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Last night’s rugby restart went so well, they’re treating us to another feisty inter-pro.

A very good afternoon and welcome along to our coverage of Connacht v Ulster.

Results yesterday mean that both sides can treat this as a one-off hit-out, or a pre-season friendly if you’re of a mind to downplay it. But both sides will be desperate to put their best foot forward after such a long stint away from work.

Kick-off is not until 16.30 (eir Sport), so you have time to finish off that barbecue… or batten down the hatches. How would I know what the weather’s like where you live?

Here are the teams sent forth by Andy Friend and Dan McFarland for today.

Connacht

15. John Porch
14. Peter Sullivan
13. Tom Farrell
12. Bundee Aki
11. Alex Wootton
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion

1. Denis Buckley
2. Dave Heffernan
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Ultan Dillane
5. Gavin Thornbury
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Jarrad Butler (c)
8. Paul Boyle

Replacements

16. Jonny Murphy
17. Jordan Duggan
18. Jack Aungier
19. Niall Murray
20. Conor Oliver
21. Stephen Kerins
22. Conor Dean
23. Tom Daly

Ulster

15. Jacob Stockdale
14. Craig Gilroy,
13. James Hume
12. Stuart McCloskey
11. Louis Ludik
10. Billy Burns (Capt.)
9. John Cooney

1 Jack McGrath
2. Rob Herring
3. Marty Moore
4. Alan O’Connor
5. Kieran Treadwell
6. Nick Timoney
7. Jordi Murphy
8. Marcell Coetzee

Replacements:

16. Adam McBurney
17. Eric O’Sullivan
18. Tom O’Toole
19. Sam Carter
20. Matthew Rea
21. Alby Mathewson
22. Ian Madigan
23. Michael Lowry

Late change to Ulster now, Rob Herring has been withdrawn from the starting side. Adam McBurney is promoted from the bench to start.

Awaiting confirmation of the new replacement.

John Andrew is the man brought in among the replacements and he runs out with his team-mates now at the eerily empty Aviva Stadium.

KICK-OFF:

We’re off and running at the Aviva. Craig Gilroy gets a smack in Ulster’s first attack, but it’s called as a Connacht knock-on.

That was some welcome back for the wing.

5Mins

Ultan Dillane runs into trouble and Marcell Coetzee forces a penalty from the Kerryman.

Cooney will take aim…

5Mins

PENALTY! Connacht 0 Ulster 3 (Cooney ’5)

10Mins

The sunshine, the empty seats and the knock-ons are all contributing to give this match quite a pre-season friendly feel.

Marty Moore with the last handling error. From that platform Connacht win a penalty et up shop in the Ulster 22.

Dangerous wide move almost finds a scoring gap, but Ulster regroup.

Connacht the first to find a rhythm certainly.

11Mins

TRY! Connacht 7 Ulster 3 (Porch ’11)

Excellent example of Connacht’s ball-handling skills even after a long lay-off. Alex Wooton with a key break, but confident short passing all round before the ball lands in Porch’s hands so he can center over.

16Mins

Great to see Jack Carty willing to fling a big speculative pass. It winds up being contested on Ulster’s right, but Connacht retain. They look in great form with Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell linking the playmakers with the wide areas nicely.

17Mins

Marty Moore taking some treatment around his neck and shoulders there, so Tom O’Toole stripped off to enter the fray, but it looks like the Castleknock man is good to continue.

20Mins

PENALTY! Connacht 7 Ulster 6 (Cooney ’20)

Ulster struggling to create their own momentum on attack with Connacht slowing the ball down.

The Westerners are punished again at the breakdown, Paul Boyle this time, and Cooney makes no mistake from 30 metres.

22Mins

TRY! Connacht 12 Ulster 6 (Marmion ’21)

24Mins

That is another sensational try from Connacht, carving their way through Ulster’s defence. Wootton again looking sharp as he offloads to John Porch and the Australian grubbers from the left wing into a gap filled by Marmion.

Carty adds the extras. That deserved the maximum score.

Connacht 14 Ulster 6

25Mins

It just might be Connacht’s day, y’know. John Cooney pushes a 45 metre penalty just wide.

A tough chance from a penalty straight off the restart, but we’re so used to seeing Cooney pick off targets like that.

28Mins

Better from the northern province as they mount a sweeping attack on the left. Connacht do well to slow it down again and force a turnover to scrum.

32Mins

There’s a trademark Carty chip over the top, but his old team-mate John Cooney reads it perfectly and sweeps it up on an arcing run.

Cooney box-kicks back and there’s a nice statement of Connacht’s ambition as Jarrad Butler takes a hit in an outside channel and is just unable to get the ball away to Aki on the left flank.

35Mins

Ulster taking notes from Connacht now and trying to inject some pace in their attacks through the offloading expertise of McCloskey.

Connacht scrambling well in defence and they’re happy to look for touch as they have the upper hand in the second row department.

37Mins

I’ve gone and jinxed Connacht there. They cough up a penalty through the line-out and Ulster get a chance to get the maul going.

McCloskey is in among the pack and they force their way over the line, but it’s not down.

They’ll go again from the five metre scrum.

38Mins

Super stuff from Connacht without the ball now, forcing Ulster back towards halfway.

Half-time is approaching and Andy Friend would be delighted to keep the try-line in tact until then.

Flag 41Mins

HALF-TIME: Connacht 14 Ulster 6

Timoney is penalised on Ulster’s last attack of the half and there is an almighty collective roar from the green jerseys defending the low end of the Aviva.

Terrific first half back to rugby from Connacht.

41Mins

Here comes the second half.

Ian Madigan isn’t on for Ulster yet, but looks like he won’t be much longer on the sidelines. Alby Mathewson is on for his Ulster debut.

42Mins

Looks like a bad injury for Gavin Thornbury. The big lock just got his head caught as he dipped low to a tackle.

Young Niall Murray is sent in alongside Ultan Dillane in the second row.

There is an extended stoppage for the Dubliner  to receive treatment. Hopefully he’s ok.

43Mins

The medics taking lots of care to remove Thornbury from the field safely.

He’s in a neck brace, but he’s able to offer a thumbs up as the stretcher drives him towards the tunnel.

He’s a serious athlete and a brilliant lock, Thornbury. Hopefully he’ll be back in good order for Connacht’s 2020/21 season.

47Mins

Stuart McCloskey goes on a rampage!

Ulster are probing, probing. The phases mount, but McCloskey looks like he’s had enough of patience and cups the ball as he breaks for the try-line through contact.

Marmion does well to shut off the offload option this time and he’s caught just short. An example of the danger the Bangor Bulldozer possesses.

51Mins

The breakthrough finally comes for Ulster. There was a penalty advantage in the offing in front of the posts. Mathewson feeds Burns and he whips a delicious skip pass to Stockdale who makes the most of the stranded defender to run in.

Burns follows up his accurate pass with an accurate conversion.

Connacht 14 Ulster 13

53Mins

Connact back up the other end and pick up a penalty, but they back their line-out and go for the corner.

Sound the trumpets, for today is the second coming of Ian Madigan. The ex Bristol 10 is on the field for his Ulster debut.

53Mins

TRY! Connacht 19 Ulster 13 (Farrell ’53)

54Mins

Stall the ball. The TMO has intervened. We’ll chalk that try off.

Tom Farrell lost the ball in possession, but James Hume was offside in the same move, so Connacht are still five metres out.

Connacht 14 Ulster 13

TRY! Connacht 21 Ulster 13 (Aki ’55)

No debate about that one. The big Ireland centre crashes right into and over Madigan and under the posts one pass out for the scrum.

56Mins

John Andrew is on the field now for the final 25 minutes. The hooker, remember, wasn’t due to be involved today, but came in with Rob Herring pulled out.

61Mins

Nice tempo to the Ulster attack, Alby Mathewson never fails to impress.

They’re piling pressure on the Connacht end, but green shirts just keep flying into tackles.

Ian Madigan spills, but we go back for the penalty and  yellow card for a high tackle.

SIN-BIN: Jonny Murphy

Loads of time for Ulster to make up the gap against 14 men.

62Mins

TRY! Connacht 21 Ulster 18 (Timoney ’62)

63Mins

Ulster’s maul steam-rolls over the line and the former Sevens international dots down.

Ian Madigan does what he does best, slots the conversion and we have a one-point game.

Connacht 21 Ulster 20

69Mins

Ulster have had to play deep in their own territory since pulling within a point. Connacht doing a good job of seeing out this short-handed period.

72Mins

We’re back to 15 on 15 and Ulster are back in Connacht territory, but not for long as Peter Sullivan raids through the middle.

Another thrilling glimpse of Connacht’s style. They’re choked up at the end, but they’re back in the right part of the field.

James Hume’s day is done. Looks like a head injury. The precocious Mike Lowry is on in his place.

Kieran Marmion looks like he’s really enjoying his rugby again out there. The first half of the season must have been en emotional rollercoaster for him with a move to Saracens scuppered by their financial irregularities.

He’s been terrific again for the Westerners today.

77Mins

Another penalty shot passed up by Connacht, Carty kicks for the corner and it’s probably the sensible call with just three minutes left on the clock.

They can shut out or seal this win from this position.

78Mins

TRY! Connacht 26 Ulster 20 (Aungier ’78)

The debut boy rumbles over the line to seal a bonus point for Connacht.

79Mins

Carty misses the conversion, so Ulster still have a sniff.

20 seconds on the clock.

Flag

FULL-TIME: Connacht 26 Ulster 20

There goes the sniff. A penalty for taking out the catcher in the air.

Another day, another tightly-contested inter-pro derby.

Connacht appear to have used the lockdown period to full effect. They were brilliant to watch today and full value for their bonus point win.

Ulster, well, they discovered yesterday that they had nothing riding on this. No doubt we’ll see better from them in the weeks ahead.

Thanks for joining us. We’ll have lots more reaction to come very shortly on The42. And there’s another round of inter-pros ahead next weekend.

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Sean Farrell

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