It’s better from Connacht in a narrow derby defeat

Ulster 20

Connacht 19


FORMER Connacht scrum-half John Cooney said it was great to get some revenge on his former side who had turned them over twice in the last six months as Ulster just about did enough to take the spoils in the first of the Christmas derby games at Kingspan Stadium.

Both sides were guilt of errors on a difficult night for rugby but Ulster just about did enough despite being outscored by three tries to two.

The win prevented a third URC loss in a row for Ulster and scrum-half Cooney, who spent three seasons at the Sportsground and came off the bench in the Pro12 final win over Leinster, said that all that mattered was getting the win against a side they lost 22-20 last month in Galway and also in the URC quarter-finals in Belfast last season.

“Every time we play them it’s a big battle,” said Cooney, who moved north in 2017. “We were really disappointed with that quarter-final loss last season. It was as tough a loss as I have had in my career and we had three or four months to think about it. It was frustrating.

“So to come out the right side of a real physical battle, it was hugely pleasing,” he added.

Ulster led 14-7 at the end of an opening half full of disruptions as two evenly matches sides battled out in the wind and rain in Belfast.

Ulster made a dream start, building phase after phase before getting over inside less than two minutes, wearing down the Connacht cover before Cooney slipped a pass to loosehead Andy Warwick to score from a metre out. Cooney slotted the convert to complete the perfect start.

The Connacht response was good and they too built the phases and while Tom Farrell was held up over the line with a penalty advantage, they scored off a tapped restart with scrum-half Caolin Blade putting Bundee Aki to score for the second week in a row. It was his 28th try for Connacht and the sixth he has scored against Ulster.

Pictured: Connacht centre Bundee Aki who was one of their three try scorers in Friday’s UFC loss to Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium.

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