Connacht ended Ulster’s winning run with a three try victory over the northern province at an unusually mild Sportsground in Galway.

Tries from Angus Kernohan and Jordi Murphy were not enough for Ulster as the western province completed the double over for the first time in their history.

In truth Connacht deserved the fourth try and they had plenty of chances to take it. With the majority of possession and territory in the first half, Connacht opened up a 14-0 lead through tries from Shane Delahunt and Bundee Aki.

It is was disappointing to see Ulster gift Connacht the ball in dangerous places through misplaced passes and knock-ons. For both tries, handling errors resulted in scrums for the home side and they were able to squeeze out a penalty from a dominant set piece despite being 18kg lighter than their opposition.

Kernohan brought Ulster to within seven points at the break and gave Ulster a platform to push on in the second half. With a penalty advantage, a Johnny McPhillips cross kick was fumbled by Cian Kelleher and the former Ballymena Academy man dotted down.

The hope was short-lived after the interval. Jack Carty gathered a kick from Kyle Godwin and popped to Caolin Blade for the score. Replays indicated a suspicion of offside when Carty received the ball however Marius Mitrea argued that there was nothing clear and obvious to warrant an official review. To me it looked like there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Carty was ahead of the kicker.

The arrival of Tommy O’Hagan and Ross Kane solidified the scrum and Connacht took their foot off the gas after their third score much to the disappointment of head coach Andy Friend. With a 14 point deficit, Ulster had a sufficient amount of possession in the Connacht half to pull themselves back into the game but unforced errors let the home side off the hook.

Ulster’s pressure finally paid off. Successive penalties in the red zone saw Ultan Dillane sent to the sin bin and the away side rumbled a maul over the line from the resulting penalty with Jordi Murphy emerging from the bottom with the ball. The missed conversion meant that Ulster would not be leaving Galway with any points.

With a man advantage for ten of the 15 closing minutes that try should have kickstarted some Ulster momentum. This was not the case. A silly knock on from Nick Timoney, who was never in a position to catch the ball saw most of the time where Ulster should have been attacking, pinned back inside their own 22 as Connacht attempted to run down the clock. That was a particularly disappointing moment but summed up the game from an Ulster perspective.

We remain in second spot thanks to Cardiff’s hammering of Scarlets this afternoon which sees the Welsh side slip to fourth. Wins for Edinburgh and Benetton close the gap however and only three points separates second and fifth.

Though Ulster sit in second in Conference B, they are fifth in a combined table while the interpro table is stark reading. It increasingly looks like Ulster are now the ‘fourth’ province in Ireland even though Connacht retain their ‘development’ status.

Leinster 4 3 0 1 100 80 20 11 9 1 13
Munster 4 2 0 2 124 73 51 14 8 2 10
Connacht 4 2 0 2 75 80 -5 10 11 2 10
Ulster 4 1 0 3 53 119 -66 8 15 1 5


While ‘bragging rights’ are wonderful to have there’s no trophy for it and Ulster have reason to cheer heading into the new year with a spot in the quarter finals of the Heineken Champions Cup up for grabs. It’s not all doom and gloom as I’m convinced we’ve made baby steps forward this season but Ulster need to become less reliant on the leadership of Rory Best and Iain Henderson as the difference in quality of performance without these players is frightening.

Next is a trip to D4 a place that has just brought misery to Ulster fans in recent years and I don’t expect that to change.

6.0 Awesome

Galway is a tough place to go and win and the chances of a win are even less when the passing accuracy is not there.
Neither half backs had a particularly good game as erratic passing resulted in a loss of possession or a stunt of momentum and both were comprehensively outplayed by their opposite numbers.
Conor Carey had the better of Eric O'Sullivan at scrum time while the lineout misfired on a few occasions while the lack of leaders on the pitch was evident to see. Ulster rely too heavily on Rory Best and Iain Henderson.
Despite there were a few Ulster players that came out of the match with a few positives namely Ian Nagle, Jordi Murphy and Angus Kernohan.
Kernohan was targeted with the high ball but dealt with it well while Nagle was aggressive as ever at the break down.

  • Eric O'Sullivan 6
  • Rob Herring 6
  • Marty Moore 6
  • Ian Nagle 7
  • Kieran Treadwell 6
  • Nick Timoney 5
  • Jordi Murphy 7
  • Marcell Coetzee 6
  • John Cooney 5
  • Johnny McPhillips 5
  • Angus Kernohan 7
  • Darren Cave 6
  • Will Addison 6
  • Henry Speight 6
  • Louis Ludik 5
  • Adam McBurney N/A
  • Tommy O'Hagan N/A
  • Ross Kane 6
  • Clive Ross N/A
  • Greg Jones 6
  • Dave Shanahan 6
  • Pete Nelson 6
  • Stuart McCloskey 6
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