Rugby

Watch: Connacht Use Late Captain's Challenge To Win Cracker At Ulster

Watch: Connacht Use Late Captain's Challenge To Win Cracker At Ulster

It's fair to say that the build-up to the Rainbow Cup has been lukewarm. It's understandable why the rugby governing bodies are pushing ahead with the competition in what has been a difficult year for the sport. But the idea of yet more inter-provincial matches in what has already been a packed season has not been the most tantalising prospect for many fans, particularly in light of the fact that Covid restrictions have forced the organisers to restructure the tournament given that the South African teams cannot travel to Europe.

Having said all that, if the competition keeps providing games as entertaining as the opening round clash between Ulster and Connacht at the Kingspan, then the tepid build-up will be quickly forgotten.

In a seesaw battle between the two sides, Ulster had seemingly done enough for the win when a Dave Shanahan try in the 73rd minute was converted to give the home team a 24-21 lead.

However, there was a late twist as Connacht pushed for the win in injury time and after a break from Kieran Marmion was initially flagged as a knock-on, the away-side invoked their first captain's challenge - the new rule having been introduced for the Rainbow Cup. The challenge was successful as the review confirmed that the ball had been illegally pulled from Marmion's hands by Michael Lowry.

From the ensuing penalty, Connacht closed in on the Ulster defence and a grubber trickled through the line and incredibly evaded the Ulster players allowing Peter Sullivan to ground the ball in the corner in the last phase of the game.

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The drama wasn't done there, as  TMO review was needed to confirm that Sullivan had grounded before reaching the dead ball line.

It was a dramatic finish to a thoroughly entertaining outing between the two provinces, with the 26-24 scoreline giving Connacht only their second win in Belfast since 1960. There was a standout performance from Connacht scrum-half Caolin Blade, who scored two tries including a superb break early in the second half after a steam-rolling run from Abraham Papali'i.

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It was a strong start to the tournament that gave a perfect glimpse of the the captain's challenge law in action. Connacht declined the option to use the challenge earlier in the game when another try from Blade was ruled out for a double movement, but in the closing stages it was executed perfectly at a pivotal moment in the game.

More of the same please as the tournament rolls on and there won't be any complaints about the Rainbow Cup this season.

SEE ALSO: Quiz: Name The Starting XV's From The Leinster Vs Munster 2006 Heineken Cup Semi-Final 

Emmet Bradshaw

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