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05th May 2023

Connacht’s soft-spoken hero destroys Ulster to put his side into semi-finals

Patrick McCarry



“Ah, look, lad, we’re absolutely stoked.” Shamus Hurley-Langton spoke as if he was just back from a brisk stroll, rather than being the all-action Connacht talisman as his team stunned Ulster on their home patch.

The 23-year-old from New Zealand arrived in Galway, last summer, and has had a decent first season without shaking any big trees.

Hurley-Langton was making his 19th appearance of the season, in the United Rugby Championship quarter final, but it was only his ninth start. It was only the fourth time Andy Friend handed him the No.6 jersey.

In Belfast, tonight, he played as if he had been in possession of it all year. He played like he was born for this knock-out stage. He played like he owned the damn field and the Ulster boys were in his way.

The starting Connacht back row – Hurley-Langton, Conor Oliver and Cian Prendergast – were immense but their No.6 was the stand-out of the three men. He stuck every tackle, cleared out with intent and made two big turnovers as the number two seeds were turned over in front of their home fans.

ConnachtShamus Hurley-Langton wins a turnover for Connacht. (Credit: URC -Premier Sport)

Connacht hustle and kick Ulster to death

There will be a major post-mortem at Ulster over the meek manner of their exit at the quarter final stages. They looked off the boil for the first hour and were fortunate to be only trailing 9-3 at half-time.

Jack Carty, who kicked all 15 points for his side, made it 12-3 during the second half before Alan O’Connor got over for a converted try that put Ulster only 12-10 behind.

Tom Stewart, who scored 16 URC tries as hooker this season, came off the bench and went closing off a rolling maul but Connacht’s defence stepped up with big penalty wins and turnovers whenever they were pushed to the brink.

A lovely clean break from a bloodied and bashed Kieran Marmion eventually led to a penalty that Carty knocked over to make it 15-10. It meant Ulster needed a try to level it, late on, and to convert it to win. As it was, the Westerners’ defence fronted up again and Dylan Tierney-Martin won his side a penalty after the clock had turned red.

“We had to stay in every moment. Stay cool,” Shamus Hurley-Langton, with his Man of the Match medal, told Premier Sports. “We have a lot of players and coaches leaving at the end of the performance, and this was for them.”

“I love South Africa,” he added as he looked forward to a semi final against either Stormers or Bulls. “It’s a great country. Looking forward to getting down there and we’ll dig into it!”

The young Kiwi is as soft-spoken as they come but he came with a hard-rock presence that dashed Ulster’s title hopes for another season.

OUR MAN OF THE MATCH: Shamus Hurley-Langton (Connacht)


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