Connacht on fire
PRO14 REPORT: Ultan Dillane helped himself to a double as Connacht produced a blistering performance to overwhelm Ulster in their inter-provincial encounter at the Sportsground, running out 44-16 winners.
Leading 20-6 at half-time, Connacht were already in total control, and as Ulster lost their discipline in the second half, the home side ran away with it, taking all five points.
Connacht dominated all areas, causing Ulster particular problems with their maul and scrum, while the likes of Tiernan O’Halloran and Bundee Aki were a constant threat with ball in hand.
They made the perfect start when Eoghan Masterson went over after just three minutes. After a good rolling maul, it was the flanker who detached and gleefully dived over and it wasn’t long before they were over again.
This time it came from an initial counter by Tiernan O’Halloran, with Kieran Marmion then darting round the fringe. He found Bundee Aki inside him, and the newly-capped Ireland centre had too much strength and was able to shake off Peter Nelson and Jacob Stockdale to go under the posts.
Carty’s conversion made it 12-0 and Ulster needed a response.
They at least got on the board with a penalty from John Cooney, in his return to the Sportsground having left in the summer.
But again Connacht pounced from the restart, with O’Halloran showing quick to beat a couple of players and force his way over for try number three before Cooney added a second penalty for Ulster.
They could have had a fourth before the break, a remarkable effort playing against the wind, but after being held out they had to settle for a penalty from Carty to go in 20-6 up at the break.
The momentum continued with Connacht at the start of the second half, with Andrew Warwick paying the price for his team’s indiscipline and getting sent to the bin. Carty added a second penalty of the evening from in front.
And it got even worse for Ulster when Louis Ludik was also sent to the sin-bin for an intentional knock-on.
Down to 13, Ulster had no answer to Connacht’s maul, which had been dominant all night. On this occasion, it was Ultan Dillane who emerged from the pile of bodies to secure the bonus point. Carty added the difficult conversion as Connacht ran away with it.
Once Connacht get on a roll, they can be difficult to stop and the fifth try followed on the hour as Niyi Adeolokun collected a cross-kick to go close. With the visiting defence scrambling, the ball was spread wide for Jarrad Butler to stroll over. Carty again converted.
Nothing was going right for Ulster, and even when Ludik returned, he knocked on over the line when he had seemed set to score.
They did finally get over though, with Craig Gilroy showing quick feet to dance over and notch a first Ulster try of the evening.
But Connacht had time for one more, Dillane finishing off a brilliant length-of-the-pitch counter-attack as Ulster pushed for a second try - which they eventually got through Rob Lyttle.
Tries:Masterson, Aki, O'Halloran 2, Dillane, Butler
Cons: Carty 4
Pens: Carty 2
Pens: Cooney 2
Yellow cards: Andy Warwick (Ulster, 46), Louis Ludik (Ulster, 54), Tiernan O'Halloran (Connacht, 73)
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeleokun, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Tom Farrell, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Coulson.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Conor Carey, 19 James Cannon, 20 Naulia Dawai, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Eoin Griffin, 23 Darragh Leader.
Ulster: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Darren Cave, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Peter Nelson, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Iain Henderson (captain), 5 Robbie Diack, 4 Matthew Dalton, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 John Andrew, 1 Andy Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Matthew Rea, 20 Clive Ross, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 Rob Lyttle.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Joy Neville, Kieran Barry (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)