Jake Flannery disappointed as Ulster Rugby blow 17-point lead in United Rugby Championship defeat to Connacht

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​Jake Flannery was gutted as Ulster blew a 17-point lead against Connacht at the Sportsground as the western province inflicted a first defeat of the season on Dan McFarland’s side to move top of the United Rugby Championship table.

Ulster travelled to Galway with 19 players missing and things got worse as Will Addison – due to start at full-back – was a late withdrawal prompting a reshuffle in the back line while debutant flanker Reuben Crothers lasted less than two minutes before having to go off after a heavy collision.

Flannery scored 15 of Ulster’s 20 points with a try, two conversions and a penalty to establish a big lead, but Connacht scored 19 unanswered points in the last 32 minutes to snatch victory.

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“We are really disappointed,” he said. “There were definitely moments there that we didn’t win, and we could have won.

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland. (Photo by PA)Ulster head coach Dan McFarland. (Photo by PA)
Ulster head coach Dan McFarland. (Photo by PA)

“Like every game there are positives, but ultimately it is the result that counts.

"We thought we were good enough to win and we wanted to win and when you don’t get that it is gutting.

“There was some good stuff but you want to win – that’s why you play. You want to compete and we didn’t do that, so we’re disappointed.”

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“There were loads of moments in the game if we had gotten right, I feel like we could have come away with the win, but that is just how the game goes. It is always tight in the Sportsground.

“Connacht are playing really well and we just couldn’t get it done.

“I felt they started to get some good phases, their attack at the moment is really good, they are just running tight shape and it is really hard to defend at times.

“At times our discipline was a little sloppy and we gave away a few penalties and that probably gave them ins and they got a soft try off a maul where I was probably done on my inside shoulder, so that was disappointing on my behalf.

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“There were a few moments where they got back in and they were always going to stay in the fight.”

Ulster haven’t much time to process the defeat as they face another six-day turnaround before hosting league champions Munster in Belfast on Friday night.

“It’s disappointment, it’s frustration,” added Flannery. “We’re really hungry now and desperate to beat Munster – they beat Dragons and are looking sharp.

“We are desperate to regroup, have a look at what went wrong and ultimately fix a few things and go again for what is going to be a great game at the Kingspan.

“I remember we played them last Christmas.

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"I was on the bench and they came up and beat us so that is at the forefront of our minds – we really want to win and need to win.”

Flannery has started two of Ulster’s three games this season and is happy with his own form.

“I have always been pretty confident in what I can do and all I can do is take any chance I can get,” he said. "I love playing for this Ulster team and hopefully I get to play a good bit more through the season.”

Scrum-half Dave Shanahan scored Ulster’s other try while Cathal Forde, Tom Farrell and Diarmund Kilgallen crossed for the hosts.

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