Pro 14: Connacht v Ulster Preview

Connacht and Ulster will square off in the first of this round's Irish derbies when they go head-to-head at the Sportsground on Saturday the 23rd of December.

Connacht and Ulster lock horns this Saturday in what should be a cracking all-Irish Pro14 affair. The hosts currently occupy fifth-place on the Conference A standings and look unlikely to qualify for the knock-out phase of the competition. Ulster, on the other hand, currently sit third on the Conference B standings and could still claim a home play-off match.

Connacht v Ulster | Saturday 23 December | Sportsground | 21:35 

To Win (80 Mins)
Connacht 9/20 | Draw 17/1 | Ulster 37/20

Connacht
The plucky Irish Province have failed to live up to the standards that they set in the previous two Pro12 seasons in the inaugural Top 14. As touched on earlier, Connacht currently languish in mid-table on the Conference A standings and have little chance of advancing to the next round of the maiden Pro 14. And while there are mitigating factors for this - a whole host of their most promising players were snapped up during the close season and they've really been unfortunate with injuries - you'd still expect more from the 2015/16 Pro 12 'champs.

Their recent run of domestic form reads like a page out of an Edgar Allen Poe tome - it's been an absolute horror show for the men from Galway. Connacht have lost four of their last six fixtures. In fact, they have only managed to win three of the ten games they have played this term

There is a slight silver-lining to the very dark cloud that Connacht find following them around, and that is their home form. This weekend's hosts have managed to claim some big scalps at home this season beating Munster 20-16 and a much-improved Cheetahs side 23-15.

Ulster
The Ulstermen find themselves in a rather handy position during the festive season. They currently sit third on the Conference B standings and only trail the conference-leading Scarlets by five points. This weekend's visitors have also been in solid nick domestically winning three of their last four fixtures.

Before you go and bomb the rent money on the away win, however, there are a few things you need to know. Ulster haven't exactly been all-conquering over the past few months. They have scraped a few wins where you would have expected them to have cantered to victory. Their one-point home victory over Treviso last month bearing testament to my last statement.

Verdict: Ulster 37/20
I wouldn't recommend anything but an extremely small strike on this one. Connacht have really struggled this term and look like a side on the wane. And while Ulster haven't exactly set the lights out in the Pro14 over the past month or so, they do head into this one off the back of successive Champions Cup victories over Harlequins. They'll have gained a lot of confidence from said victories and I'm expecting another big showing from this weekend's visitors. 

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.net

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