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.
Ulster v Connacht May 2019
Ulster v Connacht December 2016