ULSTER 35-3 CONNACHT 27.12.2019

Seeing as it was Christmas, I thought i’d go to my one Rugby match a year.

Usually, when I go to Ravenhill to see Ulster, it is a European match. However, this year, the dates were inconvenient, both clashing with Linfield matches.

One match was on a Saturday afternoon, but it was rotten luck that the game that was on a Friday, Linfield had their League match moved to the Friday for TV.

So, that would mean i’d be going to a League match instead, this game falling when I was off over Christmas, it was a bit of a no brainer.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a match against Connacht would be marked in my diary, having been at Ravenhill two days before Santa arrived in 2016, as opposed to two days after he arrived in 2019.

That match in 2016 took place in the aftermath of Storm Barbara. Thankfully, the weather was a lot calmer for this game.

However, it was not as good as it was for my other visit to see Ulster face Connacht, though that would have been quite remarkable, as that was a glorious teatime in May, having won free tickets for the Play-Off Quarter-Final.

No free ticket wins for me this season yet, but I have been trying.

That match saw Ulster trying (they eventually lost out) to reach the Final at Celtic Park. This year, the venue they are aiming for is Cardiff City Stadium.

In a change with tradition, that match will be taking place in late June instead of late May. Very tempting. If I wasn’t going to Dublin to hopefully see a Euro 2020 game, I may have been tempted by that.

It’s a ground I’ve been to twice, in 2014 and 2016, but I’ve never seen Cardiff City play there. Might as well make it three trips without seeing the Bluebirds, although I have seen them play at Old Trafford.

If you are going to Cardiff, I recommend it to visit. If you have enough time, sneak in a visit to Bristol and/or Bath.

The problem with the usually traditional date of the last Saturday in May is that it clashes with the Football Programme Fair, and well, I can’t miss that, which is why the only Final I’ve been to was 2015, when Ravenhill hosted it.

Cardiff in June is a long way off, and so is Marseille in May. Ulster kicked off second in the table, trying to chase runaway leaders Leinster, who they lost to the previous week by a ridiculous score of 54-42.

It’s not a new observation, but Rugby Fan Culture is just weird. Sorry, but it is true.

I can live with being quiet at penalties even if I don’t think it will ever catch on in football.

Sometimes you hear football fans moaning about not being able to get a beer when watching the game. Be bloody thankful.

Seriously, literally the whole match was spent letting people in and out. It’s only 40 minutes a half, how hard is it to make a drink last that long?

Commercial realities mean they won’t close the bar 10 minutes before kick-off and during the game, but if you can get organised to buy a ticket and get dressed and get to the ground, then you can be organised to purchase what you need in advance of kick-off.

Another thing I found off was people watching the game on the TV screen beside them when the ball was at the other end of the pitch.

Each to their own, but I don’t understand the point of paying for a ticket just to spend most of the match queuing for a drink and then watching the action on a TV screen.

Maybe I’ve just been spoilt the last couple of matches I’ve been to by having a comfy seat in the stand?

The game got off to a dramatic start when Ulster burst through to score a try inside three minutes, only to see it disallowed.

It was Connacht who took the lead, 3-0, from a Fitzgerald penalty.

It would be the only time that Connacht were in the game, as Ulster responded with two tries, from Alan O’Connor and Billy Burns, both converted, to lead 14-3 at half-time.

The interval was only a brief respite for Connacht, they couldn’t get into the game after the break, as three more tries for Ulster, from Robbie Balocoune, Rob Herring and Nick Timoney, all converted, gave Ulster a 35-3 lead.

It was all too easy.

Photo Album

Ulster v Connacht May 2019

Ulster v Connacht December 2016

2019 IN PICTURES – MAY

May 2019 began with a busy Bank Holiday Weekend, starting off by going to see Echo and the Bunnymen at Custom House Square, Ulster v Connacht at Ravenhill, and then checking out Street Art as part of Hit The North.

The following weekend, I headed to Manchester to see United take on Cardiff City. The less said about that match the better.

On the plus side, I did manage to get some Street Art photos from the city.

That was it. The first two weekends of the month were busy, the second two not so much.

Echo and the Bunnymen live at Custom House Square

Echo and the Bunnymen live at Custom House Square Photo Album

Ulster v Connacht

Ulster v Connacht Photo Album

Hit The North

Hit The North Photo Album – Sunday 5th May 2019

Hit The North Photo Album – Monday 7th May 2019

Hit The North Photo Album – Aftermath

Manchester Street Art

Manchester Street Art Photo Album

Manchester United v Cardiff City

Manchester United v Cardiff City Photo Album

Salford Quays Street Art

Salford Quays Street Art Photo Album

ULSTER 21-13 CONNACHT 4.5.2019

Well, this was a nice bonus.

Resigned to an empty Saturday, I found out on Friday evening that I won tickets to Ulster v Connacht, so it was off to Ravenhill I headed on Saturday teatime.

Regardless of the result, this would be Ulster’s last home match of the season, a Quarter-Final of the Pro 14, with Glasgow the destination Ulster were aiming for, in more than one way.

I had previously seen Ulster take on Connacht, in December 2016. The weather was a bit different, dry, decent evening light and a gentle breeze – a lot different from the aftermath of Storm Barbara in 2016.

There was a decent sized Connacht support, or maybe it seemed more visible decked in their green replica shirts amongst the white of Ulster.

Despite the fact that it was knock-out Rugby, and that Ulster were three wins away from the title, there was a surprising amount of empty seats in the ground. Not a lot, but there were pockets of empty seats that were clearly visible.

The seats I had were fantastic, in the stand with a clear view, right on the halfway line.

It was Ulster who got the first score on the board with a penalty from John Cooney, before Nick Timoney got over for a try to make it 8-0 to Ulster. It looked like they were going to run away with it. Unfortunately Cooney missed the conversion, meaning Ulster didn’t have a double point lead.

The two sides exchanged penalties to give Ulster a half-time lead of 11-3. Not exactly job done, but you’d take it.

Jack Carty missed a penalty for Connacht in the opening minutes after somebody in the crowd shouted “CHICKEN!!” as he was taking it. I guess you could say he really clucked up that opportunity.

As a side note, the whole being quiet at penalties unwritten rule in Rugby in just the weirdest thing ever. Maybe it’s because I spent so much time watching football.

Could you imagine Joe Gormley or Curtis Allen taking a penalty in front of The Kop, and someone says “Lads, can we just be quiet for a minute? It’s a bit rude and disrespectful to the penalty taker”

Bundee Aki then saw his try converted by Jack Carty to make it 11-10. That miss earlier by Carty was now costly. The game was now in the balance.

The sides once again exchanged penalties as Ulster’s four point lead was once again reduced to one.

As each minute ticked down, it was beginning to feel like the last time I won tickets to an Ulster match, against Edinburgh in February 2018.

That match was in the balance, and Ulster couldn’t get the ball in the final minutes, as Edinburgh waited for their moment to get a clear shot at a drop goal, which they did, to win the game right at the end.

There would be no repeat, as Marcell Coetzee ran through late on for a try to make it 19-13. Connacht now needed to score 7 points in 2 minutes.

A conversion made it 21-13. They now needed 9 points in 2 minutes. They didn’t get it as Ulster got the win, and fans could now make plans for the Semi-Final.

That will be away to Glasgow in two weeks time, with the Final taking place in the city a week later.

The venue for the final, isn’t a Rugby ground, but Celtic Park.

I would say that it isn’t usual for a match at Celtic Park to see the ball in the air for a long time and punch-ups all over the pitch, but that is what usually happens when Celtic play Rangers.

Neil Lennon and Brendan Rodgers recent successes at Celtic mean that they are used to seeing Ulstermen celebrating at Celtic Park.

Hopefully, in three weeks, there will be some more celebrating, but in the oval ball.

Photo Album

Ulster v Connacht 2016

ULSTER 16-17 EDINBURGH 16.2.2018

This was a nice wee freebie for me, I won a competition online to win free tickets for this game. I usually only go to one game a season, usually in Europe, so this was a nice bonus for me having been to the match against Wasps in October.

This was the second successive home game for Ulster, having scored a routine 59-10 win over Southern Kings last week. Edinburgh also won last weekend, but it was a lot harder, securing a Bonus Point 29-24 win over Leinster in the last minute.

Little did we know it would be a warning.

My tickets were in the Grandstand. It was my first time in there since it was rebuilt. I’d always said to myself that i’d want to see what it was like there for a change.

I was seated towards The Aquinas End and I had a slightly obstructed view when the ball was at the other end of the field. If I was to go seated at Ravenhill again, i’d like to try behind one of the goals. Hey, the tickets were free, I shouldn’t be complaining.

Ulster made a positive start to the game and had Edinburgh pinned into their own half in the opening minutes. It was no surprise when Ulster took the lead through a John Cooney try, which was then converted to give Ulster a 7-0 lead.

You know when you’re watching a football match, and the home team scores in the opening minutes and you expect them to storm to victory but they don’t?

Yep, this was the Rugby equivalent.

Ulster couldn’t build on it, and never really looked like adding to their try count. It was very dull for long periods.

Edinburgh were the better team, and it was no surprise when Edinburgh got a try from Jason Harries, which was converted to make it 7-7, which stayed the score at half-time.

Early in the second-half, Ulster went 10-7 up through a John Cooney penalty. So early in fact, that I missed it as I was making my way back to my seat.

Another Cooney penalty made it 13-7, and it looked like Ulster now had the foundation for victory.

With only a six point lead, Ulster knew that a converted try would put Edinburgh into the lead.

Their fears were confirmed when a Lewis Carmichael try was converted to put Edinburgh 14-13 in front.

Soon after, Ulster were back in front, Cooney again, another penalty. 16-14. There was no margin for error now.

Ulster couldn’t get any further scores that could give them more breathing space. Even a drop goal or a penalty would have meant Edinburgh would need a converted try to win the game.

Unable to kill off Edinburgh, Ulster were now hanging on. The aim now was to hold on to the ball until the clock hit 80 minutes.

The crowd at Ravenhill had been quiet and subdued for most of the game. In the final minutes, they burst into life, trying to cheer their side to see them through the final minutes.

Edinburgh were able to get upfield for one last attack.

Ulster just couldn’t get the ball away, they just couldn’t get the ball to kick it out of play.

As Edinburgh, were attacking The Aquinas End, I had a perfect view of it all. You could see what was going to happen.

Edinburgh were able to get possession in a shooting position, as Duncan Weir was able to hit a drop goal to win the game 17-16 in injury time.

That was it, game over. Ravenhill fell silent.

Photo Album