Pro12: Ulster 23-7 Connacht
|Ulster (13) 23|
|Tries: McCloskey, Ross Cons: Jackson 2 Pens: Jackson 3|
|Connacht (0) 7|
|Tries: Carty Con: Carty|
Stuart McCloskey and Clive Ross tries helped Ulster to a 23-7 Pro12 win over Irish interprovincial rivals Connacht at a blustery Kingspan Stadium.
Ulster move into fourth spot, level on points with the Scarlets, but Connacht continue to struggle in eighth place.
McCloskey's score helped his side to a 13-0 half-time advantage, with Ross crossing after the interval and Paddy Jackson adding 13 points with the boot.
Jack Carty converted his own try for Connacht's only points of the game.
The result means Connacht's unenviable record of not having registered a win in Belfast for 56 years continues.
Their opponents avenged their defeat by the Pro12 champions at the Sportsground in October, which ended their 100% start to the season.
Connacht began the game without 21 players through injury, while Ulster, who won both encounters between the sides in the last campaign, made six changes from the side which started the Champions Cup defeat by Clermont Auvergne five days ago.
The hosts had a strong wind advantage in the first half and after a scoreless first quarter, Jackson landed a penalty to nudge his side in front.
The impressive McCloskey marked his 50th appearance for Ulster by finishing a fine move involving a strong run by Charles Piutau, touching down in the corner in the 27th minute before Jackson converted.
With Ulster dominant in the set-piece and Iain Henderson outstanding, another Jackson penalty extended the lead at the interval, with Connacht's woes exacerbated by the loss of Danie Poolman and Finlay Bealham through injury.
Pienaar was held up just short of the line, but soon after flanker Ross rumbled over for his first try for Ulster on 53 minutes, Jackson again adding the additional two points.
Fly-half Carty responded quickly by diving over at the opposite end of the pitch and his successful conversion reduced Connacht's deficit back to 13 points.
Jackson landed his third penalty to make victory secure and leave the visitors without a regular season away Pro12 win since March.
Ulster's next match is away to Leinster on New Year's Eve, with Connacht hosting Munster on the same day.
Ulster: C Piutau; L Ludik, L Marshall, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; P Jackson, R Pienaar; A Warwick, R Best (capt), R Ah You; K Treadwell, I Henderson; C Ross, C Henry, R Wilson.
Replacements: R Herring, C Black, W Herbst, F van der Merwe, S Reidy, P Marshall, D Cave, T Bowe.
Connacht: T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun, R Parata, D Poolman, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, D Heffernan, F Bealham; Q Roux, J Cannon; S O'Brien, N Fox-Matamua, J Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: S Delahunt, T McCartney, JP Cooney, U Dillane, E McKeon, C Blade, C Gaffney, N Dawai.