Ulster 34        Connacht 23

Connacht were defeated by a very determined Ulster team in the opening game of the Junior Interprovincial series in Virginia, Co. Cavan last Saturday. Having won the corresponding game last year, and with very strong 2010 squad, Connacht were looking to win on the road and build a base to go one better than there second place in the championship last year.
However, despite a promising start which saw them camped on the Ulster line for the opening 15 minutes, Connacht were hit with a breakaway try after 20 minutes when Ulster flanker Stephen Dickey finished off a move to score under the posts. Out half Martin Irwin converted to leave the score 7 – 0 to the home team. Worse was to follow a few minutes later when a quick tap penalty on the half way line caught the Connacht defence napping and full back Andrew Kennedy scored with Irwin once again converting. This left Connacht chasing the game with the score at 14 – 0 and Ulster, after a decidedly shaky start, were now playing with a new found confidence. Monivea’s Ger O’Connor converted a penalty for Connacht only to have it nullified by Irwin with another one for Ulster. One the half time whistle Connacht were awarded a penalty near the half way line and O’Connor scored with a magnificent kick. This left the score 17 – 6 at half time.
Connacht needed a scoring start to the second half but the opposite was the case when Ulster exploited poor Connacht tackling to score a try in the corner through winger Claude Crawford. Irwin scored an excellent conversion from the touchline to leave the score at 24 – 6. The Connacht scrum and lineout was rock solid during the game but the weakness in defensive tackling led to coughing up easy scores to the opposition. This again proved to be the case when at least five Connacht players missed tackles on Ulster out half Irwin when a run from the halfway line ended up with a try under the posts. The easy conversion left the score at 31 – 6 after 60 minutes.
A further penalty from Irwin made it 34 – 6 after 63 minutes. Coaches Seamus King and Eddie Walshe emptied the bench for Connacht and the fresh bodies had an immediate effect. Connacht’s dominance in the scrum began to tell and throwing caution to the wind Connacht started to show what they were capable of. Sligo’s Farringdon finished off an excellent passing move to score the first try which was converted by club mate Paddy Pearson after 65 minutes. Just two minutes later the same two players combined to score again when a slick back pass from Pearson sent Farringdon over again in the corner, with Pearson just missing the conversion. This left the score at 34 – 18 and suddenly Ulster were on the back foot.
Connacht camped on the Ulster line for the next five minutes and were rewarded when Tuam’s Mike Ward finished off a forward’s move to score a try with two minutes plus injury time left. Pearson missed the difficult conversion.
Ulster held out for a deserved victory but Connacht will rue their lacklustre start. They can take heart from the fact that they finished well and will look to start in the same fashion when they take on Leinster in Creggs next Saturday at 2.30pm

Connacht:    K. Higgins (Capt), K. Corcoran, D. Prior, J. Culkin, T. Lee, G. O’Connor, B. Leahy, A. Bane, M. Lee, T. Toolan, W. Parker, T. McAuliffe, E.Rooney, E. Murphy, A. McNulty
Subs: M. Ward, K. Cox, A. McHale, J. Farringdon, P. Pearson, M. Murphy, D. Gerrity


Gallery: HT minis – Ballinrobe, Ballyhaunis, Corinthians and Dunmore