Six tries from Leinster see them comfortably defeat a youthful Ulster side in the last of three interprovincial matches over the festive period. The loss sees Ulster slip to 5th in Conference B
It was never a contest as the onslaught started early and this will be a tough learning curve for this young side.
Sean Cronin scored Leinster’s opening try after seven minutes of play, the majority of which was spent with Ulster on the backfoot. Despite losing the kick off Leinster regained possession and put together about 20 phases. With every carry they seemed to find a weak Ulster shoulder and make metres.
Cronin’s second try followed seven minutes later. The hooker picked a cracking line off Jamison Gibson-Park and Michael Lowry and Dave Shanahan were nothing more than minor speed bumps as the Irish international bulldozed his way to the line.
Despite personnel changes in the pack, Ulster’s maul didn’t lose any potency and Adam McBurney dotted down in the corner.
The optimism didn’t last long however as Leinster hit right back. The restart was taken short and Rob Kearney leapt highest to win the ball back for the home side. From the next carry, Ireland U20 international Conor O’Brien beat five defenders to score his side’s third try. It was disappointing from an Ulster perspective at how little O’Brien had to do for his try, particularly just as Ulster were hoping to build a way back into the match.
Ulster managed to get their hands on the ball as the first half came to a close. Leinster gave away a few penalties but ultimately handling errors allowed Leinster to keep them at an arm’s length.The bonus point came for Leinster on the stroke of half time with Andrew Porter benefitting from great forward work.
The second half was a bit of a non-event. Leinster knew they’d the game wrapped up so took the foot off the pedal while Ulster couldn’t breach the blue fortress in front of them.
The first score of the second half didn’t come until the 62nd minute. A dominant Leinster scrum squeezed several penalties out of Ulster before Gibson-Park touched down. Ulster’s first venture into the opposition half after the restart came after Leinster’s fifth try. Ultimately, Leinster’s defence was too strong which made it difficult for Ulster to make any head way.
The match went the way I expected to, but it still disappointing to see Ulster defeated by our near rivals so comfortably that they never had to get out of second game.
Nevertheless, this was never a make or break match for Ulster and while they slip a couple of places in Conference B, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to make up ground. Don’t read into this match too much, Leinster are the best side in Europe for a reason.
Attention turns to the Heineken Champions Cup next week as Ulster entertain Racing 92. It’ll carry much more importance as a positive result would see Ulster in pole position to qualify for the next round.