Ulster survives returning to fight after Connacht

Ulster center Stewart McCluskey takes on Connecticut Bondi AKI
CONNACT (3) 20
Try: Feather, Butler, Byrne Deceive: Carty Pens: Carty
Ulster (5) 22
Try: Little, Stuart 2 cons: Connie 2 Pens: Cosmic

Ulster got back to winning ways by holding off a late Connacht comeback to win 22-20 in United’s Rugby League Championship game on Friday at the Sports Ground.

Ulster took a 19-3 lead but Connacht fought back to within two, but a failed Jack Carty try denied them a draw.

Northern Province lost three times in a row in all competitions, but two tries from Tom Stewart and one from Rob Little helped them seal victory in Galway.

Colin Blade, Grad Butler and Adam Byrne crosses for the home side.

The Irish fly-half Carty hit his final kick in a thrilling finish as the home team’s overs fell late on.

The winners move into third place in the URC table with their seventh win in nine URC matches this season while their opponents are 11th in the standings after Friday’s matches, their points tally boosted slightly by a lost bonus point.

Connacht came into the game on the back of six wins from their last eight matches in all competitions having started their URC campaign with three consecutive defeats, including away to Ulster on the opening weekend.

Only Leinster have come out of Galway with a win in the last 11 months but it was Ulster, who had suffered back-to-back defeats by Leinster, Sale and La Rochelle, who started better.

Ulster on top early

Dan McFarland’s men controlled territory and possession for much of the first half and put up some great sections of play but it was the 29th minute before they scored.

Stewart offloaded to Ethan McIlroy and passed to Luke Marshall, whose attempt to find Little was scuttled by Tiernan O’Halloran.

The Ulster winger showed some great footwork to kick the ball over the line and then hop on it for a deserved opening try. Connie was off target with the conversion.

Carty reduced his team’s deficit shortly after with a penalty kick after referee Frank Murphy deemed Stewart offside.

A frustrated Connacht leaves the stadium after the match
Frustrated Connacht players leave the field after the match

The visitors held on to the lead after the break and were rewarded when Stewart bumped out on 45 minutes.

Ulster secured possession from their line-up and advanced to their opponents’ line courtesy of rolling strikes, with the Ulster hooker marking the man-of-the-match performance by stretching to score.

This time Kony kicked the ball between the posts for two extra points.

Ulster continued to dominate the run, putting together a multi-stage play, keeping the ball within reach and Nathan Dock dazzling on his first start at fly-half.

Nine minutes after scoring his last, the same strategy produced Northern Conservative try number three – a corner kick, Henderson won the line-up, and the shot rolled towards the goal line, Stewart this time scooping off his back before flicking in for his seventh attempt. season.

Cooney’s conversion from a tight angle extended his side’s lead to 16 points as the increasingly embattled home team struggled to gain any foothold in the match.

Battle Connacht return

The Westerners extended their arrears to 11 points on the hour mark, but when scrum-half Blade caught the ball off the goal line and darted unchallenged over the line. Carty missed his relatively straightforward conversion attempt.

Then Stewart’s hat-trick of tries from close range was denied by some good last-minute defensive work on the part of Andy Friends.

Connacht finished strongly, using the man advantage to good effect after Greg Jones was cornered by sin and almost salvaged an improbable equaliser.

Cian Prendergast saw his score disallowed for accidental offside after peeling the back of the kick and diving.

Then, Butler fell and Carty converted to set up a frantic finish, with more than five minutes to go on fellow substitute Byrne after his team went through the stages.

McHansen built in well, Carty slashed through the scrambled Ulster defence, and shrugged off Burn Little to dive into the corner.

Carty’s conversion kick went wide of the stands to the disappointment of the home fans and the delight of visiting fans whose side had struggled to achieve their hard-won success.

CONNACT: O’Halloran. Porch, Farrell; Aki, Hansen; Karti (Kapet), Blade; Buckley, Delahunt, Pelham; Murphy, N. Murray; O Dowling, Oliver, Prendergast.

Alternatives: Heffernan, Dooley, Robertson-McCoy, Hurley-Langton, Butler, Marmion, Hawkshaw, Byrne.

Ulster: Laurie. McIlroy, Marshall; McCluskey, Little; Do it, Connie. Sutherland, Stewart, Moore; O’Connor, Henderson (Captain); Place, Marcus Rea, Timoney.

Alternatives: Andrew, O’Sullivan, Milasenovic, Carter, J Jones, D Shanahan, J Flannery, S Moore

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