CONNACHT 20 ULSTER 27
Ulster returned to second place in the Guinness PRO12 with a hard earned, but deserved win over Connacht at a stormy Galway.
The visitors scored five tries, but never were able to shake off a Connacht side who missed a try scoring opportunity near the end which could have given them a share of the spoils.
Ulster opened the scoring after four minutes with a Louis Ludik try.
Even into the gale, Connacht put some pressure on Ulster and looked to have scored but it was ruled out by a TMO referral.
In the final 10 minutes of the first half Ulster got further points on the board with two cracking tries from wingers Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy.
Ruan Pienaar converted from the touchline, his first points of the afternoon to give Ulster a 17-0 lead at the break.
With The gale force wind now in their backs, Connacht made their intentions clear five minutes into the second half when Matt Healy took advantage of some slack defending.
Outhalf, Miah Nikora added the extras and a penalty on 51 minutes to reduce the visiting lead to seven points.
Just before the hour mark, Ulster eased the pressure on themselves when Ireland winger Bowe raced in for his second try after some pressure from the pack.
Connacht hit back with a penalty from replacement outhalf Jack Carty, but Ulster rallied again and captain Rory Best was rewarded for a solid performance when he crossed on 67 minutes.
Pienaar missed both conversions into the breeze and the lead was 27-13.
Tiernan O’Halleron ensured a grand stand finish when he scored a try in the corner for Connacht with 10 minutes remaining and Carty’s excellent touchline conversion put seven points between the sides.
Connacht: T O’Halloran; D Poolman, R Henshaw, B Aki, M Healy; C Ronaldson, K Marmion; D Buckley, T McCartney, R Ah You, Q Roux, A Muldowney, J Muldoon (capt), E Masterson, G Naoupu.
Replacements: S Delahunt, R Loughney, F Bealham, U Dillane, E McKeon, J Cooney, M Nikora, D Leader.
Ulster: L Ludik; T Bowe, J Payne, D Cave, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar; C Black, R Best (capt), W Herbst, D Tuohy, F Van der Merwe, I Henderson, C Henry, R Wilson.
Replacements: R Herring, A Warwick, B Ross, R Diack, C Ross, P Marshall, I Humphreys, S McCloskey.