Match report: Ulster heap woe on Connacht
April 11, 2008
The conditions played a big part in a mistake-strewn and tense affair at Ravenhill but Ulster did just enough to take this crucial bottom-of-the-table clash to put considerable daylight between themselves and basement side Connacht.
Second-half tries from Ulster prop Tom Court and wing forward Matt McCullough ensured that Matt Williams' side denied the visitors a losing bonus point to put Ulster eight ahead of the western province with four games remaining for the Ravenhill outfit.
It should be enough to secure Heineken Cup rugby for Ulster for another season, but Connacht will be deeply disappointed at the outcome after Andy Dunne missed four kicks at goal when the home side seemed there for the taking.
Ulster could hardly have made a more unsettled start when number eight Stephen Ferris was rightly sin-binned in the seventh minute for recklessly diving over a ruck, though Connacht failed to take immediate advantage during the rainswept start to the game when Dunne's drop goal sailed wide.
However, the visitors' out half made amends just before the quarter hour mark with a penalty after Ulster failed to roll away at a ruck.
A minute later Connacht were also down to 14 men when prop Robbie Morris was also shown yellow after an offence at the restart.
Ulster out half Niall O'Connor failed with the penalty attempt but then put the ball between the sticks three minutes before the break to draw Ulster level.
As a miserable first half petered out Dunne then hit his second penalty attempt wide.
Dunne missed two penalties in succession shortly after the restart - the second seeing him immediately substituted by Troy Nathan - before two chargedowns brought Ulster deep into Connacht territory from where, after five minutes camped near the visitors' line, Court was driven over.
Paddy Wallace, now at out half in place of the substituted Niall O'Connor, converted and Ulster had kick-started their game.
Wallace then landed a 66th-minute penalty to make it 13-3 but Nathan got Connacht back into losing bonus territory with a 71st-minute penalty.
It was shortlived, however, as McCullough had the final say when he was driven over for an unconverted effort three minutes from time.
Ulster (3) 18
Connacht (3) 6
Ulster: B Cunningham; T Bowe, A Trimble, P Wallace, M Bartholomeusz; N O'Connor, I Boss; J Fitzpatrick, R Best (capt), T Court, J Harrison, C Del Fava, M McCullough, K Dawson, S Ferris.
Replacements: N Brady, B Young, R Caldwell, N Best, P Marshall, R Dewey, M McCrea.
Connacht: G Duffy; M Mostyn, M Deane, K Matthews, D Riordan; A Dunne, C McPhillips; B Wilkinson, A Flavin, R Morris; D Gannon, A Farley (capt); J Muldoon, J O'Connor, C Rigney.
Replacements: J Fogarty, R Loughney, A Browne, L Casserly, R Shaw, T Nathan, D Yapp.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
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