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Connacht do the double over Ulster as Friend's men end the year on a high

The western province pressed for a fourth try but had to settle for four match points in Galway.

Connacht 21

Ulster 12

CONNACHT COMPLETED A first-ever seasonal double over Ulster, as Andy Friend’s side bounced back to winning ways with a hard-fought victory which moves them above Munster in Conference A of the Guinness Pro14.

The western province were dominant for large tracts of tonight’s inter-pro in Galway and through tries from Shane Delahunt, Bundee Aki and Caolin Blade, emerged with the points to leapfrog Munster into second ahead of their meeting next week.

Caolin Blade celebrates scoring a try with Kyle Godwin and Jack Carty Connacht celebrate Blade's try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ulster slipped off too many tackles and a disjointed performance from Dan McFarland’s charges saw them lose for the first time in six outings, despite tries in either half from Angus Kernohan and Jordi Murphy.

Connacht, backed by a febrile home crowd of over 8,000 at the Sportsground, pushed for a late bonus-point score but were unable to embellish another good night’s work with a fourth try, as they had to settle for the four match points.

Either way, the hosts end 2018 on a high as they recorded their sixth win from seven outings, with last week’s heartbreaking defeat to Leinster the only blot on their copybook this month.

This was the perfect reprieve after the devastating late loss at the RDS. 

Connacht were 14-7 in front at half-time, after Kernohan helped half the deficit following the early efforts from Delahunt and Aki.

Scrum-half Blade scored on the resumption and despite Murphy’s consolation after Ultan Dillane’s yellow, Connacht held on to continue their play-off push in Conference A.

Friend’s side began their scrum domination in the 12th minute when they won their first penalty and Jack Carty kicked to the corner.

Colby Fainga’a won the lineout and Quinn Roux was held up just short but the ball was recycled and Delahunt touched down after a few more drives.

Connacht came again and Blade was denied a try for a double movement in the 18th minute but three minutes later, the hosts were over for their second.

It came courtesy of more scrum pressure and referee Marius Mitrea was playing advantage when Blade passed to Aki and he danced his way through the cover to score.

Aki and midfield partner Tom Farrell were in great form and Connacht looked set to move further clear as the game approached half-time but then Ulster finally settled into the contest and worked their way back into the game. 

Bundee Aki scores his sides second try despite Nick Timoney and Marcell Coetzee Bundee Aki scored Connacht's second try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It began when Conor Carey was pinged when he held on in the tackle and Ulster went to the corner rather than opt for the kickable penalty. Connacht repelled them at first but when Johnny McPhillips kicked cross-field, Cian Kelleher fumbled the ball and gifted Kernohan his try in the left corner.

Connacht should have been well ahead but John Cooney was on target with the difficult conversion and the hosts only held a one-try advantage at the interval. 

However, Connacht regained their 14-point advantage five minutes into the second half.

Kyle Godwin kicked through and Carty — excellent again here — latched onto the bouncing ball with the supporting Blade applying the finish.

Dillane was introduced in the 66th minute and was sin-binned for coming in at the side of a maul a minute later, allowing Ulster make their numerical advantage count through Murphy. 

Cooney was unable to add the extras from the near touchline and as the derby entered a frenetic end-game, neither side was able to get the score they chased as Connacht got over the line with plenty left to spare.

Connacht scorers:

Tries: Shane Delahunt, Bundee Aki, Caolin Blade.
Conversions: Jack Carty [3 from 3].

Ulster scorers:

Tries: Angus Kernohan, Jordi Murphy
Conversions: John Cooney [1 from 2].

CONNACHT: Darragh Leader; Cian Kelleher, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Kyle Godwin (Stephen Fitzgerald ’63); Jack Carty (Dave Horwitz ’77), Caolin Blade (James Mitchell ’77); Denis Buckley (Pete McCabe ’66), Shane Delahunt (Dave Heffernan ’54), Conor Carey (Dominic Robertson McCoy ’40); Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux (Ultan Dillane ’66); Sean O’Brien, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Paul Boyle ’64).

ULSTER: Louis Ludik; Henry Speight (David Shanahan 60), Will Addison, Darren Cave, Angus Kernohan (Stuart McCloskey ’45); Johnny McPhillips (Peter Nelson ’52), John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan (Tommy O’Hagan ’48-67), Rob Herring (Adam McBurney ’77), Marty Moore (Ross Kane ’48); Ian Nagle(Clive Ross ’77), Kieran Treadwell; Nick Timoney, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee (Greg Jones ’46 HIA).

Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR).

Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Andy Dunne look back on a memorable year for Irish rugby.


Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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About the author:

Daragh Small

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