REPORT: Ulster 10 Leinster 25
REPORT: Ulster 10 Leinster 25
October 28, 2017 / Dave Mervyn
Luke McGrath’s brace of tries closed out a very satisfying night’s work for Leinster as they posted a 25-10 Guinness PRO14 win over provincial rivals Ulster at Kingspan Stadium.
It was Leinster’s first victory in Belfast since May 2014 as Leo Cullen’s charges, led by captain and man-of-the-match Sean O’Brien, became the first team to win away to Ulster in the Championship in 12 months.
Replacement Jordan Larmour’s lightning-quick 15th-minute try, coupled with eight points from Ross Byrne’s right boot, saw Leinster lead narrowly at half-time – 13-10.
Ulster, who had the first half wind advantage, had led twice through Christian Lealiifano’s early penalty and Sean Reidy’s try from the back of a 27th-minute scrum, but they were error prone and Leinster were clinical from limited scoring chances.
Having been sprung from the bench, Luke McGrath finished off an O’Brien-inspired counter-attacking try in the 58th minute and drove in under the posts to seal the deal, two minutes from time. Leinster squeezed the life out of the hosts with some clever tactical kicking and dominance of territory in the final quarter.
Lealiifano’s right boot opened the scoring in the sixth minute, punishing Larmour, who was an early entrant for centre Noel Reid, for accidental offside. There was further disruption to Leinster’s starting XV with Ross Molony having to come on for James Ryan.
Ulster’s in-form winger Jacob Stockdale was heavily involved in a breathless start to this interprovincial tie, showing his ability in attack but also in defence when he beat Adam Byrne, a fellow member of Ireland’s autumn squad, to Jamison Gibson-Park’s cross-field kick.
The Leinster scrum half had initiated a thrilling attack down the short side before that, with Larmour and Dave Kearney taking the visitors up close to the try-line. Rory Best, on the occasion of his 200th Ulster cap, came to his side’s rescue with an important cover tackle.
However, the Ulster defence coughed up seven points on the quarter hour when the 20-year-old Larmour left Iain Henderson for dead with a superb sidestep and then outpaced Aaron Cairns to cross just to the right of the posts. Ross Byrne converted for a 7-3 scoreline.
Ulster retook the lead just over 10 minutes later, first going close through Charles Piutau off a deft pass from Tommy Bowe before scrum half Cairns was held up over the try-line by a combination of Ross Byrne and Devin Toner.
From the resulting five-metre scrum, Callum Black got the nudge on at loosehead and from an inviting angle, back rower Reidy managed to barge over off the base. Lealiifano converted, but Leinster quickly set up a penalty opportunity which Byrne took, creeping his kick inside the right hand post with the aid of the wind.
A late bout of Leinster pressure saw Ulster pinged for offside, and young out-half Byrne sent the close range penalty through the uprights to split the sides at the break.
Ulster had nothing to show for a clever break and kick from Lealiifano on the resumption, with Piutau whistled up for a push, while Leinster missed out on a certain try on the counter when Gibson-Park, wary of the covering Stockdale, failed to connect with Dave Kearney just a couple of metres out.
There were lineout issues for both sides during a tense, defence-dominated third quarter, and after Byrne missed a 52nd-minute penalty attempt from the 10-metre line, Leinster had Dave Kearney sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on as the hosts threatened to break from their own half.
Nonetheless, it was 14-man Leinster’s slick counter attacking which finally got the scoreboard moving again, Cullen’s men using a Rodney Ah You knock-on to cut through from halfway through O’Brien and Adam Byrne, with the former then feeding McGrath to dive over in the right corner.
Ross Byrne was narrowly wide with the touchline conversion, before a couple of pinpoint touchfinders from half-backs McGrath and Byrne, in behind the Ulster wingers, kept Leinster on the front foot. An Ulster overthrow almost led to a third Leinster try as Les Kiss’ side struggled to mount a response while camped in their own half.
Full-back Rob Kearney looked sharp on his return from injury, playing the full 80 minutes. Leading 18-10, O’Brien turned down a shot at the posts and although Richardt Strauss, another fit-again player back in the blue, was held up, a penalty for a no-arms tackle kept Leinster within scoring range.
That try came just moments later when McGrath’s pace and low body position from a ruck saw him stretch over between two Ulster defenders, with fellow replacement Cathal Marsh adding the extras for a 15-point winning margin.
Leinster return to the RDS Arena on 24th November to face Bernard Jackman’s Dragons! Join the roar and get tickets now from €20.