Ulster fell to their first defeat of the season in the United Rugby Championship as Connacht took the spoils at Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening.
The visitors enjoyed a spell of territory inside Connacht’s half as they looked to make an early impression. They earned an early penalty when Connacht failed to roll away in the tackle. Ulster opted for the line-out, but good defence from the men in green got them the turnover. The decision was reversed in Ulster’s favour following an altercation. This time, Nathan Doak stepped up for a pop at the posts and made no mistake for the first points on the board for Ulster.
Connacht struck on eleven minutes through second row, Niall Murray who went on the charge to burst over the line. Jack Carty landed the conversion to take the lead.
Ulster got purchase again inside Connacht’s 22 when the hosts were penalised for going off-side, and Nathan Doak nudged over the three points to bring the gap to one point.
The men in white found themselves under pressure when winger Mack Hansen sniffed out an intercept opportunity to run in for Connacht’s second try. Jack Carty converted. With the wind in their sails, Connacht pressed further and got a penalty just two minutes later when Ulster crept off-side and Carty landed the three to stretch the lead.
A penalty opportunity came for Ulster on the half-hour mark, but Doak’s kick drifted just left of the posts.
Ulster found themselves down to fourteen when Alan O’Connor was sent to the bin, and just a few minutes later, so did Connacht with Ultan Dillane the yellow card recipient for repeated infringements.
After the break, Connacht came charging out of the blocks, and Paul Boyle looked like he might get over for a try, but Matty Rea and Stuart McCloskey did really well to hold him up over the line, allowing Billy Burns to make the goal-line drop-out.
Ulster struggled to get out of their half in the third quarter of the game. They were quick to rip the ball through Iain Henderson, and pounced on loose ball opportunities, but couldn’t retain the ball to build the territory needed.
The hosts struck twice in quick succession, with John Porch bamboozling Ulster’s defence for their third, and Diarmuid Kilgallen making an intercept to run clear for the bonus-point try. Carty slotted the conversion for the latter.
The Ulster men got their sole unconverted try on 67 minutes, when Brad Roberts bundled over from the Ulster maul.
With the clock in the red, Ulster looked to get another try as Robert Baloucoune raced down the wing, but Connacht were able to regain possession and Mack Hansen broke clear to run in for their fifth try, with Jack Carty adding the conversion.
Ulster’s next game is a trip to the RDS Arena to play Leinster on Saturday 27th November.
Full-time score: Connacht 36 Ulster 11
Tries: Niall Murray, Mack Hansen (2), John Porch, Diarmuid Kilgallen Cons: Jack Carty (4) Pen: Jack Carty
Tries: Brad Roberts Pen: Nathan Doak (2)
(15-9) Ethan McIlroy, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Craig Gilroy, Billy Burns, Nathan Doak;
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Matty Rea, Nick Timoney, David McCann.
Replacements: Brad Roberts, Andrew Warwick, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Mike Lowry, Ben Moxham.
(15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Sammy Arnold, Tom Daly, Mack Hansen, Jack Carty (CAPT), Kieran Marmion;
(1-8) Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Niall Murray, Ultan Dillane, Eoghan Masterson, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle.
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Jordan Duggan, Jack Aungier, Oisín Dowling, Jarrad Butler, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Diarmuid Kilgallen.