A losing bonus point was the only consolation for Pat Lam’s men as Connacht were defeated 13 – 10 away to Ulster in round 11 of the GUINNESS PRO12. It was the first time the western province claimed a single league point since their last win at the Belfast venue in 1960.

Lock Aly Muldowney got over for his first Connacht try on 66 minutes on the back of an impressive driving maul. 22-year-old outhalf Jack Carty converted the score to add to his earlier penalty kick in the first half.

But Craig Gilroy’s opportunist try and eight points from the boot of Paddy Jackson was enough for Ulster to extend their unbeaten home record.

Connacht started the game well and found themselves in the hosts’ 22 after just two minutes on the clock. Playing advantage deep in the Ulster 22, play was brought back for the first penalty of the game which Carty dispatched with ease to give Connacht an early 3 – 0 lead.

Moments later, Ulster had the chance to strike back when skipper John Muldoon was penalised by referee John Lacey for straying offside. But Jackson’s first attempt was wide as it shaved the right post.

The 22-year-old had the chance to make up for his earlier mistake on 13 minutes when Connacht were caught offside again and this time he made no mistake with the kick at goal to level the scores.

The home side took the lead when an attacking lineout on the fringe of the 22 set up the platform for Gilroy’s try. On a pop pass from Jackson, the winger evaded three would-be tacklers to touch down near the posts. Jackson added the extras to make it 10 – 3.

Connacht had an opportunity with their own attacking lineout on the 10m line just before the break. Danie Poolman took a brilliant line to bring his side in to the hosts 22. But despite a number of pick and drives, the Ulster defence held strong and on the stroke of half time, Neil Doak’s men forced a relieving penalty in the corner when Connacht were penalised for holding on.

Half time: Ulster 10 – 3 Connacht

It was a tight battle in the second half with no change to the score board until the 62nd minute when Connacht were penalised for tackling off the ball and Jackson slotted the simple penalty in front of the posts to put some more distance between the sides.

Two minutes later, Matt Healy jumped to collect the ball kicked downfield but the winger was taken out early by the onrushing Gilroy and Connacht had a attacking platform following Carty’s important touch finder. The driving maul was set up from the 5m lineout and it was Muldowney who grounded the ball. Carty added the extras to bring it to a three-point game once again.

With three minutes remaining, Connacht had an attacking lineout on Ulster’s 10m line and a chance to record a historic win in Belfast. But it wasn’t to be as the Ulster defence dug deep to turn over the ball. Both sides had chances in the dying moments but neither was able to alter the score line and a losing bonus point was the only consolation for Pat Lam’s side who face current league leaders Munster at the Sportsground on New Year’s Day.

Full time: Ulster 13 – 10 Connacht

Ulster: L Ludik; C Gilroy, D Cave, L Marshall, P Nelson, P Jackson, P Marshall; C Black, R Herring, W Herbst, D Tuohy, F van der Merwe, R Diack, C Ross, R Wilson.
Replacements: D Fitzpatrick for W Herbst (56 mins), A O’Connor for F van der Merwe, S Reidy for R Diack (both 60 mins), J Andrew for R Wilson (68 mins).

Connacht: D Leader; D Poolman, B Aki, D McSharry, M Healy; J Carty, J Cooney; D Buckley, T McCarthy, F Bealham; Q Roux, A Muldowney; J Muldoon (capt), W Faloon, G Naoupu. Replacements: M Muliaina for D Leader (48 mins), K Marmion for J Cooney (58 mins), R Ah You for F Bealham (68 mins), C Ronaldson for J Carty (69 mins), A Browne for U Dillane (71 mins), JP Cooney for D Buckley (77 mins).

Referee: J Lacey (IRFU)

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