Trimble claims treble as rampant Ulster turn on style in eight-try slaughter of Lam's men
Ulster 58 Connacht 12
Published 12/04/2014 | 02:30
Pressure! What pressure? If anybody thought Ulster were going to drown in their own tears after last week's disappointing exit from Europe, they were mistaken.
What a riposte by the home side as Connacht came into the game confident of recording their first victory in Belfast since 1960.
Those hopes were quickly snuffed out. Ulster opened up with the first of their eight tries in the fifth minute and had their bonus point 20 minutes later.
Star of the show was undoubtedly Ireland wing Andrew Trimble, who not only scored three tries, but showed the power, dynamism and work-rate that encapsulated his Six Nations performances.
Lively scrum-half Paul Marshall chipped in with a couple, with Luke Marshall, Tommy Bowe and Craig Gilroy also on the scoresheet.
As for Connacht, two tries through David McSharry and Darren Leader were the sum of their efforts – they were simply swamped by the exuberant men in white who move, temporarily at least, into second slot in the Pro12. Connacht had not even moved anywhere near the Ulster half when the home side surged ahead thanks to a misplaced cross-field kick by Dan Parks who failed to find left winger Fionn Carr inside his own '22'.
Trimble hassled Carr to gain possession and, after a few quick rucks, scrum-half Marshall dived over on the blindside.
Connacht stormed right back and were level three minutes later when some excellent pick and drives and neat handling saw centre McSharry cross.
Ulster then picked another injury to add to their long list, with Robbie Diack limping off with an ankle problem.
Out-half Paddy Jackson restored Ulster's lead in the 11th minute with a 38-metre penalty and that was improved four minutes later when right-wing Trimble flashed in at the left-hand corner after slick handling again by Jackson and Bowe.
Connacht were not exactly sitting back and admiring the view of the new stands and were happy to try to express themselves out in the open.
However, they found Ulster No 8 Nick Williams a significant stumbling block with his big hits in the early exchanges.
Mark Anscombe's troops forged further ahead in the 23rd minute. Good build-up work by lock Iain Henderson saw Jackson flip a short pass to the on-running Trimble, who broke through the defence and drew last man Robbie Henshaw to give Bowe an easy run-in.
Jackson converted and also added the extras as Ulster's clocked up their bonus point minutes later.
Connacht were sleeping at an Ulster line-out, with Trimble tossing the ball to scrum-half Marshall, who scuttled through the defence to score his second of the night.
At 27-5 ahead, it was already in the bag for Ulster as they began to treat the ball like a hot piece of coal in the run-up to half-time.
Marshall nearly grabbed his hat-trick after a quick tap penalty was followed by a kick and chase.
Connacht needed a big start to the second half, but only succeeded in handing Ulster their fifth try inside 90 seconds.
Pat Lam's men had tried to keep the ball alive out wide, but lost possession and Bowe was quick to snaffle the loose ball and feed Trimble, who sprinted 70 metres to the line.
The sixth try was elegance itself and right off the training ground, as Jackson looped around Bowe to move into space before sprinting away and giving the scoring pass to Marshall. Easy as you like.
A yellow card for replacement Michael Swift only added to Connacht's woes as Trimble immediately grabbed his third try off a defensively-absent blindside scrum.
Darren Leader did stop the one-way flow with a breakaway try, but normal domination resumed soon after with Gilroy picking up try number eight.
Ulster – R Andrew; A Trimble, T Bowe, L Marshall (McCloskey, 53), C Gilroy; P Jackson (McKinney 61), P Marshall (Heaney 59); A Warwick (Court 63), R Herring (Annett 49), R Lutton (Macklin 63), J Muller (capt), I Henderson, R Diack (Doyle 8), C Henry (Stevenson 59), N Williams.
Connacht – R Henshaw; T O'Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Carr (Leader 43); D Parks (Nikora, 61), K Marmion; D Buckley (Bealham, 61; Buckley 71)), J Harris-Wright, R Ah You, A Muldowney, M Kearney (Swift 54), J Muldoon (capt), E Masterson (Brown 40), E McKeon.
REF – I Davies (WRU).