Junior Interprovincial Rugby
Connacht 36 Ulster 12
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Connacht got their Interpro campaign off to a flying start with a comfortable win over Ulster in Tuam on Saturday.
Playing against a strong wind in the first half Connacht set out their stall early by dominating the set piece, especially the scrum, where the home side’s front row of Wesley Maxwell, Martin Lee and Tom Toolan had their Ulster opponents in all sorts of trouble.
Connacht outhalf Ger O’Connor opened the scoring after 15 minutes when he converted a penalty from 35 meters. A period of territorial dominance followed for Connacht but it was not until the 35th minute that they added to their total. A series of scrum collapses near the Ulster line led to a warning for Ulster loosehead Matt Wilson. Connacht elected to for a further scrum from the ensuing penalty and when it collapsed once more referee Will O’Connor had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try. O’Connor converted to leave the score 10-0 in Connacht’s favour.
Connacht lost prop Wesley Maxwell with a shoulder injury shortly before half time and he was replaced by Doran McHugh. The score stayed at 10 -0 at the half time whistle.
Coach Seamus King introduced Paddy Pearson at outhalf at the start of the second half and he immediately put Ulster under pressure with some excellent tactical kicking. Five minutes into the second half Ulster had made their way into the Connacht half but a wayward pass from Ulster centre Colin Atkinson was intercepted by Connacht winger and he ran over 70 metres to touch down for an excellent try in the corner. Paddy Pearson kicked an incredible conversion from the sideline to leave the score at 17 -0. An injury to second row Dave Hansberry led to his replacement by Jamie Bowes and two minutes later he was involved in a series of rucks and mauls which eventually led to scrum half Mickey Murphy putting Aaron Spring through a gap in the centre enabling the winger to power through two tackles to touch down in the corner. Paddy Pearson again converted brilliantly and this sealed the game for Connacht who were now 24-0 ahead with just 20 minutes left.
Connacht weren’t finished however and on 63 minutes Paddy Pearson put Dave Prior away with a lovely skip pass and Prior beat two men to score Connacht’s all important bonus point fourth try. Pearson was unlucky to miss the tricky conversion and with a lead of 29-0 Connacht began to empty the bench.
With 12 minutes left to go Flanker Eoin Rooney made a break which ended with Rory O’Connor taking the pass to run in for his second try. Paddy Pearson certainly had his kicking boots on as he sent over his third touchline conversion to put Connacht 36 -0 up.
The last ten minutes saw Ulster restore some pride with tries from Gary Hall and David Sharkey, one of which was converted by Ulster outhalf Adam Parke. Indeed Parke’s conversion was the last kick of the game.
This was a tremendous start for Connacht and they now travel to Donnybrook to play Leinster next Saturday at 2.30pm. Indeed this could be the deciding match of the championship as Leinster also had a bonus point win over Munster on Friday night on a 30-24 score line.
There has only been a single score between the sides in the last two years so another close tussle is forecast but with Connacht perhaps coming out in front this year.
Connacht: Kevin Higgins (Monivea) (Capt.), Rory O’Connor (Monivea), Dave Prior (Monivea), Mata Fafita (Sligo), Aaron Spring (Sligo), Ger O’Connor (Monivea), Mickey Murphy (Ballina), Wesley Maxwell (Sligo), Martin Lee (Corrib), Tom Toolan (Ballina), Dave Hansberry (OLBC), Wille Parker (Monivea), Eoin Rooney (Monivea), Mike Ward (Tuam)
Subs Doran McHugh (OLBC), Ronan Coughlan (Monivea), Brian Murphy (Monivea), Jamie Bowes (Sligo), Paddy Pearson (Sligo), Tom Ellard (Westport), John Culkin (Monivea)