As it happened: Ulster v Connacht, RaboDirect PRO12

Which of the two Irish sides prevailed? Revisit our minute-by-minute coverage to find out.

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Ulster 25-0 Connacht (FT)

Hello, and welcome to this evening’s liveblog. Here are the teams:

Ulster: J Payne; T Bowe, D Cave, P Wallace, A Trimble; P Jackson, P Marshall; T Court, R Best, J Afoa; J Muller (c), D Tuohy; S Ferris, C Henry, N Williams

Replacements: R Herring, C Black, A Macklin, L Stevenson, M McComish, M Heaney, L Marshall, C Gilroy.

Connacht: .R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, A Flavin, R Loughney; M Swift, M McCarthy; D Gannon, W Faloon (capt), G Naoupu

Replacements: J Harris-Wright, D Buckley, N White, J Muldoon, J O’Connor, D Moore, M Nikora, M Fifita.

“Rugby changes faster than the Apple iPhone,” according to RTE’s George Hook, who says Eric Elwood can’t afford to take a break from rugby.

He adds that he finds the timing of the recent announcement that he’ll be leaving Connacht “odd”.

An immaculately observed minute’s silence has just been held in memory of the three late members of the Spence family.

We’re underway…

Ulster have started well, enjoying the majority of possession, but they’ve yet to put Connacht under sustained pressure.

It’s been a scrappy enough opening, with plenty of penalties.

Still no sign of the game’s first score though, with nine minutes played so far.

Ulster 3-0 Connacht: Paddy Jackson gives Ulster the lead on what is a good, still evening for taking kicks (10 mins).

Connacht were previously penalised for collapsing the scrum – an area that Ulster have seemingly identified as a Connacht weakpoint.

Good run by Tommy Bowe, after Marshall makes a break.

The winger is eventually tackled into touch, but nonetheless showed evidence of his great strength and pace in that instance, beating two Connacht players in the process.

Great kick from Parks that finds touch deep inside the Ulster 22.

Good chance now for the visitors to get some points on the board.

Still plenty of mistakes in both sides’ play – the latest of which sees O’Halloran dropping a routine high ball.

Meanwhile, McSharry has had to temporarily go off with a blood injury.

We’re now halfway through the first half and there’s still only three points on the scoreboard.

Therefore, it hasn’t exactly been one for the purists, though it has been fascinating to witness the contrast in styles between the two teams.

Connacht defend well after some Ulster pressure, with Trimble eventually knocking on.

It looked to have gone backwards initially, but the replay reveals the officials’ decision to be absolutely spot on.

Ulster have a five-metre scrum after being held up on the Connacht line.

It was a fantastic run by Trimble to create the opportunity, after Parks failed to find touch with his below-par kick.

Ulster are asking some serious questions of Connacht now, but again, the visitors’ defence is rock solid.

Consequently, they earn a penalty, affording Parks the opportunity to clear.

McSharry is finally back on the field, having temporarily been replaced by Fifita.

Meanwhile, Gannon has just been sin-binned for obstruction, seemingly.

Interestingly, Ulster go for the scrum instead of the kick for their penalty, given their man advantage in the scrum.


Ulster 10-0 Connacht: The referee grows tired of Connacht’s persistent infringements in the scrum, and awards Ulster the penalty try (34 mins).

Paddy Jackson makes no mistake with the conversion.

Dan Parks hasn’t been kicking well tonight, and he has just missed as simple enough penalty.

If he continues to play so poorly, surely a change is needed at half-time.

Things go from bad to worse for Connacht, as Swift concedes a penalty for apparently attempting to knee his opponent.

He was lucky he didn’t connect though, and thus, escapes a sin-binning.


Ulster 17-0 Connacht: Nick Williams drives powerfully over the line despite the attentions of two Connacht players, following a period of intense pressure from Ulster.

Paddy Jackson then gets a comfortable conversion.


It was crucial for Connacht to avoid conceding a second try, and now that they have, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to mount a second-half comeback.

Despite the visitors defending manfully, the persistent pressure that Ulster exerted eventually told, though Connacht’s chances were not helped by Gannon’s sin-binning.

The hosts undoubtedly deserve their 17-0 lead, without being overly impressive.

They have identified Connacht’s major area of weakness – the scrum – and consequently succeeded in exposing the flaw.

The second half is underway…

Ulster and Connacht players stand for a minute’s silence in memory of Nevin Spence (INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

More heavy Ulster pressure, after a clever quick penalty is taken by Marshall.

They now have a five-metre scrum, after being held up on the try line.

Meanwhile, Gannon is back for Connacht.

Big chance for Connacht, as Henshaw makes an excellent break, but his pass is knocked on by Vainikolo.

He argues that he was being held by Marshall while attempting to catch the pass, and judging by the replay, he has a point.

It’s finished Zebre 16-34 Ospreys in tonight’s other RaboDirect PRO12 game.

Ulster continue to dominate territorially in this second half.

With around 25 minutes to play, Connacht already look a beaten side.

It’s become rather dull at the moment.

Connacht don’t look threatening, while Ulster seem in no rush to try to get the bonus point.

There have been a number of changes, with Rory Best among those leaving the field, and he departs to loud applause.

Ulster 20-0 Connacht: Paddy Jackson extends Ulster’s advantage, and thus, scores the first points of the second half.

Jackson has looked very assured tonight, with a 100% kicking record, in stark contrast to his opposite number – the disappointing Parks.

George Hamilton thinks Eric Elwood will be pleased with the fact that Connacht have only conceded three points in the second half.

The words ‘clutching’ and ‘straws’ spring to mind.

Unsurprisingly, given the scoreline and the numerous changes, this game has hit a bit of a lull of late.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see no more scores this evening.

The impressive Nick Williams has had to leave the field, after picking up a rib injury amid a deluge of bodies near the Ulster try line.

He certainly deserves the rapturous round of applause he is being afforded.


Ulster 25-0 Connacht: An excellent cross-field kick from Paddy Wallace finds Tommy Bowe.

The winger is held up at the line, but the ball is eventually passed to Marshall, who runs over for a simple try.

The conversion is missed, though it hardly matters.

RTE’s Daire O’Brien oddly describes the game as “a poor lunchtime sandwich – instantly forgettable”.

Meanwhile, George Hook criticises Ulster for failing to get the bonus point.


Nick Williams was deservedly given the Man of the Match award tonight.

He was part of a vastly superior scrum, and got the all-important second try, showing impressive physicality to drive over the line.

Steam rises from both teams on a cold night in Ravenhill (INPHO/Morgan Treacy).

So, Ulster ultimately gain a comfortable victory.

They may regret not really pushing themselves for the bonus point in the second half come the end of the season, but that’s a minor quibble, particularly as they’ve now consolidated their position at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 table.

They controlled the match for the most part, and intelligently focused in on the scrum, taking advantage of their clear superiority in this area.

Connacht, though they were undoubtedly beaten by the better team, can at least take heart from their defence, which performed diligently, and prevented it from being a cricket score.

The key moment of the game was arguably Gannon’s sin-binning, as the hosts took capitalised on their man advantage thereafter, establishing a healthy lead just before half-time.

That’s all folks!

Thanks for reading and commenting, and enjoy your weekends.

Read: Engage: Mark Anscombe and Eric Elwood look ahead to Ulster v Connacht>

Read: Pro12 Cheat Sheet: Your guide to this weekend’s inter-provincial rugby action>

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