Ulster ended a run of four losses against Leinster with a 14-13 victory over their neighbours at Kingspan Stadium in the final match of the Guinness PRO14 regular season.

The match wasn’t a classic it was good to see some of the fringe players get some game time at the end of the season. Debutant Marcus Rea popped up with the winning try in a man of the match performance while Dave Shanahan notched his seventh try of the season.

Both sides made the supporters wait for the opening score of the match with it remaining 0-0 until ten minutes before half time. The talking point in the first half was the altercation between Sean Reidy and Fergus McFadden on 14 minutes. Replays showed the Leinster player headbutting Reidy however managed to escape without a sanction other than a penalty.

While it is easy to point the finger at George Clancy for missing the incident, questions must be asked of the assistant referee who had a perfect view of the clash – and signalled for foul play immediately – as well as EirSport for only being able to supply one camera angle. It was difficult to see the incident on the big screen at the stadium as it was tucked away in the top left corner while the sun made it even harder. Ultimately the ref cannot sanction a player if the incident is inconclusive on the big screen in the stadium, however I would have thought the assistant would have been more help.

The long awaited score finally arrived and brought the game to life. In one of their three ventures into the Ulster 22 in the first half, Leinster crossed in the corner through Jimmy O’Brien after the forwards did the hard work to suck in the Ulster defenders.

Ulster responded immediately. With numbers up on the outside, Darren Cave threw a dummy to make one of his side’s four clean breaks. The Holywood native offloaded to Dave Shanahan who crossed with the help of John Andrew.

A Ross Byrne penalty gave the away side a one-point lead before Fergus McFadden gave his side a six point lead at half time. Again, more good forward work isolated Michael Lowry and a great pass allowed McFadden to score in the corner.

Leinster looked to have dealt well with Ulster when Oisin Dowling was sent to the sin bin five minutes into the second half however Marcus Rea capitalised on a gap in the opposition defence to make the break and bundle over the line.

The men in white defended for large parts of the last ten minutes and while the European quarter final showed the very best of Leinster’s ball retention, they weren’t their usual sharp selves allowing Ulster off the hook on a number of occasions. Defensively, Dan McFarland’s men were solid and disciplined throughout the evening a deserved to hang on in the final few minutes.

6.7 Performance

For me the stand out performers were Ian Nagle, Darren Cave as well as the deserved man of the match, Marcus Rea.

Rea's ball carrying was superb and barely took a step backwards while he also popped up with a good turnover.

Ian Nagle put in a great defensive shift making 17 tackles without fail. Hopefully this is taken into consideration and he is rewarded with a full time contract for next season. He would be a great signing, especially in a World Cup year.

Lastly Darren Cave popped up with his trademark defensive read early in the first half and maintained a good pace throughout the match. His tackles behind the gain line was a major boost for Ulster .

Other good performers include Michael Lowry and Dave Shanahan.

  • Andy Warwick 7
  • John Andrew 7
  • Ross Kane 6
  • Ian Nagle 8
  • Alan O'Connor 7
  • Matty Rea 7
  • Clive Ross 7
  • Sean Reidy 6
  • Dave Shanahan 7
  • Johnny McPhillips 6
  • Angus Kernohan 6
  • Peter Nelson 7
  • Darren Cave 8
  • David Busby 6
  • Michael Lowry 7
  • Adam McBurney 6
  • Tommy O'Hagan 6
  • Tom O'Toole 6
  • Nick Timoney 6
  • Marcus Rea 9
  • Jonny Stewart 6
  • Jack Owens 6
  • Rob Lyttle N/A
  • User Ratings (1 Votes) 7.9

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