Ulster 16-8 Connacht

Connacht fell to a narrow defeat in a bruising Interprovincial clash against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night.

Holding a 5-3 half-time lead thanks to Tom McCartney’s try, Connacht were edged out by a second-half Jacob Stockdale try.

A brilliant team move was finished off by McCartney on 36 minutes to give the visitors a 5-3 half-time lead after ex-Connacht man John Cooney had kicked a 29th minute penalty for Ulster.

It was scoreless after the opening quarter as Ulster enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory but were running up against a Connacht brick wall.

On the one occasion that they did manage to find a gap on the outside, Jacob Stockdale’s pass was behind Luke Marshall and the chance went abegging.

Connacht were dealt an early blow when Tiernan O’Halloran but Steve Crosbie slotted into the full-back spot superbly.

Connacht had chances of their own with the set-piece looking very strong and hen the pack on a scrum penalty, Carty kicked for the right corner.

But, for once, the lineout as spoiled by Ulster and Connacht’s most presentable early opening had gone.

Ulster broke the deadlock just before the half hour as the visitors were penalised at the breakdown on the right wing and former Connacht man John Cooney landed the long-range penalty for a 3-0 lead.

Connacht opened their account four minutes before the break with a brilliant team try. A Bundee Aki offload on the left flank as the catalyst to the move as Tom Farrell and then John Muldoon made further inroads into the Ulster half.

The ball was then swung right as Eoin McKeon timed his pass perfectly to Cian Kelleher and the winger popped inside for Jarrad Butler to be stopped just short but McCartney picked and dived over from a metre out.

The hosts regained the lead four minutes after the break thanks to a second Cooney penalty as Connacht were pinged for not rolling away at a dangerous Ulster move.

Carty hit back with his first points after a thrilling sequence as Kelleher sent McKeon clear down the left flank but he was halted. Ulster on the turnover and Charles Piutau kicked clear up the line but Healy gathered and ran the ball back into Ulster territory with the penalty going Connacht’s way and Carty made no mistake.

Ulster hit back almost immediately through a third Cooney penalty to make it 9-8 and Ulster put daylight between the sides for the first time on 57 minutes as Piutau and Stockdale counter-attacked clinically with the latter touching down under the posts.

Cooney converted and Connacht trailed 16-8 with 23 minutes remaining.

Kieran Keane's men battled to the end in search of a way back into the match but Ulster held firm to claim the four points.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran (Steve Crosbie, 12) Cian Kelleher, Bundee Aki, Tom Farell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty (Eoin Griffin, 58), Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade, 72); Denis Buckley (Denis Coulson, 65), Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan, 55), Finlay Bealham (Conor Carey, 70), Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux (James Cannon, 60), Eoin McKeon, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (C) (Eoghan Masterson, 63).
80
End
Mike Haywood
Ahsee Tuala
78
Jamie Gibson
Yellow card
77
Harry Mallinder
Penalty
70
66
Conor Carey
Finlay Bealham
Lee Dickson
Nic Groom
66
65
John Cooney
Kieran Marmion
Api Ratuniyarawa
Christian Day
63
61
Dave Heffernan
Try
Gareth Denman
Kieran Brookes
61
Campese Ma'afu
Alex Waller
61
Tom Wood
Teimana Harrison
57
Nic Groom
Try
56
55
Naulia Dawai
Jake Heenan
48
Ultan Dillane
James Cannon
40
Second Half Start
40
First Half End
28
Craig Ronaldson
Penalty
Harry Mallinder
Penalty
23
Rory Hutchinson
Luther Burrell
22
Harry Mallinder
Penalty
15
4
Craig Ronaldson
Conversion
4
Niyi Adeolokun
Try
2
Matt Healy
Cian Kelleher
Harry Mallinder
Conversion
2
Harry Mallinder
Try
0
0
First Half Start
Northampton Connacht
2
2
Tries
322
330
Metres
81
116
Carries
26
18
Defenders Beaten
5
7
Clean Breaks
102
196
Passes
11
7
Offloads
10
13
Turnovers Conceeded