ULSTER 23 CONNACHT 7
Ulster moved into fourth place in the Guinness PRO12 on points difference from Scarlets after grinding out a deserved win over Connacht at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast on Friday night.
It was a scrappy first quarter, dominated by turnovers and referee George Clancy’s arm.
Paddy Jackson put Ulster ahead on 20 minutes with a penalty.
Connacht did press Ulster a little after the score, but a huge tackle by Jackson on Danie Poolman saw ball spilled and from the scrum Ulster cleared.
The opening try came on 27 minutes and it was worth waiting for. Ulster broke from a lineout, Henderson leading the charge. Stuart McCloskey then fed Jacob Stockdale who came around on the koop.
Fullback Charle Piutau took the ball at full gas, the Connacht cover was light, Piutau went into contact and Ruan Pienaar fed McCloskey who had the simple task of finishing the move.
Jackson’s touchline conversion was on the money for a 10-0 advantage.
Anothert Jackson penalty made it 13-0 going into the break.
Ulster deservedly extended their lead on 52 minutes when Clive Ross forced his way over, but Connacht hit back immediately with a converted try from Jack Carty to make it 20-7.
Jackson landed his fifth place kick of the evening to take Ulster into the last 10 minutes leading 23-7.
Connacht had little to offer in attack in the second half and still search a first win in Belfast since November 1960.
Ulster: C Piutau; L Ludik, L Marshall, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; P Jackson, R Pienaar; A Warwick, R Best (capt), R Ah You; K Treadwell, I Henderson; C Ross, C Henry, R Wilson.
Replacements: R Herring, C Black, W Herbst,, F van der Merwe, S Reidy, P Marshall, D Cave, T Bowe.
Connacht: T O’Halloran; N Adeolokun, R Parata, D Poolman, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, D Heffernan, F Bealham; Q Roux, J Cannon; S O’Brien, N Fox-Matamua, J Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: S Delahunt, T McCartney, JP Cooney, U Dillane, E McKeon, C Blade, C Gaffney, N Dawai.