LEINSTER 22 ULSTER 7
Leinster produced a near perfect first half display to pave the way for a crucial Irish derby win over Ulster in Dublin.
Ulster were shockingly poor in the first half, even with the wind at their backs, but Leinster, for all their dominance, only managed 17 points in an impressive first half display.
Leisnter stay in third place, but Ulster drop to fifth place in the standings and could slide further with games to come on New Year’s Day.
Ulster were better in the second half and finally got some points on the board near the end.
Leinster opened the scoring after seven minutes, winger Rory O’Loughlin carving through an Ulster backline all at sea. Fullback Isa Nacewa converted for a 7-0 lead.
Either side of that Ruan Pienaar, playing at outhalf for the 12th time in the Ulster shirt, missed long and close range penalties.
Nacewa added a penalty on 17 minutes to push Leinster 10 points ahead after Stuart McCloskey’s high tackle on Sean Cronin.
Ulster’s pack did gain some good round into the Leinster ‘22’ but a forward pass from Paul Marshall to Rodney Ah You, handed possession back.
By the time the half-hour mark arrived, Ulster had only made 10m in comparision to 301 from Leinster and a soft try concession from a lineout saw Luke McGrath run through and Nacewa converted for a 17-0 lead - hardly reflective of their total domination of the derby clash by the interval.
It got no better after the break for Ulster, another soft try concession two minutes in when Ross Byrne grubber kicked through for O’Loughlin to run in and pounce - Nacewa missing his first kick of the day with the attempted touchline conversion.
But they did come into the game more and some good pressure saw Leinster have to defend stoutly, and illegally with Jack McGrath sin-binned on 56 minutes.
Ulster failed to make the initial advantage count with a scrum on the Leinster line, Nacewa almost intercepting a pass between Charlie Piutau and Tommy Bowe.
Piutau made a telling break and Ulster looked as if they would finally get on the board, but Garry Ringrose’s tackle on Clive Ross broke the momentum and the sin-bin period ended with the home defence on top.
Four minutes from the end Ulster finally breached the Leinster defence. Pienaar fed Piutau on the reverse and Ulster’s best player on the day raced through, Pienaar adding the extras.
Leinster: I Nacewa (capt); A Byrne, G Ringrose, N Reid, R O’Loughlin; R Byrne, L McGrath; J McGrath, S Cronin, M Bent, D Toner, H Triggs, S O’Brien, J van der Flier, J Heaslip.
Replacements: R Strauss (Cronin 59), A Porter, J Loughman, M Kearney, J Conan, J Gibson-Park (McGrath 39), T Daly, Z Kirchner.
Ulster: C Piutau: A Trimble, D Cave, S McCloskey, T Bowe; R Pienaar, P Marshall; A Warwick, R Herring (capt), R Ah You, K Treadwell, F van der Merwe, C Ross, S Reidy, R Wilson.
Replacements: J Andrew (Herring 27), C Black (Warwick 61), J Simpson (47), P Browne, C Henry (Wilson 53), B Herron (Marshall 70), L Ludik (Trimble 58), J Stockdale (Bowe 64).