Ulster powered their way to their eleventh straight win in the PRO12 with an impressive 27 – 19 win against Leinster at Ravenhill last night.
Jackson’s performance was one of the few disappointments of the night with the youngster struggling to shake off last weeks knock as he pulled his first couple of penalty attempts wide. Madigan by comparison looked very assured as he knocked over his first two attempts to give Leinster a 0 – 6 lead on the back of some strange decisions from the hapless Clancy. Fortunately Ulster dominated the remainder of the game to such an extent that even Clancy couldn’t change the outcome of the game.
Ulster pulled back level when a Jackson penalty was followed by a long range effort from Pienaar but shortly after Clancy managed to find another reason to penalise the home team in front of the posts. Madigan knocked it over and the visitors were back in front at 6 – 9.
The game ended as a competition shortly after when Ulster destroyed, humiliated and humbled the Leinster pack to such an extent that even Clancy had to award a penalty try, giving Ulster a 13 – 9 lead, and, boy oh boy,were the remaining scrums a joy to behold!
Clancy kept things interesting giving Leinster another three points at the start of the second half but shortly after an interception by Trimble finished up with Nick Williams, just about, finding the line and with Pienaar adding the conversion Ulster went eight points clear at 20 – 12. Leinster extracted Healy, Cullen and Bent from the pockets of Afoa, Henderson and Court respectively but it only gave the Ulster pack a chance to work over their replacements with the whole of the Ulster pack in excellent form.
Such was Ulster’s dominance that despite Best being yellow carded with 10 minutes to go, in another extraordinary Clancy decision, they continued to control the contact area and a series of powerful drives from the pack ended up with Pienaar sending in Trimble with a delightful cross field kick. Pienaar converted and with five minutes to go Ulster were on the hunt for the bonus point with the score at 27 – 12.
However, with Ulster relaxing, it was the visitors who had the final say but their late try from McFadden still wasn’t enough to prevent them leaving Ravenhill empty handed.
Final score: Ulster 27 Leinster 19.
Ulster: Jared Payne, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy, Patrick Jackson, Ruan Pienaar, Tom Court, Rory Best, John Afoa, Iain Henderson, Neil McComb, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Nick Williams. Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Adam Macklin, Alan O’Connor, Roger Wilson, Paul Marshall, Paddy Wallace, Adam D’Arcy.
Leinster: Noel Reid, Andrew Conway, Brendan Macken, Gordon D’Arcy, Fergus McFadden, Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan, Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Michael Bent, Leo Cullen, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Heinke van der Merwe, Jamie Hagan, Tom Denton, Rhys Ruddock, Isaac Boss, Andrew Goodman, Adam Byrne.
Before the game I thought that the Leinster pack would shade this one but I wasn’t counting on fantastic performances from Tom Court, Neil McComb and Iain Henderson who completely dominated their opposite numbers. Henderson throwing the Leinster forwards around like rag dolls and McComb’s huge work rate were special enough in themselves but the icing on the cake was Court’s complete and utter beasting of Bent at scrum time with the Ulster man laying down a marker that even Kidney cannot ignore.
While you would have expected Afoa and Best to get on top of their opponents it was Court’s performance that swung the game and with Diack, Williams and Henry rampaging all over the vaunted Leinster back row this could have ended up as a cricket score if the backs could have clicked.
As it was it was a huge marker was laid down by Ulster and it must be a worry for the other sides in the PRO12 that the best is yet to come.