BALLYMONEY’S Scott Nelson captained Ulster Juniors in a good away win in Connacht.
Also in the panel from Ballymoney was Euan Strang as Junior Ulster won their first match of the 2013 inter-provincial series by beating Connacht, last year’s champions, 20-12 at Ballina RFC last Saturday.
After a cagey first twenty minutes, the deadlock was broken by a fine break by CIYMS centre Andrew Hodgen who evaded three tackles to dot down under the posts. His clubmate David O’Hara added the conversion to give Ulster a 0-7 lead.
Unfortunately for the visitors, captain Scott Nelson (Ballymoney) had to be replaced on 34 minutes due to a back injury and a reshuffle saw Paul McKenzie (Donaghadee) come on at fullback.
The disruption may have caused Ulster to lose concentration as Connacht replied with a try from centre Dave Prior. Following a couple of difficult penalty misses by Ulster, the half time score was 5-7 to Ulster.
Just five minutes into the second half and after some sustained pressure by Ulster, who were now beginning to play some expansive rugby, McKenzie put Ewan Strange of Ballymoney over for a well worked try. O’Hara again added the extras to take the score to 5-14.
Ulster were having problems with the officials interpretation of the front row scrummaging and Portadown prop Mark Neilly was sin binned. After a long period of Connacht pressure, a penalty try was conceded and the simple conversion by Jamie Murphy left the score at 12-14.
As the Ulster coaches began to utilise their bench, Chris Nash (Academy), Philip Eadie (Donaghadee) and Gary Weatherup (Ballyclare) joined the fray. Jamie Johnston (Enniskillen) did get on for his first cap but had to be brought off soon after as a Mal Allister yellow card meant a front row replacement was required.
The game began to open up and Connacht were prevented from scoring an intercept try by a wonderful covering tackle by Hodgen. O’Hara kicked two more penalties 12-20. Although finishing with thirteen men as O’Hara also received a yellow card, Ulster continued to play the more enterprising rugby and ran out worthy 12-20 winners.
The team now face Munster, 31-27 victors over Leinster at the weekend, this Saturday at Coleraine RFC (kick-off 2.30pm).