ULSTER 35 CONNACHT 3
 
Despite an encouraging opening quarter from Connacht, Ulster secured a bonus point win over Andy Friend’s side at Kingspan Stadium.
 
Conor Fitzgerald kicked Connacht into the lead with a penalty in the opening stages, but that was as good as it got for the men from the West who struggled to break down an impressive Ulster defence.
 
Connacht now head to Dublin next weekend to face unbeaten Conference A leaders Leinster.
 

Connacht Scrum Half Caolin Blade is set to captain Connacht as they travel to Kingspan Stadium to take on Ulster in the Pro14 on Friday (Kick off 7:35pm).
 
Blade has been a central figure for Connacht of late having taken part in all of the province’s 12 games of the current campaign. The 25 year old Monivea man will continue his half back partnership with Conor Fitzgerald for the trip to Belfast.
 
Elsewhere in the back line, Peter Robb has returned from injury to partner Tom Daly in midfield while Tiernan O’Halloran starts at full back in a back three that includes John Porch and Matt Healy on the wings.
 
Up front, Paddy McAllister is another to return from injury in time for the interpro clash. The loosehead prop joins a front row with hooker Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham at tighthead.
 
With Quinn Roux picking up a hand injury against Munster that will likely keep him out of action until the end of January, Andy Friend has been forced to make a change to his second row. Ultan Dillane will line up with Joe Maksymiw who came off the bench last weekend with 20 year old Roscommon man Niall Murray named among the replacements.
 
In the back row, Robin Copeland comes into the starting team at number 8. He will be flanked by Eoin McKeon and Paul Boyle at blindside and openside respectively.
 
Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend said: “We have had a short turnaround from the Munster game, and with Christmas in the middle of that, there isn’t a huge volume of training the squad can get through. We are boosted by the return of Paddy McAllister, Matt Healy and Peter Robb, and those fresh legs are important as we head into the tenth weekend in a row of Pro14 and Champions Cup action”.
 
“Ulster have a fantastic record at home and are unbeaten in Kingspan since we defeated them some 14 months ago. So, we’re looking forward to another competitive interpro game in front of a passionate home crowd.”

 
Connacht Matchday Squad V Ulster (Fri 27 Dec, 7:35pm)
 
(15-9): Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Tom Daly, Peter Robb, Matt Healy, Conor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade (Capt) (1-8): Paddy McAllister, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Joe Maksymiw, Eoin McKeon, Paul Boyle, Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Denis Buckley, Dominic Robertson McCoy, Niall Murray, Eoghan Masterson, Stephen Kerins, Kyle Godwin, Stephen Fitzgerald.

Marcell Coetzee’s try three minutes from time finally ended Connacht’s resistance and sent Ulster through to the Guinness PRO14 semi-finals with a 21-13 win at the Kingspan Stadium.

Only a point separated the teams going into the final ten minutes, but Ulster got their hands on the ball, worked their way up to the line before Coetzee powered over.

Billy Burns converted, and there was no way back for Connacht, with Ulster now set to travel to Glasgow to take on the Warriors in the semi-final.

On an emotional day in Belfast, with Rory Best playing his final game at the Kingspan Stadium, Nick Timoney had given Ulster the early lead.

Bundee Aki responded for Connacht, aiming for a second win in a row in Belfast, but in the end they left themselves too much to do.

Ulster were dominant in the opening stages, and John Cooney put them in front with a simple penalty after Colby Faingaa was pinged at the breakdown.

On 15 minutes they increased their lead with a stunning try. Having punched away through the forwards, Coetzee stepped out of one tackle, offloaded to Kieran Treadwell, who did the same and Timoney finished like a winger, stepping inside Matt Healy on his way to the line. Cooney’s conversion was off-target and Ulster led 8-0.

Connacht had struggled to land a blow to that point, but a beautiful wide pass from Jack Carty tempted Robert Balocoune but drifted outside him to put Healy away. The Ulster scramble defence got back to stop the try, but Treadwell was slow to roll away and Carty slotted the resulting penalty.

Still, it was Ulster who finished the half on the front foot, working their way up to the Connacht line. The visiting defence held and forced Dan McFarland’s team right back out of the 22. However Aki was penalised for a dangerous tackle on Burns, and Cooney slotted the three to make it 11-3 at the break.

Another interception proved even more costly for Ulster. Faingaa raced onto a pass from Burns, slipped a tackle and raced clear. He then found Aki with a clever one-handed offload and he had the pace to outstrip the cover and dive under the posts. Carty converted from in front.

The teams then exchanged penalties to leave the score at 14-13 with ten minutes to go. Best having taken his leave after a typically all-action display.

That set up a grandstand finale, and it was Coetzee, the man of the match on the day, who delivered the final blow to set up a date with Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun.

The result brings the curtain down on a successful season for Connacht which has set up a return to Champions Cup rugby for the province. But unfortunately a semi final appearance proved one step too far for Andy Friend’s side this season.

 

The inclusion of out-half Jack Carty is one of eight changes to the Connacht side to face Ulster at Kingspan Stadium in the Guinness PRO14 Quarter Final on Saturday (k/o 5:35pm).
 
Having been rested against Munster last weekend, Carty returns to form a half-back partnership with Kieran Marmion, with Caolin Blade named among the replacements.
 
Elsewhere in the back line, Tom Farrell comes back in to partner Bundee Aki in midfield. There is one change in the back three from the side that played Munster last weekend with Matt Healy returning to the wing. Stephen Fitzgerald keeps his place on the opposite wing with Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.

Up front prop Denis Buckley returns to the side as does hooker Dave Heffernan. Tighthead Finlay Bealham showed no ill effect of his recent hand injury last time out and he retains his place in the front row. In the second row Irish International Ultan Dillane will partner Gavin Thornbury.
 
In the back row, Colby Fainga’a is the only change as he comes in at openside with Captain Jarrad Butler switching to number 8, while Eoin McKeon is named at blindside.
 
Ahead of the game, Head Coach Andy Friend says his side are really looking forward to the challenge: “This is a massive game for us – knock-out rugby with the added incentive of an interpro. We said all season that we wanted to be playing at the business end of the season but now we want to go and win and get to a semi-final. I genuinely feel that we haven’t played our best rugby yet and we are constantly improving”.
 
Ulster are an outstanding side. They have got better and better and we are facing a much stronger side than what we played earlier in the season. Facing them on their home patch makes the challenge even greater but we are really up for that challenge”, Friend added.
 
Commenting on his team selection, Friend said that there was huge competition to get into the match day squad. “This week we have had 46 players fit and available to us. We have used 50 players throughout the season so there are disappointed boys not to be in the match day 23. We also had some big calls to make in the starting team, but we have picked a team that we feel can go and win this quarter final and we have a bench that gives us even more options over the 80 minutes”.
 
 
CONNACHT STARTING XV & REPLACEMENTS VS ULSTER
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Stephen Fitzgerald, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, (1-8) Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Eoin McKeon, Colby Fainga’a, Jarrad Butler (Capt).
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Eoghan Masterson, Paul Boyle, Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, Darragh Leader.

Tickets are now on general sale for Saturday week’s Guinness PRO14 quarter-final against Ulster in Kingspan Stadium (k/o 5.35pm).

Can you be the difference?

 
PURCHASE YOUR MATCH TICKETS HERE
 
We are also delighted to announce that we are working with our Official Coach Partner, Citylink, to provide supporter buses to and from Belfast on the day of the game. These buses will run from the Galway Coach Station and Dubarry Park, Athlone.

  • Buses will depart Galway Coach Station at 10:30am
  • Buses will depart Dubarry Park, Athlone at 11:30am

As a thank you to our loyal fans, Connacht Rugby will subsidise the cost of bus tickets which will ensure a price of only €15 per person return.

 

BOOK SUPPORTERS BUS TICKETS HERE

 

Our Guinness PRO14 Semi-Final Qualifier with Ulster will take place in Kingspan Stadium on Saturday 4th May with a 17:35 kick-off.

Priority Ticket Access

  • Match tickets will go on priority sale to both our 18/19 and 19/20 Season Ticket members tomorrow morning (Friday April 19th) at 10am.
    (Season Ticket Memberships are available here)
  • All members will be emailed with a link to purchase in our allocated areas.
  • This priority period will end on Wednesday evening (April 24th) at 17:00.
  • Prior to this we will release the link to all other Connacht supporters on Tuesday evening.

 

 

In order to rally as many supporters to this vital play-off game, we have consulted with the Connacht Clan Supporters Club regarding the areas they will be purchasing in. Below are the areas they have prioritised.

  1. West Terrace for those who are happy to stand
  2. Grandstand for those who would prefer to sit

Please note:

  • Terraces are General Admission standing areas
  • Junior tickets are only available in the Memorial / Family Stand and the Memorial / Family Terrace
  • The Family Stand is a non-alcohol area

 

Supporter Buses

We are delighted to announce that we will be working with our Official Coach Partner, Citylink, to provide supporter buses to and from Belfast on the day on the game. These buses will run from the Galway Coach Station.

As a thank you to our loyal fans, Connacht Rugby will subsidise the cost of bus tickets which will ensure a price of only €15 per person return.

 

BOOK SUPPORTERS BUS TICKETS HERE

 

Due to the phenomenal level of interest in this fixture, there may be demand for an extra bus route from Castlebar. Please fill out the form below and we will work with Citylink to plan the appropriate trips. All tickets must be pre-booked and we will notify you when available.

 

Connacht captain Jarrad Butler has returned from injury to take his place in the Connacht starting team to face Ulster on Friday in Kingspan Stadium (Kick off 7:35pm).

Butler is one of four changes to the Connacht side that started against Leinster last weekend. Academy player Paul Boyle also comes into the back row where he is named at number 8.

There is one change in the front row as Tom McCartney starts at hooker in place of the injured Dave Heffernan who captained the team against Leinster. The remainder of the front 5 is unchanged with props Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham both included as is Ultan Dillane and Quinn Roux in the second row.

Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion continue their half back partnership as do Bundee Aki and Tom Farrell in the midfield.

Matt Healy’s return from injury on the wing sees him included in a back three that includes Niyi Adeolokun on the opposite wing and Tiernan O’Halloran at full back.

 

Commenting ahead of the game, Connacht Head Coach Andy Friend says that both sides have a challenge after a six-day turnaround from respective interpros last weekend; “Both sides had tough games last weekend, us against Leinster and Ulster against Munster. Both sides will be trying to recover from the six day turnaround and that is the challenge in these big games”, Friend said.

 

“This week involved reviewing the game last week and fine tuning things from last weekend so we are ready to go for Friday. It is great to have our captain Jarrad back and one or two other guys who were returning from small knocks. We are expecting a massive challenge from a real quality Ulster side”, he added.

 

#ULSvCON

Kick-off 7:35pm:

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, (1-8)Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Paul Boyle.

Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, Caolin Blade, Kyle Godwin, Cian Kelleher.

Ahead of Friday’s Guinness PRO14 interprovincial derby with Ulster, Andy Friend and Ultan Dillane spoke to the media about the game.

 

You can watch both interviews below, in which they discuss learnings from the Leinster game, the reasons behind Connacht’s poor record in Belfast, and what it’s like playing in an interpro.

 

 

Connacht fell to a 16-8 defeat in a bruising Interprovincial clash against Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium on Friday night (read the full match report here).

We are back in action away to Oyonnax on Saturday night in Geneva as we kick off our European Challenge campaign (7pm Irish time).

Hear the latest from Finlay Bealham ahead of the big Interpro in Ulster tomorrow night (7.35pm, live on TG4 & BBC NI).

We have three huge home games against Worcester, Munster and Cheetahs in the coming weeks and we are offering one lucky supporter two Clan tickets to each game.

To be in with a chance of winning this fantastic prize, simply
• Share and Like this Facebook post
• Tag the person you will bring with you to the games.

Tickets are still available to buy for these games here.


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