Connacht lit up the Aviva Stadium in their 36-11 interprovincial win against Ulster in the United Rugby Championship tonight.
A brace of tries from Mack Hansen, as well as touchdowns from John Porch, Diarmuid Kilgallen and Niall Murray sealed the win for the designated home team. The boot of Jack Carty also tacked eight points onto the score -- via a penalty and four conversions -- as the Westerners produced a superb performance of equal parts intensity and accuracy.
Ulster started the game with intensity and their efforts yielded a penalty which Doak made no mistake with to give the designated visitors a 3-0 lead.
The away team kept the tempo high in search of a try, but Connacht -- with Conor Oliver and Tom Daly defensively resolute -- repelled them backwards and their defence gave them a platform to grow into the contest after ten minutes of pressure from Ulster.
The Westerners made their presence felt on the scoreboard thereafter with a beautifully crafted try. Carty’s pass found Daly and the centre -- attracting the attention of Ulster defenders -- created a gap for Paul Boyle and the number 8 in turn offloaded to Murray. Running a cutting angle and showing brilliant pace, the second row powered into the gap and over the try line. His fellow Roscommon man, Carty, slotted the conversion to give the hosts a 7-3 lead.
The onus was on Ulster to find a way back into the game but their attempts to run out of their own 22 were stunted when Hansen -- with fantastic awareness -- snaffled an interception and sped away from the cover defence to touch down and give Connacht their second try. Once again, Carty -- whose game management and placekicking were both superb -- kicked the extras and the Westerners were 14-3 to the good.
Both teams swapped penalties -- with Doak and Carty both successful off the tee -- and yellow cards, with Alan O’Connor and Ultane Dillane taking their turn on the naughty step, and Connacht went into the interval leading 17-6.
The Westerners started the second half in a similar, attacking manner, but it took them twenty minutes -- thanks to sturdy Ulster defence -- to make their dominance count on the scoreboard.
An excellently crafted set-piece move from a scrum saw Jarrad Butler feed Kieran Marmion and the scrum-half found Carty with a pass. The out-half then released Hansen on an angle and the winger burst into space before passing to replacement Conor Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald -- showing selflessness and spatial awareness -- then assisted Porch, who sped into the corner to touch down. The score saw Connacht move into a 22-6 win.
One second-half try soon became two when Kilgallen -- who earlier replaced the impressive Tiernan O’Halloran at full-back -- sensed an opportunity at an intercept and, backing his initiative, plucked an Ulster pass to run in Connacht’s bonus point try. Carty made no error in slotting the conversion and the Westerners found themselves 29-6 ahead.
Ulster responded in kind when their replacement, Roberts, touched down at the tail of a rolling maul to bring the score to 29-11.
But Connacht weren’t done there and they added their fifth try when Hansen -- once again sensing a gap in the defence -- sped away from the defence to touch down. Carty slotted the extras with the clock in red and the game ended 36-11 in favour of the Westerners.
15: Tiernan O’Halloran
14: John Porch
13: Sammy Arnold
12: Tom Daly
11: Mack Hansen
10: Jack Carty
9: Kieran Marmion
8: Paul Boyle
7: Conor Oliver
6: Eoghan Masterson
5: Ultan Dillane
4: Niall Murray
3: Finlay Bealham
2: Dave Heffernan
1: Matthew Burke
Replacements: Duggan for Burke, Delahunt for Heffernan, Aungier for Burke, Dowling for Dillane, Butler for Boyle, Blade for Marmion, Fitzgerald for Daly, Kilgallen for O’Halloran