Frustration for Ulster in loss to Leinster
Ulster suffered a third consecutive defeat in the Rainbow Cup and a fourth reversal in all competitions - going down by four points against Leinster at the RDS.
It was probably the one that got away for Dan McFarland’s side, especially as they dominated the first half but couldn’t turn their territorial and possession advantage into points.
Ulster dominated the opening exchanges and should have taken the lead on 10 minutes as Stuart McCloskey burst through the home defence, the centre offloaded out of the tackle to Dave Shanahan but the scrum half was short of the line trying to ground the ball.
Ulster finally made the bright start count on 19 minutes.
Leinster had a scrum on halfway, Ulster turned the ball over and moved it quickly, McCloskey throw a long pass to Jacob Stockdale and the full back powered through one tackle and then offloaded out of a second to Robert Baloucoune who sprinted over in the corner for a try with Billy Burns converting.
Leinster responded on 25 minutes with a try from Cian Healy, after Burns had a kick charged down and Sean Cronin was stopped short, Ulster gave away a penalty under their own posts.
The home side took a quick tap, Josh van der Flier was stopped but Healy barged over and Garry Ringrose converted.
Ulster lost their captain’s challenge on 30 minutes when Iain Henderson asked for a check for a high tackle on Baloucoune by Rob Henshaw but the TMO adjudged there was no head-on-head contact.
Despite having 70 per cent possession and 72 per cent territorial advantage, Ulster went into the interval level at 7-7.
Burns was off-target with a long-range penalty four minutes after the restart after Tadgh Furlong infringed at the scrum.
Burns nudged Ulster in front with a simple penalty from in front of the posts on 51 minutes after James Ryan fell on the wrong side of the ruck.
Ulster’s lead was short-lived as Leinster got their second try two minutes later.
Henshaw won an aerial battle with Baloucoune, the ball was moved across the pitch but the move was static until replacement backrow Jack Conan surged through a gap in the Ulster defence and sprinted over from just outside the 22. Ringrose added the conversion.
Leinster extended their lead on 61 minutes with a third try.
Ross Byrne’s chip kick into the Ulster 22 wasn’t dealt with and Leinster regained the ball and worked it patiently through numerous phases until Henshaw squeezed over. Ringrose landed the difficult conversion.
Ulster’s night was summed up when skipper Henderson made an intercept and charged up the pitch, making 60 metres but as they tried to move it wide in the Leinster 22 the ball was knocked on.
Ulster did secure a losing bonus point with a try in the last minute, following a sustained period of pressure in the 22.
Ian Madigan threw a long pass to the wing and Craig Gilroy was able to hold off a tackle to get over in the corner. Madigan landed the conversion from a tight angle.
Leinster: J O’Brien, J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, D Kearney; R Byrne, L McGrath, C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong, R Baird, J Ryan; J Murphy, J van der Flier, C Doris,
Replacements: R Kelleher for Cronin 48 mins, M Milne for Healy 52 mins, M Bent for Furlong 64 mins, D Toner for Baird 66 mins, J Conan for Murphy 48 mins, C Foley, R O’Loughlin for J O’Brien 41 mins, T O’Brien for Kearney 32 mins
Ulster: J Stockdale, R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, C Gilroy; B Burns, D Shanahan, E O’Sullivan, R Herring, M Moore, S Carter, I Henderson (Capt.), M Rea, S Reidy, N Timoney,
Replacements: B Roberts for Herring 63 mins, C Reid for O’Sullivan 63 mins, T O’Toole for Moore 63 mins, A O’Connor for Carter 51 mins, G Jones for Reidy 71 mins, N Doak for Shanahan 62 mins, I Madigan for Burns 62 mins, R Lyttle for Stockdale 41 mins,
Referee: M Adamson (SRU)
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