The Ulster Ravens ran in five converted tries in a very competitive fixture at Deramore Park on Friday, recording a 35-10 victory over their Connacht counterparts.
‘A’ INTERPROVINCIAL MATCH: Friday, November 15
ULSTER RAVENS 35 CONNACHT EAGLES 10, Deramore Park
Scorers: Ulster Ravens: Tries: Peter Nelson, Michael Allen 2, Conor Joyce, Paul Jackson; Cons: Stuart Olding 5
Connacht Eagles: Try: Eoghan Masterson; Con: Jack Carty; Pen: Jack Carty
The opening exchanges were fairly tense with both sets of half-backs testing the respective back-threes under the high ball.
The Ravens had the first opportunity to score in the 15th minute, a wide ball from Chris Farrell creating room for Ricky Andrew and he did well to force an opening and kick the ball towards the Connacht Eagles’ try-line.
Peter Nelson was on his outside and the Dungannon clubman showed great pace to get past the visitors’ cover and dive on the ball to score. Stuart Olding added the extras from the touchline to give the Ravens a seven-point advantage.
The game remained very competitive with Connacht finally getting on the scoresheet when out-half Jack Carty converted a penalty goal in the 30th minute.
As the game headed into the final 10 minutes of the first half, the home side had two clear chances to score, but determined last ditch defence from the Eagles kept their line intact.
In injury time referee David Wilkinson yellow carded Ravens prop Kyle McCall for pulling down a maul following a catch and drive, but Carty’s resulting kick drifted wide to leave the Ravens 7-3 ahead at half-time.
The home side made the perfect start to the second half. With just two minutes played, Nick Williams set off on a charge near the halfway line and made good ground before giving a superb offload to Mike McComish.
The Ravens flanker continued the attack with Ricky Lutton setting up quick ruck ball for Paul Marshall to fire wide where the Ulster backs had a clear overlap, allowing Michael Allen to cross for what was a wonderful team try. Olding was once again on target with his conversion.
The Ravens infringed at a scrum in the 53rd minute but once again Carty’s kick missed the target.
The home side attacked once more in the 58th minute with Allen and Farrell making good ground to within metres of the Eagles line.
Marshall found replacement flanker Conor Joyce with a snappy pass and he smashed his way over for the third Ravens try. Olding’s successful kick increased the Ravens tally to 21 points.
With 15 minutes remaining, Ravens head coach Neil Doak made a number of replacements. Only on the pitch for a matter of minutes, replacement hooker Paul Jackson crashed over from close range for a 74th minute score which Olding converted.
McComish was yellow carded just moments later for a ruck infringement, leaving Connacht with an extra man for the remainder of the game.
The resulting penalty was kicked into the corner from where the Eagles attacked in earnest for the first time, sending flanker Eoghan Masterson over for a try just right of the posts. Carty added the extras.
In the 78th minute, Ravens centre Allen had the final say when he picked up a loose ball near halfway and sprinted clear to dive in under the posts and complete his brace.
Olding converted but he picked up a worrying injury late on, twisting his right knee which required treatment from the Ulster medical staff.
ULSTER RAVENS: Ricky Andrew; David McIlwaine, Michael Allen, Chris Farrell, Peter Nelson; Stuart Olding, Paul Marshall; Kyle McCall, Niall Annett, Ricky Lutton, Lewis Stevenson (capt), Robbie Diack, Mike McComish, Sean Doyle, Nick Williams.
Replacements: Paul Jackson, Callum Black, Adam Macklin, Lorcan Dow, Conor Joyce, David Shanahan, James McKinney, Stuart McCloskey.
CONNACHT EAGLES: Darragh Leader; Fionn Carr, Eoin Griffin, David McSharry, Tiernan O’Halloran; Jack Carty, Frank Murphy; Ronan Loughney, David Heffernan, Nathan White, David Nolan, Michael Kearney, Aly Muldowney, Eoghan Masterson, Mata Fifita.
Replacements: James Rael, Denis Buckley, JP Cooney, Daniel Qualter, James Connolly, Paul O’Donohue, Conor Finn, Shane Layden.
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)