Ulster Women broke a three-year victory drought on the weekend at Connacht rugby’s expense.

Connacht, who went into the do-or-die final game of the interprovincial series having scalped the Northerners last year, failed to fire a shot in the first half. Ulster secured more turnovers, made more tackles, covered more ground, and utilised more weight. Connacht kicked poorly, missed first-up tackles, and made only two promising assaults within the Ulster 22m quarter.

Coach Colm Power launched a fire-and-brimstone halftime broadside at a team barely-recognisable from that which nearly tipped up Munster in week one, and held Leinster to a single try last weekend.

Be it shame, pride, or caustic critique Connacht fired salvo after inspirational salvo in the second half, and battered a leg-heavy Ulster into submission.

Spurred on by skipper Ali Miller’s equally-unimpressed first half appraisal, loose forward Michelle Barry continued the ankle assassination campaign and was one among very few who stood out in the first half. While an empty tank earned her an early finish to make way for Maire Murray on the blindside flank, Barry’s defensive efforts (and heart) far outweighed her diminutive size.

Miller’s first try came from a concerted forward offensive 18m from the Ulster line, 15m left of the posts. Sorcha Ni Chadhain at nine, fed outhalf Clare Raftery, and slick passing through two sets of hands found Ali Miller 15m from the goal-line right of the righthand upright. Four last-ditch defensive efforts faltered and Miller crashed over for the first score of the second spell.

Having combined well with veteran Nuala Ni Chadhain on the left wing, Miller again found space down the lefthand touch and streaked through two tacklers and a cover-defender to post Connacht’s second with 22minutes remaining. Raftery slotted the conversion, an inch or two inside the 5m line.

Ulster rallied well to shift play deep into green territory and, having found a sniff of victory, Connacht dug deep to preserve goal-line integrity.

Cooke outhalf Grace Davitt and scrumhalf Imogen Porter engineered a final score for Ulster to go 15-12 ahead. Connacht forced its way deep once more as intermittent drizzle turned to downpour. Ulster, so prevalent at the breakdown, marched back to within 15m of the Connacht line and pitched camp. The downpour graduated to a deluge, but Connacht held strong desperate for another crack at the Ulster backs, but unable to wrest possession from clinical white forwards.

A 12-5 second half victory counted for little having surrendered 10 points in the first, and Connacht will winter in fourth spot for 2011, Leinster running out champions over the highly-favoured Munster.

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