Connacht are back on the road this St Stephen's Day preparing for a backlash from Dan McFarland's Ulster at Kingspan Stadium (5.15pm ).
Their last meeting in the United Rugby Championship produced a massive 36-11 win for Connacht in the Aviva, and that stung McFarland, who said it was an "unacceptable standard" from his players.
On that occasion Connacht delivered its most dominant performance of this season against a previously unbeaten Ulster outfit which was top of the URC table, and Connacht coach Andy Friend will be readying his team for a hostile response from McFarland's players and The Ulstermen.
In the Aviva Connacht delivered five tries, two from Mack Hansen, who has been recovering from a calf injury, while more youngsters added to the tally, including Diarmuid Kilgallen, Niall Murray and John Porch. Conor Oliver produced a man of the match display, and it would be hard to overlook the openside flanker on this occasion.
Ulster come into the contest in third place on the league table, with two losses from seven. Connacht are not far behind, and a bonus point win would lift them within a point of their opponents. It will not be easy in Ravenhill against a team that will not want to lose twice in a season to the local rivals, but Friend and his team know it is possible if they play their game plan and execute accordingly.
They will have learned lessons from last weekend's 29-23 loss to Leicester Tigers in Welford Road where they were guilty of a host of handling errors. And that lack of clinical efficiency, allied with a yellow card in the second half, proved their undoing. That they had the nous to bag a bonus point was a huge fillip in their hopes of progressing in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Carty produces again
It was always going to be a tough ask in Leicester, against a team that was unbeaten this season, and which extended its winning run to 13.
Connacht, however, pushed the Tigers all the way and led at the break 12-17, but changes to Tigers' entire front row made all the difference in the second half as the hosts produced two crucial tries in a seven minute spell.
It was enough to see off a valiant Connacht effort that saw Jack Carty produce another sterling performance, bagging 18 of Connacht's 23 points.
But Connacht know they left a win behind. Having dominated possession, they did not make it count on the scoreboard, but they did take some solace when Carty's 80th minute drop goal ensured Connacht returned home with six points from a possible 10 in the European competition.
Andy Friend says that bonus point was a deserved reward, but Connacht still need to improve their execution.
"The drop goal was really important - it was just in the end. We didn't come here to get a losing bonus point, but the win was out of reach when we went to the last line-out, and the bonus point was a complement to the team and Jack Carty who had the wherewithal and ability to get the ball over the posts."
Friend says while the scrum was key, and it could have been a "different game" if Connacht had executed some of the opportunities created.
"We have to get better at that, but we will take a lot positives. This is all learnings for us. It is the biggest stage some of these players would have played on. What I do know is we have the game plan that can hurt teams and we have to keep working on it and believing in it."
Carty was again at the heart of Conancht's display in Leicester, opening the round two fixture with a fourth minute penalty as Connacht reaped rewards in the early stages. It gave them a real boost, but they were unable to capitalise on opportunities carved, and eventually Leicester opened their tally when hooker Nic Dolly found too much space to score the opening try. It was followed by a second from fullback Bryan Hegarty, with Freddie Burns adding the extras for a 12-3 lead. Within minutes Connacht had replied - Bundee Aki setting up a willing John Porch who, coming off his wing in support, burst through to touch down. Carty added the extras, and thereafter Connacht dominated possession and territory until the break, putting the Tigers on the defensive again.
It took a tap tackle from Burns on Wootton to stop try number two, but eventually the pressure paid - once again it stemmed from staunch defence, and when Carty was quickest to scoop up a loose ball, he ran in from his own half to score and convert, giving his side real hope as they were the only opposition this season to lead the Tigers at the half-time.
Carty, who should be getting closer to a return for Ireland, stretched that margin to eight via a penalty, but that score signalled Steve Borthwick's move to introduce his heavy-hitting bench - the entire front row with 57-times Argentinian international Julian Montoya and the experienced Dan Cole. It paid immediate dividends as Tigers reverted to type. Five scrums and with Finlay Bealham having been yellow carded, they made it count when right wing Freddie Steward crossed, and Burns adding the extras. And the maul continued to prove devastating with left wing Hosea Saumaki taking advantage to score a fourth try.
Although Leicester extended their lead with a penalty, Connacht's never-say-die attitude kicked in as they continued to search for points. When opting for touch with a minute to play, Carty produced the perfect kick, Dillane secured the line-out, and Carty opted for a drop goal, giving the Irish club a valuable and well deserved bonus point for their resilience.
Leicester Tigers: B Hegarty, F Steward, M Scott, D Kelly, H Saumaki, F Burns, B Youngs, N Leatigaga, N Dolly, J Heyes, H Wells, E Syman, G Martin, T Reffell, J Wiese.Replacements, J Montoya for Dolly, J Whitcombe for Heyes, D Cole for Leatigaga, G Porter for Burns (all 51 ), C Green for Snyman (56 ), O Chessum for Martin (58 ), M van Staden for Reffell (62m ), J van Poortvliet for Youngs (66m ).
Connacht: T O'Halloran, J Porch, S Arnold, B Aki, A Wootton, J Carty, K Marmion, M Burke, D Heffernan, F Bealham, U Dillane, N Murray, C Prendergast, C Oliver, J Butler.Replacements, S Delahunt for Heffernan (55 ), J Aungier for Butler (56-66 ), T Tuimauga for Burke, L Fifita for Murray, A Papali'i for Prendergast (all 65 ), C Blade for Marmion (66 ), C Fitzgerald for O'Halloran and D Killgallen for Wootton and J Aungier for Bealham (76m ).