Heroic Connacht reach URC semi-finals

06 May 2023

Heroic Connacht reach URC semi-finals


Connacht are South Africa-bound for the semi-finals of the BKT United Rugby Championship after a sensational win over Ulster in Kingspan Stadium.

Having previously gone 58 years without a win in Belfast, the coaching team led by Andy Friend guided the squad to their third victory at the ground in the span of 5 years - in a performance built on enormous physicality, rock solid defence and relentless work at the breakdown.

Plans are now well in motion for a trip to South Africa where the province will face either the DHL Stormers or Vodacom Bulls for a place in the Grand Final, and an opportunity to relive that famous day in 2016.

It was a 5 point win in the end, but the squad would be the first to say the margin of victory could and should have been at least double that, had they been more clinicial with some of their entries into the Ulster 22.

Connacht led 9-3 at the break thanks to three penalties from Jack Carty, which was a good response to Ulster opening the scoring with a penalty of their own just before the 20th minute mark. A number of handling errors meant the lead wasn't any greater, but they succeeded in keeping the hosts away from any genuine try-scoring opportunities of their own.

One man who dominated the 1st half and indeed the game was Shamus Hurley-Langton, who produced a sensational performance from the first minute, having impressed off the bench in his last few games. With 18 carries, 16 tackles without a miss, 4 defenders beaten and 2 turnovers won, a deserved Player of the Match award went his way after full-time.

The second half started much like the first half ended, with Connacht dominating possession and territory but unable to convert the opporunities into points. A fourth penalty from Carty stretched the lead to 9, but then began a period of Ulster dominance who touched down for their first try on 65 minutes.

The gap was down to 2 points heading into 75 minutes when an excellent break from Kieran Marmion brought Connacht deep into the Ulster half, and Carty's fifth of the night meant Ulster had to go chasing a try in the closing stages.

The hosts managed to get 5 metres short as the clock went into the red, but replacement Dylan Tierney-Martin popped up with the decisive turnover at the breakdown to seal the win, sparking jubilant scenes from the players, staff and huge numbers of travelling supporters.

Next up is all eyes on a visit to the southern hemisphere, with Connacht fans dreaming of even better days to follow this month.