RaboDirect Pro 12: Ulster 22-3 Connacht
ULSTER (8) 22
- Gilroy, Court, Humphreys
- Humphreys (2)
CONNACHT (3) 3
Ulster ended their four-match losing run with a hard-earned victory over provincial rivals Connacht in Belfast.
After Ian Humphreys and Miah Nikora had exchanged penalties, Ulster winger Craig Gilroy breezed through for the opening try just before half-time.
Ulster's pack applied pressure on the Connacht line early in the second half and Tom Court got over for a try which Humphreys converted.
Fly-half Humphreys burst through for Ulster's third try right at the end.
The win, Ulster's first since beating Cardiff Blues back in September, hoists Brian McLaughlin's men above Connacht in the Pro12 standings.
It came at a cost in terms of injuries, though, and there are concerns over key players Stephen Ferris (ankle), Tom Court (knee) and skipper Johann Muller (arm) ahead of next weekend's Heineken Cup home clash with Clermont Auvergne.
But, on a more positive note, New Zealand prop John Afoa had a good outing on his Ulster debut.
The home side made the perfect start with a Humphreys penalty after less than a minute but, from there, most of the first half found them struggling to find their rhythm.
The visitors got on the scoreboard when Nikora landed a 16th-minute penalty after a collapsed scrum.
But Ulster did, at least, have the last laugh of the opening 40 minutes as their pack - with Afoa having an immediate effect - splintered Connacht's scrum and the net result was Gilroy latching on to an inside pass from Humphreys for an unconverted try in the left corner.
Ulster got their second try inside two minutes as Court burrowed over after Rory Best, Dan Tuohy and Afoa had all had a bite at the Connacht line.
Humphreys added the extras and Ulster were 15-3 to the good.
Ulster could have had a third try but Paddy Wallace failed to hold a Simon Danielli pass after the full-back made a neat break off a Darren Cave pass.
The match seemed to be heading for an uneventful finish but then Humphreys burst through to score under the posts in the game's final play.
Ulster: Danielli, Trimble, Cave, Wallace, Gilroy, Humphreys, P Marshall, Court, Best, Afoa, Muller, Tuohy, Ferris, Henry, Wannenburg.
Replacements: Porter for P Marshall (59), Diack for Ferris (59).
Not used: Kyriacou, McAllister, Macklin, Stevenson, Spence, D'Arcy.
Connacht: O'Halloran, Vainikolo, Duffy, McSharry, Tuohy, Nikora, O'Donohoe, Wilkinson, Flavin, Ah You, Swift, McCarthy, Anderson, Grace, Naoupu.
Replacements: N O'Connor for Nikora (66), Loughney for Wilkinson (54), Reynecke for Flavin (54), Rogers for Ah You (50), Gannon for Swift (21), Muldoon for Grace (57).
Not used: F. Murphy, Jarvis.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)