ULSTER DISMANTLED CONNACHT in their RaboDirect Pro12 clash at Ravenhill this evening, finishing as 58-12 winners.
A clinical performance from Mark Anscombe’s men saw them run in eight tries, many of which resulted from inventive and incisive attacking play. This heavy victory comes as the perfect antidote for Ulster after last weekend’s Heineken Cup defeat to Saracens.
Wing Andrew Trimble ran in a hat-trick with Ireland coach Joe Schmidt watching on, while Paul Marshall looked reinvigorated in scrambling over for two of his own. For Connacht, the spirited performance of Robbie Henshaw at fullback was a positive in defeat.
Much of the damage was done in the first half as Ulster racked up a 30-5 lead before the interval. Marshall was first off the mark, stretching over from two metres out to score in the right-hand corner after just five minutes, following questionable decision-making by Dan Parks.
Connacht produced a swift response to suggest that this inter-provincial derby would be closely-fought. Henshaw showed magnificent footwork to beat Jackson before releasing Dave McSharry to dot down, rewarding their forwards’ strong phase play.
Trimble was next on the score sheet, as he finished off an impressive team try after Jackson fixed the defence and slipped him away down the left.
Ulster then produced a wonderful score in the 23rd minute, when Jackson’s screen pass allowed Trimble to break through Connacht’s midfield defence. The powerful wing popped the ball off to the supporting Tommy Bowe, who crossed the whitewash.
Jackson converted, before a quickly-taken line-out by Trimble freed scrum-half Marshall to run at Connacht. The pacy halfback still had work to do, but arced around Tiernan O’Halloran and wriggled his way over to score.
Ulster’s aggressive defence snuffed out any Connacht ideas of a comeback and then the northern province shifted up a gear in the second 40 minutes. Two more tries from the thrillingly in-form Trimble and another from Luke Marshall were topped off by a late score for the hard-working Craig Gilroy.
Tommy Bowe was a stand-out performer in the 13 shirt for Ulster, though he will face far tougher tests if he is to continue in midfield. For Connacht coach Pat Lam, the reality is that his side were firmly beaten in all areas of the game.
Ulster’s five-point win moves them up to second in the Pro12 overnight, just four points off leaders Leinster, who were beaten by the Ospreys in Wales.
Tries: P Marshall (2), A Trimble (3), T Bowe, L Marshall, C Gilroy.
Conversions: P Jackson (5), J McKinney.
Penalties: P Jackson (2).
Tries: D McSharry, D Leader.
Conversion: M Nikora.
ULSTER: Ricky Andrew; Andrew Trimble, Tommy Bowe, Luke Marshall (Stuart McCloskey), Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson (James McKinney), Paul Marshall (Michael Heaney); Andrew Warwick (Tom Court), Rob Herring (Niall Annett), Ricky Lutton (Adam Macklin); Johann Muller (capt.) (Lewis Stevenson), Iain Henderson; Robbie Diack (Sean Doyle), Chris Henry, Nick Williams.
CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, Dave McSharry, Fionn Carr (Darragh Leader); Dan Parks (Miah Nikora), Kieran Marmion (Frank Murphy); Denis Buckley (Finlay Bealham), Jason Harris-Wright, Rodney Ah You (Ronan Loughney); Aly Muldowney, Mick Kearney (Michael Swift – yellow card ’58); John Muldoon (capt.), Eoghan Masterson (Andrew Browne), Eoin McKeon.
Replacement not used: Dave Heffernan.
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU).