Worrying sight for Connacht and Ireland as Kieran Marmion limps off early
ULSTER - 15
CONNACHT - 22
This was not what Joe Schmidt wanted to see. Kieran Marmion did not need this. Nor did his province, country, Andy Friend or Schmidt.
For the last 34 Test matches that he has been available for selection, Schmidt has started Conor Murray 31 times. Eoin Reddan started one of the other Tests while Marmion wore the green No.9 jersey on the two other occasions.
With Murray out of action, with a neck injury, for an unspecified and undisclosed amount of time, Marmion and John Cooney had an opportunity to show Ireland's brains trust that, if needed, they could fill the void.
Marmion, Cooney and Luke McGrath, named on the bench for Leinster vs. Munster, are the scrum-halves vying for attention but the Connacht man may be facing a spell on the sidelines.
Just 30 seconds into Connacht's Guinness PRO14 clash with Ulster, Marmion turned his ankle as he tried to put pressure on Billy Burns. Marmion and Jarrad Butler pressed up on Burns' clearing kick, inside his 22, and the scrum-half looked to catch his ankle in the turf.
The Connacht scrum-half knew he had done some damage immediately and sat down for treatment before Tom McCartney could take the lineout throw.
The 26-year-old tried to play on in the forlorn hopes that everything would click into place. He lasted two minutes more but, at the next break, hobbled off and was replaced by Caolin Blade.
Connacht responded well to the early loss of the Ireland international to go 14-0 clear before Ulster fought back to make a match of it.
Bundee Aki's second half try looked to have sealed it but Nick Timoney made it a one-score game in the final minutes. Connacht held on, though, and won for the first time away to Ulster in 58 years.