Ulster crushed by six-try Connacht in final game of 2017
Connacht 44-16 Ulster
There'll be no festive joy at Kingspan Stadium as Ulster were hammered in their final game of the year, losing 44-16 to Connacht at the Sportsground.
The home side scored six tries in a thoroughly dominant performance that will leave Les Kiss with nightmares of how his side were so easily taken apart in this festive interpro.
It was a horror start for Ulster who, after losing Matthew Dalton in the build up to the game with tonsillitis, found themselves two tries down after only seven minutes.
Eoghan Masterson guided a maul over the line in just the third minute to assert the hosts’ forward dominance, before Bundee Aki showed his usual power and pace to hold off two desperate Ulster tackles to go under the posts.
Whatever the reasoning for Ulster’s slow start, it took them too long to grow into the game, and by the time John Cooney stuck over a 23rd minute penalty it was already a game of catch-up, made even harder less than a minute later.
Connacht won their own restart and moved it wide quickly, with Tiernan O’Halloran cutting the line through and powering past Peter Nelson to touch down for the hosts’ third try.
Cooney and Jack Carty traded penalties just before the interval, but that masked the home dominance as they could have had more having been camped on the visitors’ line at the tail end the of the half.
They got their reward in the second half, Carty kicking off proceedings with a penalty sandwiched between two Ulster yellow cards to Andy Warwick and Louis Ludik as the visitors failed to cope with what was being thrown at them.
Then Connacht went to town. Dillane got the bonus point score from another driving maul, before Jarrad Butler finished off with men over five minutes later for the fifth.
Johnny McPhillips was introduced off the bench for Ulster, which seemed to improve things a bit and, after they’d had a try chalked off by the TMO, Les Kiss’ side finally got over through Craig Gilroy.
Even when O’Halloran was sin binned following a McPhillips intercept, Connacht still found their way over the line as Dillane finished off their own intercept try for his second of the night for a sixth score.
Rob Lyttle added a late consolation score for Ulster, but this is a night they’ll want to forget in a hurry.
Tries: Masterson, Aki, O’Halloran, Dillane (2), Butler
Cons: Carty (4)
Pens: Carty (2)
Tries: Gilroy, Lyttle
Pens: Cooney (2)
CONNACHT RUGBY: (15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun (Darragh Leader 64), Bundee Aki (Eoin Griffin 64), Tom Farrell, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion (James Mitchell 62); (1-8) Denis Coulson (Peter McCabe 57), Shane Delahunt (Tom McCartney 57), Finlay Bealham (Conor Carey 57), Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux (James Cannon 57), Eoghan Masterson, Jarrad Butler (Naulia Dawai 62), John Muldoon.
ULSTER RUGBY: (15-9) Jacob Stockdale, Craig Gilroy, Louis Ludik, Darren Cave, Andrew Trimble (Rob Lyttle 52), Peter Nelson (Johnny McPhillips 64), John Cooney (Paul Marshall 62); (1-8) Andy Warwick (Schalk van der Merwe 57), John Andrew (Adam McBurney 46), Wiehahn Herbst (Ross Kane 48), Iain Henderson, Robbie Diack (Matty Rea 64), Clive Ross, Sean Reidy (Greg Jones 36), Nick Timoney.
Yellow cards: Andy Warwick (47’), Louis Ludik (55’)
Man of the Match: Matt Healy (Connacht)
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Here's the match as it happened:
Belfast Telegraph Digital