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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 10 December, 2018

Late Williams try snatches interpro victory for Ulster in Galway

It was a low-scoring, but entertaining, affair at the Sportsground.

Williams celebrates his try.
Williams celebrates his try.

NICK WILLIAMS WAS the Ulster hero when he struck for the decisive score to end Connacht’s unbeaten home run this season.

Williams, who announced this week that he is heading to Cardiff Blues at the end of the season, got over two minutes from time.

Luke Marshall made the initial break off a scrum and while he was stopped just short of the posts, Williams pounced to squeeze over.

Connacht could have few complaints as they failed to make opening half dominance count and the league’s top try scorers rarely looked like adding to their 27 tally.

Connacht, who had only beaten Ulster three times in 24 previous meetings and just once in the last nine seasons, opened at a frantic pace and took the game to Ulster.

But while it was an encouraging start by Pat Lam’s men, they were unable to crack the Ulster defence in the opening quarter despite playing most of that period deep inside the visitors’ defence.

Two penalties to the left corner in the opening five minutes, albeit from difficult kicking positions, gave an indication of Connacht’s attempt from the outset as they looked to bring high-flying Ulster down to earth.

The rain in Galway earlier in the day had an impact on proceedings and some untypical handling errors from Connacht proved costly with Jack Carty, Eoghan Masterson and Matt Healy all losing possession in promising moves.

But Ulster were also guilty and Andrew Trimble lost possession after Ruan Pienaar had tried to catch the home defence napping with a quick tap penalty on the 10 metre line after 24 minutes.

Dave Heffernan and Nick Williams There was no festive goodwill on show. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Earlier Trimble was taken out in the air by Healy as they contested a Garryowen but referee Peter Fitzgibbon just issued a penalty and a warning to the Connacht winger.

Craig Ronaldson had a chance to put Connacht in front on the half hour but missed a penalty from 30 metres on the left.

And then when Connacht lost their own lineout on their 22, they were penalised for hands in the ruck and Paddy Jackson opened the scoring after 33 minutes with a penalty from 25 metres on the left.

That gave Ulster a 3-0 interval lead despite Connacht having enjoyed the bulk of the possession in the opening half.

Ronaldson had a glorious opportunity to tie the match nine minutes after the restart but missed from the 22 after Williams was penalised for hands in the ruck.

AJ MacGinty, who joined Connacht after his exploits for the USA in the World Cup, took over the kicking duties when he replaced out-half Carty, got them off the mark after 64 minutes when he landed a penalty from the left after Ulster were penalised for collapsing a scrum.

By then Ulster were down to 14 men after centre Luke Marshall was binned for a trip on MacGinty as Connacht countered from deep after Jackson was dispossessed.

But Ulster finished strongly and their impressive run under Les Kiss continued when Williams struck for the winner in the dying moments.

Connacht scorers:

Penalty: AJ MacGinty

Ulster scorers:

Try: Nick Williams
Conversion: Paddy Jackson
Penalty: Paddy Jackson

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson (Rory Parata ’78), Matt Healy; Jack Carty (AJ MacGinty ’57), Kieran Marmion (Ian Porter ’78); Finlay Bealham (Ronan Loughney ’61), Dave Heffernan (Shane Delahunt ’55), Nathan White (Rodney Ah You ’69); Ultan Dillane, Aly Muldowney (Andrew Browne ’57); John Muldoon (capt), James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson (Sean O’Brien ’55).

Ulster: Louis Ludik; Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scholes; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar (Paul Marshall ’69); Andrew Warwick (Callum Black ’44), Rob Herring (capt), Wiehahn Herbst (Ricky Lutton ’51); Alan O’Connor (Stephen Mulholland ’71), Franco van der Merwe; Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy (Roger Wilson ’55), Nick Williams.

Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU).

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About the author:

John Fallon

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