Ulster go top of United Rugby Championship with victory over Connacht
Greg Jones and hooker Declan Moore – a late addition to the starting XV – also got on the scoresheet before Baloucoune crossed at the end of each half, while Nathan Doak kicked all three conversions and two penalties.
Connacht winger Peter Sullivan was yellow-carded after only two minutes following a shuddering collision with Michael Lowry.
Lowry – another member of Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations squad released back to Ulster for this match – recovered to almost supply Ethan McIlroy with a score, only for Kieran Marmion to put in a last-ditch tackle.
It was full-back Lowry who eventually laid on the hosts’ opener, dancing through the Connacht defence before sending Jones over.
Doak converted the 15th-minute try and delivered again five minutes later when Moore – on loan from Munster but with a permanent switch to Ulster lined up for next season – barged over from a line-out maul for the home team.
The half ended with Ulster scoring their third try when Stuart McCloskey and Lowry combined to put Baloucoune in space and the winger did the rest with his searing pace. Doak again converted and Ulster led 21-5 at half-time.
Connacht cut the lead to 21-12 on 46 minutes when Alex Wootton snatched a try, Fitzgerald converting.
Doak then added a 53rd-minute penalty to push Ulster’s lead to 24-12, just after McIlroy had been held up short.
Two further excellent interventions on the Connacht line from Conor Oliver frustrated Ulster as they looked to wrap up the win and, better yet, a bonus point.
Doak slotted a 74th-minute penalty before Cian Prendergast was held up over the line. The flanker was then sin-binned at the death and Ulster exploited the extra man when Billy Burns found Baloucoune with a cross-kick to ensure a maximum haul that carried Ulster to the summit.
Burns missed the conversion, but Ulster now sit two points clear of second-placed Edinburgh having played a game more.
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