Monday 24 June 2019

O'Brien inspires Connacht victory

PRO 14 League: Ulster 15 Connacht 22

Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran gets past Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale
Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran gets past Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale

Connacht turned back the years for their first win in Belfast since 1960 to claim the points against Ulster in the PRO14 League last night.

It didn't look good early on as The Westerners lost Kieran Marmion in the first minute.

But, they struck through lightning speed with flanker Jarrad Butler as the pivot, wing Matt Healy haring through the middle and Tiernan O'Halloran avoiding Stockdale's desperate tackle for a sizzling try, Jack Carty converting from wide right in the seventh minute.

However, O'Halloran joined Marmion on the sideline with Cian Kelleher introduced just before they survived a period of sustained pressure, their flanker Seán O'Brien herocially leading resistance in defence.

The complete dominance of Connacht's scrum earned a penalty try as Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham turned on the power to jump 14 points clear at the end of the first quarter.

The home side reduced the difference when Stockdale pounced on Caolan Blade's failure to control Billy Burns cross-field kick for 14-5 in the 25th minute.

It could have been closer but for Ulster having tries by Angus Kernohan and Peter Nelson both correctly ruled out for offside.

Then, Coetzee was binned for a high tackle on Kyle Godwin right on half-time.

The next 10 minutes was crucial as Connacht looked to seize on their numerical advantage.

The restart resulted in Matthew Rea seeing a red card for a reckless contact on Kelleher.

The problem for Connacht is that they refused to take a handy three points in favour of going for the jugular. They could not convert and Coetzee returned without further haemorrhaging before John Cooney nailed a 53rd minute penalty.

Ulster scrapped away at the breakdown where Kernohan and Coetzee racked up the penalties to stem Connacht's momentum.

Eventually, Carty knocked over a penalty from another dominant scrum to make it a two-score game at 17-8 in the 68th minute.

It came down to Bundee Aki's instinctive snatch of the ball to seal the deal in the 74th minute.

A last try by Nick Timoney, converted by Cooney, came as nothing more than a consolation.

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