Ulster moved to second place in the Magners League after a battling win against Connacht on Friday night.
First half tries from Rory Best and Adam D’Arcy looked to have Ulster on course for a bonus point win however a gritty second half performance from Connacht restricted Ulster to a single second half try, late in the game, from Darren Cave. A Humphreys break in the dying moments gave Ulster a sniff of that all important bonus try but unfortunately the final pass to Pienaar failed to go to hand.
While this season will be regarded as a huge success by any measure it has still been a frustrating one for many supporters as there have been few games where Ulster have produced the complete package, with last nights game being a typical example.
An early try from Rory Best looked to have given Ulster the perfect start but they failed to kick on allowing the grizzly Connacht pack to dominate the breakdown. Fortunately the Connacht backs offered little in attack and they were restricted to a Keatley drop goal. Ulster extended their lead and looked bang on target with a try from D’Arcy on the thirty minute mark but Connacht kept a finger hold on the game with a Keatley penalty before the break taking the score to 14 – 6.
The Westies kicked on in the second half with another Keatley penalty, cancelled by a reply by Humphreys, but a converted try by Cronin brought the score to 17 – 16 with Ulster making the game harder than it needed to be.
The arrival of Bryan Young to the front row looked to boost Ulsters performance in the scrum and as the game went on they started to wear down their opponents. A series of scrums close to the Connacht line set up Darren Cave for a well deserved try, capping a fine return to Ulster colours, and with six minutes left Ulster had a glimmer of a chance for that all important fourth.
Despite Humphreys carving out a clear-cut opportunity that vital pass went to ground with the game ending 27 -16.
Ulster’s attention now turns to Saturday’s Ospreys and Leinster fixtures to find out what they’ll need to do against the Dragons in a fortnight’s time.
Ulster: Adam D’Arcy, Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Nevin Spence, Simon Danielli, Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar, Paddy McAllister, Rory Best (capt), Jerry Cronin, Johann Muller, Dan Tuohy, Chris Henry, Willie Faloon, Pedrie Wannenburg.
Replacements: Bryan Young for Cronin (55), Robbie Diack for Faloon (68).
Not used: Andi Kyriacou, Adam Macklin, Tim Barker, Paul Marshall, Ian Whitten, Conor Gaston.