In front of a sold out Sports ground, Ulster maintained second place in the Pro 12, for a couple of hours at least, with a convincing win over Connacht.
Ulster aided by some of their returning Irish internationals scored three tries without reply in the first half, to lead 17 nil at half time. Louis Ludik, and Craig Gilroy all crossed the white wash, with Paddy Jackson pulling the strings in midfield.
Connacht with the aid of a strong breeze and some lax Ulster tackling, scored the first try in the second half. Irish international winger Matt Healy got the westerners back in the game with a fine individual try. Miah Nikora added the conversion and a further penalty to cut the deficit to 17-10.
Ulster immediately replied and extended their lead, when Lions wing Tommy Bowe went over for his second try of the game. Ruan Pinearr, who seemed to leave his kicking boots at Ravenhill, missed his third conversion from his fourth attempt. Jack Carty then added another Connaught penalty, to keep the score board ticking over and leave Connacht 22-10 down.
Ulster’s relentless work at the breakdown eventually paid dividend. From a driving maul Ulster managed to bundle Rory Best over for his first and Ulster’s fifth try of the day. Pienarr missed the conversion, to leave the away side 27-10 up.
Connacht didn’t give up and after some good work from the forwards, the ball was spread to fullback Tiernan O’Halloran who sprinted over to score Connacht’s second try of the match. Carty kicked the conversion and with just ten minutes to go, Connacht where only a converted try away from drawing the match.
Ulster managed to hang on for a bonus point win and move up to second place in table and into one of the home semi-final spots. Connacht get a losing bonus point, which may turn out to be invaluable in order to finish in one of the automatic Champions Cup positions in the league.
Connacht have a tough run in, facing Glasgow, Ospreys and Zebre in their final three games. Ulster also have a tricky end of season fixture list, having to play Leinster, Munster and Glasgow in the final rounds of the league.