Ulster see off Connacht at Kingspan Stadium

Connacht's Bundee Aki tackled by Stuart Olding and Darren Cave of Ulster
Connacht's Bundee Aki tackled by Stuart Olding and Darren Cave of Ulster

Ulster moved into fourth place in the Guinness PRO12 after this hard earned 13-10 victory over Irish rivals Connacht at the Kingspan Stadium.

A late try by the visitors was to set up an anxious last 10 minutes for Ulster, but they clung on to take their first win in three outings in the PRO12.

Ulster had made seven changes to the side and they were forced into another before kick-off when Luke Marshall was taken ill and Stuart Olding was promoted from the bench and Michael Allen came into the replacements.

In the absence of captain Rory Best, number eight Roger Wilson, skippered the side, the occasion also being his 300th professional appearance.

Connacht were also forced into two eleventh hour changes. Ronan L0ughney suffered a back problem in training and Denis Buckley stepped up, JP Cooney brought into the replacements.

And Quinn Roux broke down during the warm-up, his place taken in the second row by Ultan Dillane and Andrew Browne called up to the bench.

The conditions were poor with rain falling incessantly for the game and that ensured a battle of the packs, but the teams did show some enthusiasm to throw the ball about at times.

Connacht started strongly and while Bundee Ali was denied a try by a great line tackle by Roger Wilson - the Ulster captain making his 300th professional appearance - but an earlier offside enabled outhalf Jack Carthy to open the scoring on five minutes.

Ulster dominated matters after that however and Paddy Jackson kicked one penalty and then missed another before popping the ball into hands of Craig Gilroy who forced his way in for a try after 20 minutes. Jackson converted before missing another penalty on 28 minutes.

Connacht spurned a great chance of a try in the closing minutes of the half to leave Ulster 10-3 ahead at the break.

The first score of the second half did not come until after 63 minutes when Jackson was successful with a penalty kick.

Connacht then sparked and ensure it was going to be an entertaining finish for the packed house when lock Aly Muldowney was driven over by the pack from a lineout and outhalf McCarty added the conversion.

However, Ulster were to cling on in the closing minutes to take a much needed win.

Ulster: L Ludik; C Gilroy, D Cave, S Oldingl, P Nelson, P Jackson, P Marshall; C Black, R Herring, W Herbst, D Tuohy, F vd Merwe, R Diack, C Ross, R Wilson.

Replacements: J Andrew (Wilson 68), A Warwick, D Fitzpatrick (Herbst 57), A O’Connor, (van de Merwe 60) S Reidy (Diack 67), M Heaney, I Humphreys, M Allen.

Connacht: D Leader; D Poolman, B Aki, D McSharry, M Healy, J Carty, J Cooney; D Buckley, T McCartney, F Bealham, U Dillane, A Muldowny, J Muldoon (capt), W Faloon, G Naoupu.

Replacements: D Hefferenan, JP Cooney (Buckley 77), R Ah You (Bealham 67), A Browne, E Masterson, K Marmion (Cooney 58), C Ronaldson (McCarty 69), M Muliaina (Leader 49)..