Ulster thump Aironi to boost play-off hopes

Ulster bolstered their hopes for a Pro12 League play-off place by notching up a seventh win from their last eight outings with a 45-7 victory over Aironi at Ravenhill that gives them the perfect boost ahead of their Heineken Cup quarter-final with Munster.

However, the six-try win may have come at a cost as star flanker Stephen Ferris was helped off with an ankle injury just after the half-hour mark and he could be a doubt for the Munster clash.

Indeed Ferris, one of Ulster’s trio of returning Ireland players, along with Rory Best and Andrew Trimble, all played their part as the home side notched up their fourth win over bottom side Aironi – including two games in Europe – this season.

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Elsewhere, wing Fetu’u Vainikolo dashed over for a brace of tries as Connacht closed the gap on Italians Treviso with an excellent away victory over Newport Gwent Dragons.

Connacht have been the perennial poor relations to Ireland’s big three provinces of Munster, Leinster and Ulster but they looked anything but that at Rodney Parade where a top first-half performance was the deciding factor of the match.

Only last week, the men from Galway pushed reigning league champions Munster all the way before going down 20-16.

And they continued that decent form in Wales with an impressive 27-19 success.