Ulster outgun Connacht
PRO14 REPORT: Dan McFarland’s Ulster bounced back from defeat to Leinster with an impressive 35-3, five-try victory over Connacht in Belfast.
There was plenty of endeavour from Connacht but first-half tries for Alan O’Connor and Billy Burns were added to after the break by Rob Baloucoune, Rob Herring and Nick Timoney to ensure plenty of festive cheer at the Kingspan.
The away side started on the front foot in Belfast and after Baloucoune’s disallowed try almost had one of their own but for Caolin Blade being held up over the line.
Ulster soaked up the pressure, conceded a three-pointer to Conor Fitzgerald but then took a 7-3 lead quite fortuitously as O’Connor capitalised on a messy line-out.
Just after the quarter-mark came the try of the match as Marcell Coetzee barged his way out of the 22 and saw the ball shipped through hands to Baloucoune, the ball eventually finding its way back inside for Billy Burns to apply the finish.
Connacht desperately tried to strike a blow before the break but despite phase after phase couldn’t get over the line, and were punished straight after the interval as Baloucoune skipped into the corner.
Ulster continued to press for the bonus point and met their goal on 50 minutes as hooker Herring scrambled over the line, while fast defensive line-speed continued to keep Connacht’s attack at bay.
The home side’s defence continued to smother their visitors at every opportunity, while their attack threatened a fifth try with several wrap plays and eventually got their reward three minutes from time as Timoney powered over.
Man of the Match – Sean Reidy
There was plenty of attacking verve for Ulster on the night but man of the match went to tackle-machine Sean Reidy for a win built in the back row.
As he’s become known for the openside topped the tackle statistics with 26, while his swarming pressure at the breakdown prevented Connacht’s half-backs from getting into the game.
Play of the Day
No doubt about this one, Burns’s first-half score that came from a missed Tiernan O’Halloran kick collection was the pick of the bunch.
From that bit of loose play Coetzee power created the opening, fast hands saw Baloucoune skip away down the right and a couple of delightful offloads left the fly-half to apply some considerable speed to just about get over.
Tries: O’Connor, Burns, Baloucoune, Herring, Timoney
Cons: Cooney 4, Johnston
Yellow cards: Rob Herring (Ulster, 38), Shane Delahunt (Connacht, 64)
Ulster: 15 Will Addison, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring (captain), 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Nick Timoney, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Tom Daly, 12 Peter Robb, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Caolin Blade (captain), 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Paul Boyle, 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Dominic Robertson McCoy, 19 Niall Murray, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 Stephen Kerins, 22 Kyle Godwin, 23 Stephen Fitzgerald.
Referee: Sean Gallagher (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Andrew Brace, Nigel Correll (both Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Report by @PRO14Official