The Leinster Under-20 team, sponsored by SWORD Security, had to dig deep for a 17-all draw against Ulster to capture the U20 Interprovincial Series at Donnybrook on Friday night…
The home side was punished when Ulster worked an overlap for their number eight Lorcan Dow to ground in the left corner. Centre Mark Best converted for 7-0 in the fifth minute.
It was a wake-up call for these ‘Boys in Blue’. Left wing Ian Fitzpatrick sparked a counter to earn a penalty but Ross Byrne pulled it left and wide.
Then, Josh Murphy was binned for a high tackle on Bingham. The Northern Province were back for more, looking dangerous before their fly-half Josh Bingham spilled the ball forward for centre Gary Ringrose to rescue Leinster.
It took a powerful bump and run from right wing Cian Kelleher, coming off the blindside, to bring Leinster level, Byrne converting from the shadow of the posts in the 16th minute.
Ulster continued to carry a threat, their number eight Dow causing trouble on the ball. His offload in behind had Leinster scrambling. A penalty resulted, but goal-kicker Mark Best had been forced off injured.
Instead, Ulster went for the corner only to be held up in a maul and the ball was moved left for full-back David Busby to put left wing Ross Adair in at the flag for 12-7 in injury-time.
It was fair enough given their territorial dominance and looked like staying that way until Fitzpatrick was sent flying over on the left to level it up at the interval.
Leinster started the second-half better than the first, Byrne almost putting the sharp Fitzpatrick through a gap on his inside shoulder.
Replacement Jack O’Neill lasted one minute before he saw yellow. It was a chance for Ulster to drive on. But, Dow was smashed in the tackle by centre Stephen O’Neill and Stephen Keelan was in over the ball to force a penalty.
Dow was almost in again in the right corner, stopped by a superb hit from Fitzpatrick as Leinster had to deal with going down to thirteen players with the permanent loss of Murphy to a second yellow card.
The tide of pressure intensified. Leinster could not escape their half and, eventually, Ulster shifted the ball left for full-back Busby to dive over for the decisive try in the 74th minute.
The drama was not over, Leinster won a penalty for crossing and replacement Conor McKeon put them within five metres of the Ulster line. They miscued at the lineout. But, Busby was binned.
Replacement Charlie Rock moved the ball quickly away from the base of a ruck for Fitzpatrick to squeeze in at the left corner. McKeon could not convert from the touchline, but the draw was enough to seal the title.
15: Billy Dardis (UCD)
14: Cian Kelleher (Lansdowne)
13: Gary Ringrose (Blackrock College)
12: Stephen O’Neill (Terenure College RFC)
11: Ian Fitzpatrick (Lansdowne)
10: Ross Byrne (UCD) / Conor McKeon (Lansdowne) 69 mins
9: Nick McCarthy (St. Michael’s College) / Charlie Rock (Old Belvedere RFC) 69 mins
1: Ivan Soroka (Belvedere College SJ)
2: Dylan Donnellan (UCD) / Shane Delahunt (Lansdowne) 43 mins
3: Oisin Heffernan (Lansdowne) / Craig Trenier (Terenure College RFC) 51 mins
4: Ross Molony (UCD) CAPTAIN
5: Stephen Gardiner (Lansdowne)
6: Michael Triggs (Lansdowne)
7: Stephen Keelan (Clongowes Wood College)
8: Josh Murphy (UCD) / Jack O’Neill (Lansdowne) 43 mins
ULSTER: David Busby; Paddy Colhoun, Jacob Knight, Mark Best, Ross Adair; Josh Bingham, Conor Young; Ross Kane, Patrick Finlay, Jonny Craig, Mark Campbell, Scott Barr, Frankie Taggart, Josh Atkinson, Lorcan Dow
Replacements: Ben Alexander for Atkinson 17 mins; Conor McKee for Best 29 mins; Michael Lagan for Craig 51 mins; Darryl Morton for Kane 63 mins; Jonny Darling for Campbell 66 mins; Adam Kerr for Finlay 67 mins; Matthew Rainey for Young 75 mins
Referee: W O’Connor (IRFU)