Leinster 24Ulster 11
AFTER AN INTER-PROVINCIAL contest that was frustratingly scrappy rather than sensational, the sight of Jamie Heaslip leaving the field injured will take the gloss off Leinster’s convincing win.
Nursing an apparent shoulder injury, the eastern province’s captain was replaced after 30 minutes by Josh van der Flier – himself a late addition to the squad after Shane Jennings pulled out of the warm-up with a hamstring.
“Jamie got a bang on the shoulder,” said forwards coach Leo Cullen post-match, “I’m not too sure how bad it is at the minute.
“He did it, but played on for about 10 minutes. I think he got a bang on his AC [joint], he’s waved up to me, so… he’s just getting assessed there at the moment.”
With a full house watching on at the RDS, Ian Madigan provided all but five of Leinster’s points, including an opportunistic try after half-time to give Ulster a 10-point deficit.
Despite the visitors responding almost instantly through Wiehahn Herbst, they rarely looked capable of stringing enough phases together to wear down or reel in Leinster.
It took until the 14th minute for a scoring chance, a Ruan Pienaar penalty from the halfway line than dipped on to the crossbar. Leinster were unable to exit their half, however, and within a minute the Springbok was presented with an opportunity inside the opposition half. His second kick was sweet and straight between the posts.
The home side’s first foray in to the opposition 22 stirred the crowd from an afternoon slumber, but Ulster spoiled the move effectively and Madigan made it a level game after 20 minutes.
Jack Conan goes over for his try. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
The opening quarter had promised great physicality with Tommy Bowe and man-of-the-match Jack Conan laying down the early markers in contact. However, as the game wore on, both sides became ragged. And, though Leinster would outscore Ulster by two penalties to three to lead 9 – 6 at half-time, the nadir came with a series of panicked and sloppy errors that culminated in Isaac Boss and Zane Kirchner getting in each other’s way to knock the ball out of play.
The penalty that pushed Leinster into the lead at half-time also pushed Dan Tuohy to the sin-bin, but on an early attack Ulster were fortunate that Leinster had to attack with 14 man after an awkward fall for Dave Kearney.
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The white pack spoiled again, but were caught criminally napping when Madigan feigned to kick to touch and instead quick-tapped and dived over the try-line.
Perhaps it was through embarrassment that Ulster’s 14 men gritted their teeth to hit back immediately. After being invited into the Leinster 22 by a line-out error, the white pack shunned their backs and rumbled right of the posts where Herbst eventually grounded the game’s second try.
Despite the return of Tuohy, Ulster were unable to find their rhythm again. Leinster attacked with venom and at times showed real invention with an experienced midfield helping Madigan to keep pushing the pack over the gainline before the blues had to settle for another penalty.
With Pienaar’s kicking goals at a ratio of 40%, it was enough to keep the visitors at arm’s length and Neil Doak’s side were unable to pull within seven to give them hope of a losing bonus point to comfort them on the way back up the M1.
Instead, it was Leinster who continued pushing forward as the clock ticked down, and their young back row found the reward with the last play of the game. Conan, mere seconds after being awarded man of the match, crashed over to confirm his side’s dominance.
Tries: Madigan, Conan
Penalties: Madigan (4)
Penalties: Pienaar (2)
1. Jack McGrath (Michael Bent ’71)
2, Richardt Strauss (Sean Cronin ’55)
3. Mike Ross (Tadgh Furlong ’55)
4. Devin Toner
5. Mike McCarthy (Kane Douglas ’60)
6. Jack Conan
7. Jordi Murphy
8. Jamie Heaslip (Josh van der Flier ’30)
9. Isaac Boss (Luke McGrath ’68)
10. Ian Madigan
11. Dave Kearney
12. Gordon D’Arcy (Ben Te’o ’77)
13. Luke Fitzgerald
14. Fergus McFadden
15. Zane Kirchner (Jimmy Gopperth ’65)
1. Callum Black (Andrew Warwick ’68)
2. Rory Best (Rob Herring ’76)
3. Wiehahn Herbst (Bronson Ross ’68)
4. Dan Tuohy
%. Franco Van Der Merwe (Alan O’Connor ’68)
6. Robbie Diack
7. Clive Ross (Sean Reidy ’60)
8. Roger Wilson
9. Ruan Pienaar (Paul Marshall ’76)
10. Paddy Jackson
11. Craig Gilroy
12. Stuart Olding
13. Darren Cave
14. Tommy Bowe (Luke Marshall ’48)
15. Peter Nelson
Chris Henry happy with watching brief (for now) as Ulster take on LeinsterAs it happened: Leinster v Ulster, Pro12