Ulster A continued on their winning ways with a comfortable 33 – 13 win against Connacht Eagles at Ballymena Rugby Club on Friday afternoon.
Peter Cooper continued his remarkable season with a brace of tries in the second half to secure the bonus point win for Ulster after David McCann, Conor Rankin and Ross Adair crossed in the first. Bruce Houston continued his good kicking form adding four conversions.
Connacht came into the game looking for a win to leapfrog Ulster and Leinster at the top of the table. They started with some intent, controlling the early play to notch up a 6 point lead, thanks to the boot of out half Conor Dean, in the first ten minutes.
Ulster remained composed and after a series of line outs in the Connacht 22 they finally got their breakthrough when captain McCann hit the line from close range for Houston to convert.
The solid Ulster defense started to force a few mistakes from the visitors and with Ulster doing well in the line outs it was no surprise that they opted to kick for the corner when the opportunity arose just before the half hour mark. This time Ulster had a few darts at the line before sending it wide for Rankin to go over in the corner. Houston knocked over the difficult conversion to give Ulster a 14 – 6 lead.
The home side’s third came just before the break and it was an impressive individual effort from Adair who broke from the half way line to manhandle the scrambling Connacht defenders and stretch over the line to give Ulster a 19 – 6 lead at the break.
Connacht battled their way back into the game at the start of the second half after a period of sustained pressure in Ulster territory. Second row Joe Maksymiw worked the ball over the line and Dean converted to take the score to 19 – 13 on the 45th minute.
However, from then on it was pretty much all Ulster as the forwards got on top, and the excellent Cooper was on hand to reap the benefits. On both occasions Ulster’s impressive pack worked over their opponents at close quarters before Cooper delivered the short sharp jab from close range, his first effort securing the try bonus point and his second securing the game. Houston converted both to give Ulster a 33 – 13 win.
Ulster A: Conor Rankin, Ross Adair, Hayden Hyde, Ben Power, Luke Pollock, Bruce Houston, Nathan Doak, Callum Reid, Zack McCall, Peter Cooper, Matthew Dalton, Jack Regan, Joe Dunleavey, David McCann, Azur Allison. Replacements: Claytan Milligan, Paul Mullen, Jonny Blair, JJ McKee, Matthew Agnew, Aaron Hall, Lewis Finlay, Michael Stronge.
Connacht Eagles: Oran McNulty, Hugh Lane, Sean O’Brien, Luke Carty, Peter Sullivan, Conor Dean, Aran Hehir, Conor Maguire, Dylan Tierney Martin, Ryan Lomas, Niall Murray, Joe Maksymiw, Sean Masterson, Lucas Culliton, Mikey Wilson. Replacements: Declan Adamson, Adam Burke, Adam Coyle, Cormac Daly, Hubert Costello, Evan Kenny, Diarmuid Kilgallen, Shane Jennings.