Ulster U19 fell to a narrow one-point defeat at the hands of Connacht this afternoon at Maynooth University in their final game of the U19 inter-provincial series.

Tries from Reece Malone, Reuben Crothers and Tom Stewart weren’t enough despite Ulster taking a 19-7 lead ten minutes into the second half.

Ulster made a great start to the match with Luke Pollock gathering an excellently weighted kick off from Malone. Front foot ball was supplied to the forwards who kept making yards before the Ulster out half crossed. Malone’s attempt to convert his own try was unsuccessful, leaving the scores 5-0 after three minutes.

Ulster had to suck up a lot of pressure in the match with Connacht controlling most of the possession and territory. Captain, Reuben Crothers crashed over for his side’s second try after great defensive work.

Connacht managed to cross for their opening score on the half time whistle. Scrum half Hubert Gilvarry broke down the left wing before offloading to Rory McCleane who scored under the sticks to leave the scores 12-7 at the break.

Similar to the first half, Ulster made a great start. Excellent one out running from the forwards gave Ulster a platform and BRA’s Tom Stewart crashed over for Ulster’s third try. Reece Malone’s conversion made it 19-7 to Jonny Gillespie’s men.

Jack Harte was sent to the sin bin 15 minutes after the restart for repeat team infringements and Connacht duly capitalised. Eoin Debuitléar emerged from the bottom with the ball.

Debuitléar scored his second of the afternoon after the western men were camped on the Ulster line for five minutes. This gave Connacht the lead in the match for the first time.

It didn’t last long however as Reece Malone slotted a penalty right of centre and on the Connacht ten metre line to make it 22-21 with ten minutes remaining.

Shane Jennings was quickest to a kick through from Cathal Forde to give Connacht a six point lead before an excellent support line from Conor McKee finished a lovely back line move for Ulster. An unsuccessful conversion saw Connacht go on to clinch the victory.

Plenty of Ulster players impressed this afternoon. Tom Stewart is a powerful ball carrier and possesses lightning pace for a member of the front row union. Similarly Reuben Crothers had a good game as did Reece Malone. Malone plays quite flat to the line and Ulster were dangerous when he was running with ball, with uncertainty in the Connacht defence in front of him.

Ulster U19: Matthew Corr (Ballymena Academy), Luke Pollock (Dalriada School), Jack Harte (Friends’ School, Lisburn), Greg Hutley (Down High School), Charlie Worth (Royal School Armagh), Reece Malone (Friends School, Lisburn), Conor McKee (Sullivan Upper); Adam Hanna (Banbridge Academy), Tom Stewart (Belfast Royal Academy), Patrick McAlpine (Campbell College, Belfast), Will Hopes (Regent House School), Harry Sheridan (Sullivan Upper), Joel Dundas (Wallace High School), Jack Gamble (Ballyclare High).

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