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Celtic League: Connacht And Ulster Lose Out

Celtic League: Connacht And Ulster Lose Out

Connacht and Ulster had a less-than-gentle return to league action on Friday – both being defeated by Welsh opposition, but still earning bonus points in the fight for Heineken Cup qualification.

Connacht and Ulster had a less-than-gentle return to league action on Friday – both being defeated by Welsh opposition, but still earning bonus points in the fight for Heineken Cup qualification.

Celtic League: Week 16: Friday, February 18
Connacht 11 Llanelli Scarlets 18, Dubarry Park
Scorers: Connacht: Try: Matt Lacey; Pens: Paul Warwick 2
Scarlets: Tries: Mike Phillips 2; Con: Gareth Bowen; Pens: Bowen 2

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Connacht’s Athlone hoodoo continued on Friday as under the Dubarry Park lights, they lost for the fourth straight time in the league.

Despite flanker Matt Lacey’s 85th-minute try, there was little to champion the westerners’ cause throughout as an out-of-sorts performance allowed the Scarlets pick off their first win in Ireland for 16 months.

The visitors’ scrum-half Mike Phillips proved the difference in the first half as his two-try snipe helped Llanelli garner a 12-0 half-time advantage.

The 22-year-old was allowed too much lattitude on 26 minutes, as a quick tap penalty saw him race 35 metres to the right corner, with fly-half Gareth Bowen converting.

Returning Connacht hooker Bernard Jackman was not having a good night with his lineout throwing, and the Scarlets profiting at will as they attacked the home set piece ball.

Wth Tal Selley recovering a clearance from Conor McPhillips, he set up pivot Phillips for his second try on 32 minutes.

Although Bowen – who temporarily sits second in the league points scoring table with 114 after this win – missed with two drop goal shots on the restart, he grabbed two priceless penalties.

Connacht centre Paul Warwick answered those in kind, with his second on 64 minutes reducing the deficit to 15-6, and Lacey burrowed over late on, nonetheless the Scarlets deserved their eighth win of the season – and a victory which sees them move level on 40 points with the fourth-placed Dragons.

For Connacht, March and April will be a dog-fight. With visits to Edinburgh and the Dragons to come, there’s also the pace-setting Ospreys and third-placed Leinster in the offing at the Sportsground.


(15) Matt Mostyn
(14) Conor McPhillips
(13) Paul Warwick
(12) Darren Yapp
(11) Ted Robinson
(10) David Slemen
(9) Tom Tierney
(1) Ray Hogan
(2) Bernard Jackman
(3) Peter Bracken
(4) Christian Short
(5) Andrew Farley (Capt)
(6) Brendan O’Connor
(7) Matt Lacey
(8) John Muldoon

Replacements used: Chris Keane for Tierney (52 mins), Tony Buckley for Bracken (63), Dan McFarland for Hogan (65). Not used: Joe Merrigan, Michael Carroll, Eric Elwood, Justin Meagher.

SCARLETS: Lee Byrne; Aisea Havili, Matthew J Watkins, Salesi Finau, Tal Selley; Gareth Bowen, Mike Phillips; Phil John, Matthew Rees, John Davies, Vernon Cooper (Capt), Chris Wyatt, Jonathan Mills, Gavin Thomas, Andy Powell.
Replacements used: Ian Boobyer for Mills (71 mins), Adam Jones for Wyatt (75). Not used: Dorian Williams, Aled Gravelle, Liam Davies, Arwel Thomas, Mark Taylor.

HT: Connacht 0 Scarlets 12; Attendance: 1,660
Referee: Graeme Hannah (Scotland)

Newport-Gwent Dragons 13 Ulster 11, Rodney Parade
Scorers: Dragons: Try: Jason Forster; Con: Craig Warlow; Pens: Percy Montgomery 2
Ulster: Try: Bryn Cunningham; Pen: David Humphreys; Drop gl: Humphreys

Last time out he kicked the Dragons’ only points in their 55-3 hammering at the hands of Leinster, but back at Rodney Parade Percy Montgomery proved the match winner as his 47-metre penalty in the dying minutes saw off Ulster.

Mark McCall’s visitors had made a strong start – ever-reliable fly-half David Humphreys had clipped over a tenth minute drop goal. And even though they lost lock Matt McCullough to the sin-bin for lazing running, Ulster managed to double their lead through a 31st-minute Humphreys penalty.

However, first-half injury time saw Dragons coach Chris Anderson – who will depart his post at the end of the season – head into the break with a 7-6 buffer.

Hooker Steve Jones bulldozed his way through and offloaded in good time for skipper Jason Forster to net his second try in ten league appearances.

Craig Warlow converted and it was the Dragons number ten’s expert line kicking which offered Montgomery his first penalty on 54 minutes.

10-6 down, Ulster mounted a late charge as Ireland centre Kevin Maggs sent full-back Bryn Cunningham in for an unconverted try.

Unfortunately an infringement from Ulster skipper Campbell Feather cost the province dearly, as South African Montgomery stepped up to kick a crucial second penalty.

McCall’s charges remain third-from-bottom after their ninth loss of the season, and will have a good deal of soul-searching to do before they entertain Glasgow at Ravenhill, on March 4.

* Meanwhile, the New Zealand Rugby Football Union have confirmed that Waikato and Hurricanes scrum-half Isaac Boss will be joining Ulster at the end of September.

The 25-year-old, who starts the Super 12 season with the Hurricanes next week, said: “As a professional rugby player I look forward to the chance of playing in a different environment and adding to my rugby experience.

“I have a passionate interest in my Irish heritage and I am very excited about the prospect of living in Ireland and playing for Ulster,” added Boss, who is Ireland-qualified by virtue of his county Armagh-born grand-parents.

Boss was a member of the 1999 New Zealand Under-19 squad which won World cup honours, and a reserve in last season’s All-Blacks trial.

DRAGONS: Percy Montgomery, Gareth Wyatt, Nathan Brew, Steve Winn, Ben Breeze; Craig Warlow, Gareth Baber; Rod Snow, Steve Jones, Chris Anthony, Luke Charteris, Peter Sidoli, Jamie Ringer, Jason Forster (Capt), Rhys Oakley.
Replacements used: Adam Black, James Richards, and Rhys Thomas for Snow, Jones and Anthony (all 62), Matthew Veater for Ringer (72), Sione Tuipulotu for Brew (83). Not used: Cae Trayhern, Jonathan Bryant.


(15) Bryn Cunningham
(14) Tommy Bowe
(13) Paul Steinmetz
(12) Kevin Maggs
(11) Tyrone Howe
(10) David Humphreys
(9) Kieran Campbell
(1) Simon Best
(2) Rory Best
(3) Rod Moore
(4) Gary Longwell
(5) Matt McCullough
(6) Campbell Feather (Capt)
(7) Neil Best
(8) Roger Wilson

Replacements used: Gavin Pfister for Feather (29-32 mins), Paul Shields and Rowan Frost for R Best and Longwell (both 50), Ronan McCormack for Moore (52). Not used: Reece Spee, Adam Larkin, Scott Young.

Sin-bin: Matt McCullough (Ulster) (28 mins)
HT: Dragons 7 Ulster 6; Attendance: 4,452
Referee: Andy Ireland (Scotland)