Match Report: Connacht Rugby 3-10 Ulster Rugby

Ulster edged a tense interprovincial clash with Connacht at the Galway Sportsground by the slimmest of scorelines in the Guinness PRO12, winning 10-3.

Nick Williams’ try with just three minutes remaining proved to be the difference between the two teams, with Paddy Jackson and AJ MacGinty scoring a penalty each.

It was an error-strewn game with lots of mistakes from both teams, but it was Ulster who held their nerve right to the very end to steal the four points that moves them back into the top four in the league.

The early exchanges clearly belonged to the hosts who spent most of the first five minutes in the Ulster 22 but they could not find a way over with Eoghan Masterson spurning the best opportunity and knocking on with the line begging.

From there the game became a scrappy affair with both sides making mistakes and unable to string together a prolonged attack, with neither side even making too much inroads.

Connacht then found themselves lucky not to be down a man after 16 minutes – a high ball from Kieran Marmion was fielded by Andrew Trimble who was clattered in the air by Matt Healy, with the Connacht winger lucky not to see at least yellow.

The game continued as it was before though with both sides guilty of making repeated errors in attack that made the first half a dull affair with neither team too threatening.

Then came the first points of the game after 31 minutes: after Connacht’s Craig Ronaldson had pulled a penalty wide moments before it was down to Paddy Jackson to give the visitors the lead with a penalty of his own.

With the lead Ulster began to string a few things together and were starting to see more of the territory however they couldn’t break through a resolute home defence which was holding firm.

Much like the first half it started with Connacht on top but the Ulster defence held them to almost no metres gained as they crabbed across the 22 metre line eventually ending with a Ronaldson penalty miss.

Ulster, on the other hand, were far more threatening and should have scored when Rory Scholes broke through into the Connacht 22 and when the ball was shipped wide to Andrew Trimble he couldn’t hold Luke Marshall’s pass with the line gaping.

Then came a turning point in the game: Ulster knocked the ball on in attack and from there Bundee Aki hacked the ball all the way into the Ulster 22. Although the hosts didn’t score, Luke Marshall saw yellow for a trip earlier in the play.

With the extra man, Connacht began to gain the upper hand and they levelled the scores with 20 minutes to go through a penalty, this time substitute fly-half AJ MacGinty was on target.

But they could not go on and score any more than that while Marshall was off the field which meant it was a tense ten minutes to finish the game with both sides in with a chance of scoring.

In the end it would be Ulster who would get that defining score from a strike move off a scrum and after Luke Marshall drove up to within inches of the line it was Nick Williams who buried under for the match-winning try.

 

The scorers

For Connacht

Pens: MacGinty

For Ulster

Try: Williams

Con: Jackson

Pen: Jackson

 

CONNACHT RUGBY

(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson (Rory Parata 77), Matt Healy, Jack Carty (AJ MacGinty 57), Kieran Marmion (Ian Porter 77); (1-8) Finlay Bealham (Ronan Loughney 60), Dave Heffernan (Shane Delahunt 55), Nathan White (Rodney Ah You 68), Ultan Dillane, Aly Muldowney (Andrew Browne 57), John Muldoon, James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson (Sean O’Brien 55).

ULSTER RUGBY

(15-9) Louis Ludik, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scholes, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar (Paul Marshall 68); (1-8) Andrew Warwick (Callum Black 43), Rob Herring, Wiehahn Herbst (Ricky Lutton 50), Alan O’Connor (Stephen Mulholland 70), Franco van der Merwe, Robbie Diack, Sean Reidy (Roger Wilson 55), Nick Williams.

Subs not used: John Andrew, Ian Humphreys, Sam Arnold.

Yellow card: Luke Marshall (58’)

 

Man of the Match: Nick Williams (Ulster)

Attendance: 5,876

Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)