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Ulster maintain their perfect start against Connacht

Guinness PRO12 Editor 5 Oct 2012

Luke Marshall’s fantastic late try put the icing on the cake for Ulster as they continued their perfect start to the RaboDirect PRO12 with a 25-0 win over Connacht.

Marshall’s late score finished off a scintillating team move that started on their own tryline on a night dedicated to the late Nevin Spence as the Ulstermen returned to Ravenhill for the first time since his tragic death.

A first-half try from man-of-the-match Nick Williams in addition to a penalty try from Ulster’s dominant scrum as well as ten points from the boot of Paddy Jackson was more than enough to seal a clinical victory.

Connacht were coming into the clash hot on the heels of a dominant 34-6 win over Leinster last time out but have not won at Ravenhill since 1960.

And it was Ulster that made most of the running in the opening skirmishes as they proved their real dominance at scrum time with a couple of early penalties.

In the tenth minute another fine scrum, led by Rory Best in his first start for the province since the Heineken Cup final, earned Jackson a very kickable penalty that he subsequently slotted for a 3-0 lead.

But after the first quarter of an hour neither side was anywhere near really cutting loose and scoring the first try of the match.

However the game finally burst into life in the 16th minute when a fantastic rumbling break by Ulster No.8 Williams nearly put Paul Marshall in the clear but with no support a quick turnover released the pressure.

Just before the half hour a fine break from Andrew Trimble again put Marshall in the clear but when he was driven over the try line by his pack Connacht did enough to hold him up.

An Ulster try appeared inevitable and after a fine break from full-back Jared Payne on the half hour it looked like the home side had it but Chris Henry was called back for obstruction in the build-up.

The one silver-lining for Mark Anscombe’s men was that Connacht flanker Dave Gannon was sent to the sin bin for an earlier infringement and with their numerical advantage Ulster finally made the breakthrough.

After two resets at scrum time on the five-metre line Ulster continued to turn the screw and a penalty try was the inevitable answer and when Jackson added the conversion it was 10-0 to the hosts.

The home side were in the mood now and in the final ten minutes of the first half wave after wave of Ulster pressure was held out by Connacht despite being down to 14 men.

But just when the away side appeared set to hold out until the interval Williams forced his way over for the side’s second score, Jackson again converting to make it 17-0.

Ulster started the second half the same way they finished the first in free-flowing form but Connacht, returned to their full complement, held out bravely to keep the home side at bay.

The introduction of props Nathan White and Denis Buckley in the front row had really solidified Connacht’s scrum and it was them who came closest to the first try after the interval.

Teenage whizzkid Robbie Henshaw’s incisive break from full-back broke the line but his pass to Fetu’u Vainikolo went to ground with the tryline beckoning and the chance was gone.

A Jackson penalty on the hour mark extended Ulster’s lead to 20-0 but the closing stages passed by with little incident as Connacht refused to lie down and came close to a deserved consolation score.

But it was left to Ulster to have the final say and when it did come it was the score of the match as a fine initial break by replacement Craig Gilroy down the left set up Wallace whose crossfield kick was knocked down by Tommy Bowe to replacement Marshall who slid over for a memorable try.

The one negative on a fine night for Ulster came in the closing stages when man-of-the-match Williams went off with what appeared to be a rib injury.