Planet Rugby

Ulster deny Connacht crumb of comfort

08th May 2009 22:17

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simon danielli stade francais v ulster

Simon Danielli: Ulster's tryscorer

Connacht's luck deserted them at the Sportsground as they slumped to a narrow 14-12 defeat at the hands of provincial rivals Ulster on Friday.

Although they are adrift at the bottom of the Magners League table, Connacht came into this game gunning for a hat-trick of interprovincial wins at home this season.

Michael Bradley's men overcame both Leinster (19-18) and Munster (12-6) earlier in the campaign in Galway, but Ulster ended their hopes of completing the full set.

Having scored 11 points in the opening 18 minutes - Simon Danielli snuck through for a try and Ian Humphreys converted two long-range penalties - Ulster made seriously hard work of their sixth straight victory over the westerners.

Credit to Connacht, their captain John Muldoon won the toss and wisely opted to play into a strong wind in the opening half.

Tries either side of half-time from Fionn Carr and Andrew Browne saw the hosts barge into a 12-11 lead and their tails were up as Muldoon and company forced the issue up front.

However, Ulster were able to snap back into the lead thanks to a Clinton Schifcofske penalty and Connacht, despite a spirited effort right to the final whistle, were left cursing three missed penalties from Ian Keatley in the second half.

Ulster coach Matt Williams raised eyebrows before kick-off when he brought Isaac Boss, Ian Humphreys and Carlo Del Fava into his starting line-up, with Boss lining out at full-back.

Capped by Ireland at scrum half, Boss played at full-back for both Waikato and the Hurricanes and he was rarely tested during an Ulster-dominated first quarter.

Humphreys hoofed an early penalty through the posts, edging the visitors in front, before his half-back partner Paul Marshall pulled the strings for Danielli's 13th-minute effort.

Marshall exploited space with a clever grubber kick and got up to retrieve possession before releasing the big Scottish winger for a mismatched run to the corner.

Humphreys missed the conversion but, from a couple of metres inside his own half, he landed a superb penalty to nudge Ulster into a 11-0 lead.

With Stephen Ferris and Robbie Diack sealing off the breakdown and a strong set-piece platform, Ulster were looking good.

But as the half wore on, they were often found guilty of over-complicating attacks and Connacht's disciplined defence frustrated them time and again.

Andrew Farley, in his last home game for Connacht, helped rouse the league's bottom side and they profited from turnover ball to send the fleet-footed Carr over for an unconverted try before the break.

Streetwise scrum-half Frank Murphy gobbled up possession and a quick switch sent Carr speeding away down the left wing and over for his eighth league try.

With Ray Ofisa in rampaging form, Connacht started the second half on the front foot and Keatley used the elements to good effect.

Within 10 minutes, blindside flanker Browne burst over unchallenged for a deserved try. Murphy's flicked pass unleashed full-back Troy Nathan for a powerful run and with the Ulster defence in tatters, Connacht recycled well to complete a clinical score.

Keatley added the conversion but for all of Connacht's territorial advantage, they could not close out the game.

After Schifcofske kicked Ulster back in front, just four minutes later, Connacht had enough time and chances to regain control on the scoreboard but the otherwise impressive Keatley misfired when it mattered most.

The scorers:

For Connacht:

Tries: Carr, Browne

Con: Keatley

For Ulster:

Try: Danielli

Pens: Humphreys 2, Schifcofske

Connacht: 15 Troy Nathan, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Gavin Duffy, 12 Keith Matthews, 11 Liam Bibo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Frank Murphy, 8 John Muldoon (capt), 7 Ray Ofisa, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Andrew Farley, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Ray Loughney, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.

Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Brian McGovern, 18 David Gannon, 19 Colm Rigney, 20 Conor O'Loughlin, 21 Andy Dunne, 22 Mel Deane.

Ulster: 15 Clinton Schifcofske, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Simon Danielli, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Ryan Caldwell, 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 Tom Court, 2 Rory Best (capt), 1 BJ Botha.

Replacements: 16 Nigel Brady, 17 Bryan Young, 18 Carlo Del Fava, 19 Matt McCullough, 20 Isaac Boss, 21 Ian Humphreys, 22 Rob Dewey.

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)

Touch judges: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Peter Roche (Ireland)

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