Kyriacou, Black, Macklin, Henderson, Birch, Pienaar, Gilroy, Allen
A dramatic and bold-type introduction for you all!
The winds that regularly gust in from the west coast have abated somewhat and Ian Humphreys has been landing some fine place-kicks in the warm-up. Ruan Pienaar is resting his ‘dogs’ after some mammoth penalty kicks in the Munster win so David’s wee brother will get his chance to shine.
Good to see Paul Marshall out from the start and Ireland U-20 captain Paddy Jackson makes a rare appearance for the province at centre.
It will be interesting to see Connacht winger Tiernan O’Halloran testing himself against a decent Ulster backline.
Ronan Loughney and Brett Wilkinson in the front-row will be hoping for a strong showing as there is, at least, one spare seat for a prop on the flight to New Zealand in June.
Referee Dudley Phillips blows the whistle and we’re underway.
Connacht 3-0 Ulster: McComb gets caught at the wrong side of the breakdown and Connacht get an early opportunity. Miah Nikora strikes a clean penalty and the home side lead.
Humphreys gets an early sighter at the posts but his kick, slightly right of centre, has nothing going for it. The ball skews wide and left.
Great clearing kick for Connacht puts Ulster back into their ’22. They force a line-out on the five-metre line.
TRY CONNACHT! Great drive from Wilkinson draws in the Ulster defence before the ball is spread wide. Nikora spears inside through from 10 metres and touches down unopposed.
Connacht 8-0 Ulster: Nikora misses the conversion and the home side lose Wilkinson after his great work for the try.
Another injury blow for Connacht as Ray Ofisa goes off. He took a nasty blow to the head while defending a Nevin Spence attack. Ulster were awarded a penalty following the resumption of play but Humpheys misjudged the rippling breeze again, missing left and wide.
Johnny O’Connor replaces Ofisa.
YELLOW CARD – Loughney gets sent to the sin-bin for a ram-raid on Humphreys, about five seconds after he passed the ball.
Connacht 8-3 Ulster: The toughest penalty Ulster have received is converted by Humphreys is not the kicker. The out-half is down receiving treatment after Loughney’s hit so Paddy Jackson steps up and slots over from 40 metres out. Not so windy now.
Connacht 8-6 Ulster: Mike McCarthy body-checks McComish but his teammates pile over the top in the resulting breakdown. Another testing kick but no bother to 20-year-old Paddy Jackson.
Connacht 13-6 Ulster: Super hands from Kyle Tonetti to set Gavin Duffy up for a dart at the line. The Connacht captain skirts the left touchline then cuts inside and leaves Terblanche for dead. Nikora misses the conversion from wide left.
Terblanche and his blue boots kick Ulster to within five metres of the Connacht line. Nigel Brady goes perilously close before Paul Marshall mops up the loose ball and dives over.
Connacht 13-13 Ulster: Paddy Jackson lands a magnificent conversion from the left-hand touchline. This guy looked very assured when he was with Mike Ruddock’s U-20s and he has shown no fear today.
Paul Marshall’s outing ends prematurely but Brian McLaughlin has a handy scrum-half replacement – Ruan Pienaar.
Connacht 13-16 Ulster: Ronan Loughney gets pinged by the ref again and this time it is for bringing the scrum down. Jackson is growing in confidence and immediately points to the posts. His decision is proved sound as he arrows a fine kick over the posts. Ulster lead for the first time and Connacht will wonder how.
Paddy Jackson lands his fourth successive kick to put his team in front. Loughney was the culprit at the scrum and the young centre did not hesitate as he pointed toward the posts.
HALF-TIME – Connacht 13-16 Ulster
Good observation from @WhiffofCordite but if Jackson can keep up this bravado and flawless kicking it will be no contest.
Trouble brewing for Paddy Jackson’s international career before it even begins as the BBC Northern Ireland pundits put him in the Paddy Wallace bracket. A centre that can land some kicks. Jackson would be better served focusing on the out-half position.
Connacht’s Niall O’Connor from the Sportsground sidelines:
We have dominated territory and possession but are somehow behind. The trouble for Connacht is that we have given away too many kickable penalties.
KICK-OFF: Ian Humphreys gets the second-half underway.
Connacht 18-16: John Muldoon manages to offload in the tackle and feeds Tiernan O’Halloran. The winger burns Pienaar on the outside and sprints clear to touch down.
Connacht 20-16: Nikora’s kick rides the wind and sneaks over.
Substitute Dennis Buckley gets a shrill whistle in his ear as he is adjudged not to have bound properly. However Pienaar pulls his kick left and wide. What would wise old Paddy Jackson think about that poor attempt?
Nevin Spence tries to imitate Craig Gilroy’s wonder try from last weekend but falls 5/7′s short. The ball goes left to right and back again before Spence knocks on and Connacht get the scrum.
Spence powers down the left wing but is held up half a metre from the line. Tom Court picks and goes but can not squeeze through. Desperate Connacht defence not good enough as Paddy Jackson heaves over the whitewash.
Connacht 20-21 Ulster: Jackson misses his first kick but the wind has certainly picked up.
Perhaps it is the tail-end of the twister that was spotted off the Bray coastline this morning:
YouTube credit: aoifeno1
Connacht 23-21 Ulster: O’Halloran is stopped from releasing the ball quickly in the breakdown and Nikora lands a penalty from straight in front of the posts. The lead changes hands again.
YELLOW CARD(S) – The Number 4s from both sides, Swift and Stevenson, get sent to the bin for a spot of afters in the midst of a rolling Ulster maul.
Gilroy has come on for Ulster as they chase a win that should put them right in the mix for a top-four finish. Scrums dominating at the moment with Ulster enjoying a slight edge.
12 minutes on the clock and Connacht would be wise not to rest on their laurels.
Andrew Trimble wants the sideline microphones edged closer to the sin-bin.
Connacht 26-21 Ulster: The replacements have not done the visitors any favours and the Connacht pack are putting pressure on, high up the field. Impatience from Ulster gifts a simple penalty for Nikora to ease over the bar.
Connacht right where they want to be in the final minutes – the Ulster half. No spark for Ulster yet and they’ll need something special to turn this game around. Spence tries again but is chopped down in full flow.
Terblanche scampers down the left but his pass dribbles forward and out of play. Fantastic performance by Connacht and they are the rightful victors.
Frank Murphy, Nikora, George Naoupu and Mike McCarthy were all magnificent for the home-side.
FULL-TIME – Connacht 26-21 Ulster