Leinster 42 Ulster 27

Enda Finn’s Leinster finished strongly to get their Junior Interprovincial Championship off to a perfect start on a hot day at Blackgates in Tullow on Saturday afternoon.

An illness to Mark Kehoe caused a late shift in which James Nolan came into the centre and Jake McDonald moved onto the bench.

They were also unsettled by the loss of tight-head prop Gareth Farrell to injury which required Hugh Carolan to put in a massive shift for 78 minutes.

In addition, Ulster’s early intensity produced a penalty by David Maxwell in the fourth minute.

While out-half Craig Miller soon had Leinster on terms, their northern brethren were making enough dents on the fringes to win the territorial battle.

Once in position, Ulster turned the screw through the middle, using abrasive runners like number eight Stephen Corr and centre Nathan Burns to gallop over the gain line.

They moved ahead from another Maxwell penalty and, better again, conjured up the first try of the match by flanker David Stinson which Maxwell converted for 13-3 in the 29th minute.

At this point, the Leinster forwards began to come to terms with the growing challenge as Miller stitched on three points.

In what came as a real confidence booster, they gave a glimpse of their attacking prowess when raiding quickly.

Somewhat against the run of play, the home side engineered an opening for left-wing Robert Vallejo to dot down, Miller’s conversion leaving it all square at the break.

It was a completely different show, thereafter, as attack trumped defence, Ulster recovering the lead from the kick-off with a try by full-back Adam McDonald, converted by Maxwell in the 42nd minute.

That man Vallejo was popping up wherever the ball was and secured his second try from a set move off a lineout inside the 22 to make it 20-18 in the 47th minute.

The game was taking on a different dimension as gaps started to appear and the runners streamed through.

It was all about which side could finish what they created. Leinster put together a sensational series of phases for right-wing Ciaran Fennessy to shoot through, Miller kicking the extras.

It gave the Blues the lead for the first time which they promptly lost in the blink of an eye as the game turned once again.

The ability of Ulster to do more with less possession than they had in the first-half was a reflection of tiring bodies on a fast surface.

Leinster eventually managed to exert themselves in the final quarter as Vallejo completed his hat-trick on the left flank for 30-27 in the 63rd minute.

A yellow card to Ulster’s reserve hooker Malcolm Allister allowed Leinster to take a stronger grip on the forward exchanges.

Indeed, the bench, led by Graham Reynolds and Paulie Tolofua, made a significant impact in applying pressure.

Then, a stunning individual try by Mikey Russell gave them breathing space, the centre scooping the ball off the floor and beating multiple defenders for Miller to convert.

The cherry on top came in injury-time when the forwards controlled the tempo for replacement prop Rob Scully to ground for Miller to clip the conversion.

Scorers: Leinster – R Vallejo 3 tries; R Scully, M Russell, C Fennessy try each; C Miller 3 pens, 3 cons.

Leinster: 15. Eoin Duffy (Boyne RFC), 14. Ciaran Fennessy (Athy RFC), 13. Mikey Russell (Clondalkin RFC), 12. James Nolan (DLSP FC), 11. Robbie Vallejo (Boyne RFC), 10. Craig Miller (Athy RFC, CAPT), 9. Tristan Brady (Monkstown FC); 1. Michael Tracey (Roscrea RFC), 2. Sean Arrowsmith (Dundalk RFC), 3. Robert Farrell (Dundalk RFC), 4. Wes Shirley (County Carlow FC), 5. Ger Ward (Bective FC), 6. Ruadhán McDonnell (Monkstown FC), 7. Zach Jungmann (Seapoint RFC), 8. John Dever (Monkstown FC).

Replacements: 16. Graham Reynolds (Balbriggan RFC), 17. Rob Scully (Cill Dara RFC), 18. Hugh Carolan (Boyne RFC), 19. Benny McManus (Longford RFC), 20. Greg Culhane (Coolmine RFC), 21. Paulie Tolofua (DLSP FC), 22. Jake McDonald (Kilkenny RFC), 23. Dan Crotty (County Carlow FC).

Ulster: 15. Adam McDonald (Dromore RFC), 14. Connor Phillips (Cooke RFC), 13. Paul Armstrong (Clogher Valley RFC), 12. Nathan Burns (CIYMS RFC), 11. Ewan Haire (Clogher Valley RFC), 10. David Maxwell (Clogher Valley RFC), 9. Gerard Treanor (Monaghan RFC); 1. Kieran Donaghy (Lurgan RFC), 2. Matthew Coulter (Ballyclare RFC, CAPT), 3. Neil Henderson (Clogher Valley RFC), 4. Ben Riley (Limavady RFC), 5. Adam Bratton (Letterkenny RFC), 6. David Stinson (Clogher Valley RFC), 7. Ryan Hughes (Dromore RFC), 8. Stephen Corr (City of Derry RFC).

Replacements: 16. Malcolm Allister (Monaghan RFC), 17. Angus Cunningham (Lurgan RFC), 18. Adam Barron (Ballyclare RFC), 19. Reuben McCreery (Lurgan RFC), 20. Michael Rooney (Enniskillen RFC), 21. Callum Smyton (Clogher Valley RFC), 22. Charlie Williamson (Lurgan RFC), 23. Stuart Wightman (Lisburn RFC).