Ulster (13) 23
TRY: Stuart McCloskey, Clive Ross. CON: Paddy Jackson (2). PEN: Paddy Jackson (3)
Connacht (0) 7
TRY: Jack Carty. CON: Jack Carty.

Ulster moved up to fourth in the Guinness PRO12 Table with a 23 – 7 win against Connacht on Friday evening at Ravenhill.

Ulster needed the win to get their league season back on track, and they achieved the victory with something to spare. To my annoyance, they appeared to lacked the ambition to push on for the try bonus. Something they may regret later in the season.

Ulster’s tries came from Stuart McCloskey and Clive Ross. Paddy Jackson, continued his good season from the tee, adding two conversions and three penalties.

The first quarter was non descript as both teams adapted to the wet and windy conditions. Open play wasn’t encouraged as Clancy put his over officious stamp on the game. However, Ulster dominated the set pieces and they got points on the board when Jackson kicked his first penalty on the 21st minute.

The first try came along six minutes later. It was a simple ball off the top of a lineout on the halfway line. The backs moved it wide to Charles Piutau who burst up the right wing to meters from the try line. A quick ruck and Ruan Pienaar found McCloskey out wide to crossed unopposed. Jackson converted and Ulster led 10 – 0.

Jackson added his second penalty on the 37th minute and that was it for the first half. The only question being whether 13 points would be enough as Ulster turned round to face the elements?

In the end it was more than enough as little changed in the second half. Ulster played their rugby a bit deeper but their dominant scrum and line out denied Connacht the chance to build pressure.

As it was, Ulster took the heat out of the game with a 53rd minute try from Ross. It came of the back of another set piece with McCloskey punching towards the posts off the back of a scrum. A couple of dabs at the line and Ross was on hand to force his way over for his first try in senior colours. Jackson converted to put Ulster 20 points clear.

Connacht had to score next and they replied within minutes. No build up, just quick hands, the ball moved from right to left and Carty was there to touchdown in the corner, the out half converting his own try.

The visitors did enjoy improved territorial advantage in the final quarter though, by that time, the damage had been done, a 63rd minute penalty from Jackson keeping Ulster over two scores clear.

Final Score: Ulster 23 Connacht 7

Ulster: Charles Piutau, Louis Ludik, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar, Andrew Warwick, Rory Best, Rodney Ah You, Kieran Treadwell, Iain Henderson, Clive Ross, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson: Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Wiehahn Herbst, Franco vd Merwe, Sean Reidy, Paul Marshall, Darren Cave, Tommy Bowe. 

It was a professional if unspectacular performance by Ulster who played well within themselves to record this win. I would have liked to have seen more urgency though.

Yes, of course, you want players to be fit and raring to go when they get to the business end of the season, but, they have to get to the play offs first and to me this was a point dropped in what looks like a close race.

If it’s a point dropped in favour of a win against Leinster then all well and good. If not, expect me to be starting the New Year with another grumble 🙂 🙂 🙂