GALLERY: First-half blitz sees Ulster cruise past Connacht

Les Kiss' side ran in 13 unanswered points in the opening 40 minutes

Paddy Jackson

Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Paddy Jackson's impeccable place kicking helped ensure Ulster ran out comfortable 23-7 winners over champions Connacht in the Guinness PRO12 championship this evening.

Jackson nailed three penalties and two conversions to see the Irish province go into their clash with Leinster on New Year's Eve in the best possible position.

Stuart McCloskey and Clive Ross crossed for the home side on Friday evening, with Jack Carty the only scorer for the visitors.

Ulster ran in 13 unanswered points in the first half and looked much the better side for large parts of the evening. Only handling errors at crucial times during the opening 40 minutes stopped them from inflicting more damage on Pat Lam's side.

A festive Ulster fan before kick-off

Paddy Jackson tackles Danie Poolman

Chris Henry and Stuart McCloskey take down Danie Poolman

Golfer Rory McIlroy in attendance at tonight's game

Paddy Jackson kicked  three penalties and two conversions this evening at Kingspan Stadium

Stuart McCloskey touches down for the game's first try

Connacht's Kieran Marmion with Chris Henry and Iain Henderson of Ulster

Jack Carty breaks the line to score Connacht's only try of the game

Charles Piutau was one of Ulster's top performers this evening