Match report: Leinster 38-21 Ulster
September 22, 2023 / Des Berry
Leinster Rugby shook off the cobwebs to move away from Ulster in the second-half of a match with all the hallmarks of a typical pre-season friendly at Navan RFC on Friday evening.
Slow to start, Leo Cullen’s charges ended the affair with a half-dozen tries, five of them in the second period as centre Liam Turner claimed a double.
It was difficult for either side to establish any true pattern of play in the first quarter as the players’ endeavour was not matched by their skill execution.
A James Culhane carry from the base of a scrum created the gap for Harry Byrne to grab the opening try, converted by Byrne.
The Northern Province was back on terms when loose-forward David McCann cracked the cover from close range for scrum-half David Shanahan’s conversion to level it in the 31st minute.
The stop-start nature of the game prevented the fluency needed to string consistent phases together as the half-time whistle blew.
The level of play improved almost immediately as Turner bolted over from a sweet move in which hooker John McKee’s initial break was finished off in the left corner.
Soon enough, Leinster were back on the front-foot with better cohesion in attack leading to centre Ben Brownlee’s try, converted by Sam Prendergast for 19-7 in the 55th minute.
The slew of replacements seemed to lead to a greater sense of urgency, wing Aaron Sexton’s speed slicing Leinster open for a fine individual try for Nathan Doak to add the extras.
The give and take continued with hooker Lee Barron denting Ulster from close range. Out-half Prendergast slotted the conversion.
The home side could not quite break free of their provincial rivals off and Conor McKee’s touchdown on the left-hand side, converted by Doak, made it a one-score at 26-21, moving into the final ten minutes.
However, Turner muscularly broke through two tackles for his second try. Prendergast converted and saved a trademark cross-field kick until the last play of the game for Andrew Osborne’s try to close the show.