ULSTER returned to their winning ways at Ravenhill, defeating Connacht 22-3 in the RaboDirect PRO12 league. But the scoreline did not reflect how close Connacht came to upsetting the home team. Both sides exchanged penalties early on. Having brought a New Zealander along to watch the match I was particualrly interested in how new signing and World Cup medallist from Auckland John Afoa would perform. He got a great cheer when he came out onto the pitch and was soon demonstrating his strengths in the front row of the scrum. Indeed it was from the scrum just before half time that a move began which resulted in winger Craig Gilroy latching onto an inside pass from Ian Humphreys and then going over in the left corner to make it 8-3 to Ulster at the break. The home side began the second half intent on pressurising Connacht and two minutes in, good work by Rory Best, Dan Tuohy and Afoa created an opportunity for Ireland prop Tom Court to score their second try, with Humphreys adding the conversion. For the rest of the half, though, the battle was extremely tough as Connacht did their best to pull back the twelve point gap. Tempers flared at times but the referee kept the game under control well and no-one was sin-binned or shown a red card. However the medics were kept busy with a series of injuries to key Ulster players Stephen Ferris (ankle), Tom Court (knee), and skipper Johann Muller. Perhaps coach Brian McLaughlin had the risk of an injury in mind when he substituted Afoa before the end and the Kiwi was applauded for his first performance in an Ulster jersey. Additional time was being played when Ian Humphreys broke through the Connacht defence to score under the posts and add a quick conversion as the final whistle blew. Ulster 22 Connacht 3. The result means that with eight games played, Ulster are in mid-table, nine points behind the Ospreys and Leinster, who saw off the challenge of Munster at the RDS.
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